Milan 1, Atalanta 2: Karma is a Goddess

Milan have lost plenty of matches due to incorrect ref calls. Whether it was in the ultra-tight Scudetto race in 2022, or our first time back in the Champions League, or so many others. What stings about this one is losing when Gasperini was sent off for being such a lowlife human being, then had the audacity to say the ref was rude to him for not saying hello to him, and then went on to brag about how great his team is. Even though they only won because of a wrong penalty call. It also stings that the wrong penalty call went against our 18 year-old player, who actually managed to get to the ball first, but was penalized for an opponent's convincing dive. I get that this management deserves all of the bad Karma in the world after everything they have done, but Milan fans and players deserve better. This game was very evenly matched until Di Bello's penalty call gifted La Dea (the Goddess) the 2-1 win. Karma is a Goddess. 


Musah was the first to make any real attacking challenge, nearly getting to a perfect Jiménez cross in the sixth minute, but for a Ruggeri intervention, then forcing Carnesecchi into a save in the 19th minute. Atalanta were less convincing, after De Ketelaere sent in a nice cross in the 31st, Holm's shot went over the crossbar. But it was after De Ketelaere's perfect cross in the 35th minute that the world seemingly came crashing down.

Musah was criticized for some errors, but actually had more shots on target than any other Milan player.

DeRoon, known for his elegant scoring prowess, (sarcasm – he is known for clattering into people and getting plenty of cards) was running into the box when he collided with Gabbia. Di Bello did not give the penalty, and Gasperini was incensed. Yellow card to the Atalanta manager. Then he visibly called the referee a "faccia di me*da" (sh*t face,) amongst perhaps other choice words. Second yellow, then red card, Gasperini was sent off. Meanwhile, Gabbia and De Roon were still receiving treatment on the pitch.

Had VAR intervened, or had Di Bello reviewed the play himself on the monitor, he would have seen what he may have missed in real time, a little push in the back on DeRoon from Reijnders, which, at full speed, is why he collided with Gabbia in the first place. People reacted more harshly to the lack of call due to the result of the collision, but referees do not consider the unfortunate results of events when making their decisions. So maybe he did see the push and determined it was not enough for a penalty. Because if Gabbia and DeRoon had not collided, and he had not awarded the penalty, I guarantee the outrage would not be this extreme for such a small push. I mean Inter won vs. Genoa with a glaring two-handed push in the back that was not reviewed. That is the refereeing standard we are talking about here. 

The Dutch players at the heart of the first big controversy.

Kjaer, who was supposed to be hibernating during this match to renew his Viking powers, had to come on for Gabbia, who had a bloody nose after the collision. He had also recently suffered a head injury at Villareal, having been knocked unconscious in a match, so I am grateful that they followed head injury protocol and subbed him off. Reports are that his injury was not serious and he will be available on Sunday. DeRoon stayed out on the pitch, and had to be subbed off a few minutes later, reporting that he felt dizzy, amid concerns he received head trauma. 

Once all of the ugliness was out of the way, then came the beauty. That beauty came in the form of Theo Hernández and Leão linking up for Leão to score a beautiful goal. 1-0 Milan. People have been hypercritical of Leão yet again, without acknowledging that his goalscoring "drought" coincided with Pioli asking Theo to play more centrally (even before he even played at center back.) The Theo-Leão connection has typically been the source of the most beautiful of Leão's goals (and sometimes Theo's, too.)

Nice to see this celebration again.

Unfortunately, Atalanta struck back immediately with a goal of their own, a play started by Milan-owned De Ketelaere, who sent it to Holm, who crossed it in to Koopmeiners, who sent it screaming past Maignan uncontested by any of Milan's remaining non-injured defenders for the equalizer. 1-1 all. This two minutes summed up the entire match, as it was a very even affair. Milan had more possession, Atalanta took one more shot, but both sides had five shots on target. 

