AC Milan 1, Borussia Dortmund 3: Consequences

Actions have consequences. There are also consequences for not taking action. This game was a result of many things. Mentality, injuries, decisions made, errors on and off the pitch. But the most glaring action was one taken late on June fifth of this year, and all of the subsequent actions after that. Milan's DNA was systematically extracted this summer, along with all of the heart and grinta that took what many believe was a lesser team to the Champions League semifinals last season. And the consequences for that are that Milan are at the bottom of Group F, looking at elimination in the Group Stage. Or worse, a run in the Europa League with this beleaguered squad, a competition Milan has never succeeded in. Milan's lack of action in addressing the horrific injury plague has now taken another victim, leaving Milan with only one healthy center back. So very many consequences.

Ancelotti: "Football clubs who primarily think of doing business ahead of achieving sporting goals are destined to fail."

Everyone predicted that this match would be end to end action, but I don't think anyone anticipated end to end penalties within the first ten minutes. Giroud, unfortunately, did not take his penalty well, and for that, there were consequences. Kobel saved his penalty. Reus, however, at the other end, took a perfect penalty, and though Maignan went the right way, the Dortmund player put it out of reach into the top corner of the net. 1-0 Borussia Dortmund.

While the penalty clearly took some wind out of Milan's sails, the rest of the first half actually lived up to expectations, with chances taken at both ends. The normally vociferous Curva Sud and San Siro, however, were noticeably subdued as they watched with the anticipation of fans who have been burned before. Then, it happened. Chukwueze managed his moment of brilliance and took a shot powerful enough that even a slight deflection could not stop it from hitting the back of the net. 1-1 all. His first goal for Milan, in such a big game. The San Siro came back to life, at least for a while.

 A moment of joy amongst the despondence,

Calabria, who was not tasked with marking Kvaratskhelia or Mbappé, took a couple of great shots in this one, including a header that went just wide at the end of stoppage time before the break. Perhaps he was trying to atone for conceding the penalty, but it really was a shame he didn't score. Milan actually ended up with more possession and more shots in this match, their performance was actually not terrible. But there were consequences for errors.

The second half, Milan came out firing, with Pulisic's shot in the 48th minute also going just wide. Then everything kind of did that slow-motion-life-flashing-before-your-eyes kind of thing when Thiaw pulled up with yet another muscle injury in the 51st minute. Not only was he one of only a few players who had not been out with an injury this season, but he was also one of only two healthy center backs left. Meaning Milan have only Tomori left now.

A massive loss on so many levels.

Pioli's reaction was predictable, yet bizarre. He subbed Krunić on, his jack-of-all-trades player, to play at center back, opting for his experience over Bartesaghi's youth, speed, and height. I know it was a big game, and there were 40 minutes left. But Krunić has been poor at his own position since returning from injury, and Bartesaghi has honestly always done quite well when given minutes.

That decision became painfully clear on the goals that came not long after Thiaw limped off. The first one, Krunić failed to clear Füllkrug's ball in the box, and Calabria had come in to help cover. Calabria failed to mark Bynoe-Gittens because he was trying to help Tomori and Krunić, and Bynoe-Gittens took advantage of it. 2-1 Dortmund. Thiaw has been such a force in our defense, but we may not realize just how much of a force he has been until he is out for a while with this injury.

Last man standing (and we almost lost him, too.)

Tomori earned Milan's first and only yellow card of the match for his hand making contact with Emre Can's face in the 67th. To be fair, the man was a one-man defense at this point, it's difficult to be mad at him. Giroud had a decent header, but it went straight to Kobel, who had three solid saves in this one. Giroud did not have his best match, but he was also heavily marked.

Then, in basically a rerun of the defensive errors on the second goal, Krunić planted himself like a tree while Tomori and Calabria desperately tried to cover the area of three defenders, and this time, it was Adeyemi who took advantage of it. Maignan, however, did get to it, but the shot was too powerful. He made two attempts to keep it out, but the ball crossed the line just before his second attempt, so it was a goal. 3-1 Dortmund. 

I love Krunić, he is many things, but a center back is not one of them.

Even more frightening was that Tomori stayed down. Füllkrug had basically swept his leg in the fray, and our singular healthy center back was down for a while receiving treatment, hobbling off with the medics. Between being down two goals and losing possibly both center backs, it was just too much. Luckily, he did come back on, and even took a jumping header later on. Hoping he is fine and that they wrap him in bubble wrap.

