Lecce 2, Milan 2: Chaos

This match might have presented a challenge, but on paper should have been a formality. Yet Milan dropped two more points and lost two more starters to injury as well as a player to suspension. What began as a scrappy Saturday afternoon match quickly descended into pain, then misery, then chaos as Milan lost their 2-0 lead and their heads to draw 2-2 with Lecce. Worse still, the voices who have been tediously screaming Pioli Out for four very long years are now hysterically insisting that the Club sack him. Truly, since June fifth, the club has just been on a one way descent into chaos.

Sure, he said what we all wanted to, but still...

The Injuries

In the ninth minute, worst case scenario: Rafa Leão pulled up with an apparent muscle injury. Milan's 15th muscle injury of the season. Okafor replaced him, but no one in their right mind would ever expect the same level of performance from him as Leão. While Theo Hernández stepped up and had a stronger performance to help compensate, losing Leão made it much more difficult to break down Lecce's defense.

Losing arguably our best player was not the way to start the match.

At halftime, Pioli subbed Musah on for Calabria, who reportedly also had a muscle injury. Muscle injury number 16 for Milan this season. Worse still, Calabria had finally been called up by Italy after nearly a year and a half of being overlooked. And as if that did not hurt bad enough, Musah put in perhaps his worst 45 minutes in a Milan shirt. 

Calabria, too? Milan have averaged at least four injuries per match all season.

Pioli was heavily criticized by Milan fans for playing him in Calabria's spot, but they failed to note that he has actually played a lot on the right wing, and that Musah had the pace and speed to keep up with the Lecce players, whereas Florenzi did not. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, as Musah's errors led to both Lecce goals, but fans forget that no manager is a fortune teller. And Nicola Sansone was not on the pitch yet, either.

The Goals

Milan's first goal was from Giroud, on his 100th appearance for Milan. It was a great team effort after Milan had finally started to settle into a rhythm, and there was a back and forth between Theo Hernández and Krunić, with Theo sending it in and Giroud just using his gut instinct... or rather just his gut, as he scored with his abdomen. 1-0 Milan.

Giroud started his 100th match on a high note.

Seven minutes later, the moment so many of us have been waiting for, Tijjani Reijnders scored his first Milan goal. 2-0 Milan. He has been so crucial to Milan's midfield and come so close to scoring so many times. It was truly the highlight of the match to see him finally get that first goal. And he nearly followed it up with another one, hitting the post just three minutes later.

Reijnders celebrates his first goal with a giant hug from Papa Giroud.

Lecce's goals both came after D'Averso, a Milan youth product, subbed on Sansone, whose specialty is scoring against Milan. He scored in the 66th from a corner to make it 2-1 Milan. Then he assisted the second goal just four minutes later, setting it up for Banda, who finally got his goal after numerous attempts. 2-2 all. From there, it was a frantic descent into chaos, with Lecce pushing hard, and Milan losing their heads.

The Red Card

Before I get to the red card, I should list the plethora of other yellow cards that Milan collected in this match, as they do add up: Theo Hernández started his count over just before halftime, then Musah was shown a yellow for fouling Dorgu, and Calabria was shown a yellow from the bench for pointing out to Abisso that the card should have gone the opposite way. Florenzi was also carded in the 90th for fouling Dorgu, and Krunić was shown a yellow in the 95th for trying to kill Sansone, I think, it was so chaotic. That was already five yellow cards.

Honestly, Milan were a bit lucky to only have one player sent off, things got pretty physical.

But the red card was actually a second yellow for one of our most senior players, Giroud, who completely lost it in the 94th minute when Abisso missed a handball in the box and cursed out the referee on behalf of all Milan fans. In English. He was sent off, Milan were on ten men, and he will definitely be suspended for our match against Fiorentina. Unfortunately, he also risks a total of a four match suspension due to a new rule that was ratified in April to protect referees. We won't know until the Sporting Judge rules, but it is difficult to rate which loss was the worst for Milan - the injuries or the potential four match suspension for Giroud, considering it will be enforced after the international break.