Koopmeiners was emboldened by his goal, and was single-handedly attacking the Milan goal without any results, before Di Bello intervened and awarded the match to Atalanta. That was in the 57th minute. The young Álex Jiménez, in only his third appearance with the first team, went to clear the ball when Miranchuk was running into the box. Jiménez did clear the ball, Miranchuk saw the opportunity, dragged his foot, and took the dive. Di Bello awarded the penalty, no VAR intervention. 2-1 for Di Bello Atalanta. 

The real victim of the reffing.

That was it. I mean Pioli sent Terracciano on for his debut, replacing Jiménez, and Simić replaced Calabria, both just two minutes after the fateful penalty. That was likely planned, given the time in the match, but did not look good, considering the circumstances for the young left back. Then Pioli brought on Giroud and Adli for Loftus-Cheek and Reijnders in the 73rd. Leão avoided a card when he stepped on Kolašinac in the 76th, but then got a card for protesting in the 80th minute when Milan were initially denied a handball call. 

There were a few good chances, like Pulisic's strike in the 71st that Carnesecchi saved. Or the not so good chances, like when Leão attempted to return the favor, and Theo sent the ball into the stands in the 83rd. Musah had yet another strike that forced Carnesecchi to parry the ball to safety in the 88th minute. Then more controversy in the final play of stoppage time, as Milan took a corner and Simić headed the ball toward goal, the ball struck the arm of Holm. Di Bello signaled for a goal kick, but then listened for a VAR review after the protests of Milan players asking for a handball.

An unfortunate way for Terracciano to get his debut.

I am not sure if Di Bello was already imagining himself in a warm hotel room, but at the very least, it would have been a corner, given that it came off of Holm. The handball call is still a bit subjective. Experts admit it could have gone either way, as Holm's arm was in a relatively natural position, but it did come out and the ball's trajectory did change with the movement. Either way, it was clear that once again, as with the other two major controversies in this match, Di Bello should have gone to the monitor. And he didn't. He waited for Valeri to whisper in his ear, then blew the whistle for full time. Mirante, who was on the bench, then was shown a red card for protesting after the final whistle. I would love to know what he said. Unlike Gasperini, I don't think he has a history of bad behavior.

Atalanta celebrated Di Bello's their win, while Milan players looked as though they had been sucker punched. Indeed, even the Curva Sud whistled them and indicated for them not to come over as they usually do to face the fans. Which was confusing to me, as this performance was better than some of the recent wins Milan had achieved, despite the result. Yes, the team faded, especially after the penalty was scored. As Pioli said, they could have reacted better. Obviously, had Milan scored another goal or two, the result would have been different. But it's not as though Atalanta did anything particularly worthy of winning the match, other than Miranchuk's Golden Globe-worthy dive and Koopmeiners actually scoring the gifted penalty. Milan have showed that they can score penalties, too, Giroud nailed one on Sunday

Milan tried everything, even Maignan was up for the last play, but nothing beats the ref.

In fact, had this match been allowed to be contested by the two teams instead of the head referee, statistically, it would have likely been decided by penalties. Not the ref. But we will never know which team actually would have won. I'm not mad that we were knocked out of the Coppa Italia. Milan started with 11 players out, and with Gabbia's injury, that made 12 by the end of the match. We don't need three more matches, and a Coppa Italia trophy is not going to make much of a difference in our crowded trophy room at Casa Milan.

It was how we "lost" this match. By a poor ref call on a young player after poor sportsmanship by the opposing manager. (He should have taken a lesson in class from De Ketelaere, who did not take the revenge bait in postmatch interviews and said all of the right things.) Di Bello was the man with the whistle, the one who refused to go look at a monitor, but I cannot help but feel that this was just more bad  Karma. And Karma is a... Goddess.

This post inspired by the music of The Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 20
Milan vs. Roma
Sunday, January 14, 2024 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)

Milan 1, Atalanta 2: Karma is a Goddess Milan 1, Atalanta 2: Karma is a Goddess Reviewed by Elaine on 7:00 AM Rating: 5
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