But credit to the team, they did not just sit back after conceding again, they continued to fight. Then Pioli responded in the most Pioli of ways. He pulled off Chukwueze, the player who seemed to be creating the most chances, despite being heavily marked after having scored the goal. And he replaced him with the young Chaka Traorè, making his Champions League debut with nearly 15 minutes to play and his team down two goals. A very strange choice, especially after trusting Krunić over the young Bartesaghi, who has actually played with the first team. Also strange, considering that Chaka Traorè could have played with the Primavera side that defeated Dortmund's U19 team 4-1 earlier in the day, and sealed first place in Group F and their spot in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Youth League. Quite the opposite experience for a young player. And for both teams.

Chaka Traorè could have been part of this, instead, he made his Champions League debut in the worst of games.

His other choice was to replace Adli with Jović, which would normally be terrifying, if we weren't all still having trauma from losing Thiaw. And shockingly, Jović actually came closer to scoring than he ever has since joining Milan. Jović hit the post in the 85th minute. Yes, you read that correctly. Then he had his shot denied by Kobel in stoppage time, as well. There may be hope for him yet. Apparently, we just need to play German opponents every week, since he scored the most goals of his career in Germany.

There were plenty of chances, but it says so much about Milan's efforts that the UEFA Player of the Match was Dortmund's veteran defender, Mats Hummels. As I pointed out in the preview, we also were especially missing our three-time UEFA POTM this season, Leão. But not only are injuries consequences, there are consequences for injuries. There are consequences for thinking that Krunić can play any position. There are consequences when you choose experience over youth, or even vice-versa.

If an opposition defender was POTM, your team did give him plenty to do.

Cardinale was in the stands to see firsthand the consequences of his actions, although I doubt he will understand his responsibility, since he did not even know about Milan's history in the Champions League in March. He did not even know the first thing about football just a few short years ago, and has not learned much since. Ibrahimović was also there, with reports of continued talks for his return to the team. Pioli's continued employment is always a point of discussion, and honestly, with the abuse he gets from fans and media, if it were me, I might just quit. He deserves better than all of this

But Cardinale, and his portfolio manager-turned CEO Furlani, will have some decisions to make going forward. Milan's chances of making it through to the Round of 16 are incredibly slim. Our chances of sliding down into the Europa League are a little greater, but either way, their decision to sack Maldini, Massara, and others this summer and then have 17 players leave has great financial consequences by leaving this competition so early. At least €50 million in consequences, I believe. (Correction: It is actually closer to €100m, according to Tuttomercatoweb. That is 25% of our total revenue this past year.)

Bittersweet for Chaka Traorè, who could have been part of a 4-1 win, instead made his UCL debut with a loss.

To put it in perspective, they pushed out Saelemaekers and Messias. Those two players alone scored as many Champions League goals in the Group Stage last season as the entire team has this season. Milan scored twelve goals in the Group Stage last year, they have only scored three now, and conceded seven, with one match left. Those are some serious consequences. 

The loss of Champions League revenue is likely to result in more player sales, less investment in the team in January, and also potentially risking violating our UEFA Financial Fair Play agreement and deferred fine, which could also result in more sanctions (including another ban from Europe.) Additionally, the core players who are so important to this team could easily choose to leave due to the early exit from Champions League, and it is unlikely that Milan would be able to adequately replace them.

Not even Cardinale's U.S.A. posterboy's acrobatic heroics could save the day.

Last year's team had heart and grinta, and Cardinale and friends chose to exchange that for players whose data looked good on paper. That has affected the squad mentality, even the core players who have been dragging this team on their shoulders. It has affected Pioli, it has affected the injury rate, it has affected the support of the fans, it has affected everything. And now it is hitting them where it hurts... their pocketbook. They may try to save this ship from sinking by making more decisions and more changes, but for this season at least, it may be too late. Because there are always consequences.

This post inspired by the music of Muse's "Time is Running Out"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 14
Milan vs. Frosinone
Saturday, December 2, 2023 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

AC Milan 1, Borussia Dortmund 3: Consequences AC Milan 1, Borussia Dortmund 3: Consequences Reviewed by Elaine on 3:00 AM Rating: 5
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