It was in the wake of this complete and total chaos of Giroud getting sent off that Piccoli scored a brilliant goal for Lecce in the final minute of stoppage time, thinking he had won the match. The stadium went crazy. Then, the dreaded whistle, and after a VAR review, the goal was called back. In the very quick buildup to this goal, Piccoli grabbed a handful of Thiaw's shirt and stamped on his foot. A lame foul, but a foul nonetheless. 

A "diabolical" use of VAR for a foul on Thiaw saved the point for Milan.

And Abisso was left between a rock and a hard place: letter of the law, ruling for Milan, or get-to-his-car-safely, and allow the goal for Lecce. He chose the letter of the law, which Lecce's president referred to as a "diabolical use of VAR," and in true, Italian fashion, said ruined "a fairy tale" for Lecce and "ruins this sport." Certainly Milan should consider themselves lucky to take a point away, as not all refs would have a death wish like this to rule against a team so desperately looking to win.

The Coach

Look, if Cardinale fired Maldini, then no one is safe. And that absolutely includes Pioli. I don't think Pioli is stupid enough that he never considered that when he agreed to stay on. But for a fanbase who has screamed Pioli Out preemptively and hysterically for four years, adoring him with every good result (like on Tuesday,) it's just embarrassing at this point. A manager that can produce such an authoritative win against Mbappé and friends in the Champions League on Tuesday might not be as terrible as fans made him out to be after a match like this one. 

If Pioli can still get the team to play like they did on Tuesday, then is he really the problem?

Maybe... just maybe, there are other forces in play that are also impacting the mentality, the discipline, the injuries, and the results. Just because fans never respected him or give him credit for what he has accomplished does not mean that he did not, in fact, accomplish those things. Just because the toxic Italian media has for some reason never given Milan or Pioli the respect they deserved when they did more than other clubs by spending half as much does not mean those things did not happen. And maybe... just maybe, all of the negative events surrounding this management are actually the root cause of this descent into chaos.

The Club

For example, if Milan does not miss Maldini, as so many fans have tried to tell themselves and the world, why is Cardinale pursuing Ibrahimović so intently? Could it be that, since they have actually walked back everything Cardinale, Furlani, Scaroni, and everyone has said they would do differently after firing Maldini and Massara, that Cardinale fired Maldini in a moment of narcissistic rage? Because it sure seems like it. 

Our lack of discipline has shown that Milan are missing something they had last season...

First, they said they would use "working groups," and gaslit the fan base by claiming they would work more as a team than before. First of all, fans that bought that never saw the hundreds of pictures of Maldini, Massara, and Pioli practically joined at the hip, always smiling, always working together. They had always been a team. Those images have not happened in this new environment, either. And the working groups did not stay. They have since appointed a new sporting director, a new technical director, tried to bring in Baresi as a consultant, and are now pursing Ibrahimović - all to fill the void left when Cardinale fired Maldini and Massara.

All of this turmoil has absolutely impacted the culture of the club. It has impacted the players from day one, and the loss of a mentor and support system to both the players and Pioli is incredibly obvious, even to Cardinale. (Hence talks with Ibrahimović since September.) But there is still chaos. The players are unsure of their future, themselves, and the project. The new players have no idea what they have gotten themselves into. And Milan keep getting both cards and injuries, both of which are impacted by faltering mentality.

Sure, you can blame Musah for the goals, but what about the injuries? The mentality? The discipline?

So ultimately, another draw, another loss of points, another match that plummeted into chaos was just a metaphor of what is going on at the club. Spending a lot of money can look pretty on paper. And maybe even produce some exciting results. But ultimately, gutting a team who had one another's backs and would die on the sword for this club and bringing in new players was always going to have consequences. Yes, some of it is Pioli, if you need to assign blame, there is enough blame to go around. 

Like why would Giroud, who kicked himself for getting a second yellow for celebrating a goal at this same time last year, get himself sent off for dissent? And what is going on physically that there are so many muscle injuries? But when you start blaming just one aspect, such as the manager, for this web of chaos we call our club right now, you are only looking at the symptoms of a bigger problem. And that problem starts at the top and filters down to create... you guessed it... chaos.

This match was inspired by the music of Dead Kennedys' "Jock-O-Rama"

Lecce 2, Milan 2: Chaos Lecce 2, Milan 2: Chaos Reviewed by Elaine on 11:59 PM Rating: 5
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