Milan 2, Bologna 2: Critical Errors

This match was a perfect opportunity to do some performance testing on a system that finally seemed to be ready to run smoothly. Unfortunately, in addition to some referee bugs, Milan made some critical errors that saw them draw 2-2 to Bologna at home. Despite a fantastic Loftus-Cheek brace that defied even the Moneyball algorithms, two missed penalties caused Milan to drop points, just when they were about to win their fifth league match in a row. Pioli will have some mental reprogramming to do this week after multiple critical errors.

A physical battle that was relatively even, but for critical errors.

Not sure if Davide Massa was reacting to the referee controversy this week, but he controversially gave Califiori a very quick yellow card in just the second minute for a foul on Pulisic that a majority of refs absolutely would have simply given a warning for, just for the timing of the foul alone. And it's not as if it helped him in any way, the game was very physical, and he actually seemed to lose control of it at times, making even more controversial decisions along the way.

You cannot program the support these teammates give to one another, no matter what.

Speaking of controversy, despite Maignan calling out anti-racism ad campaigns, press releases, and more this week and asking for people to stop talking and do something, the club put their tone deaf little white heads together and decided to make a spectacle of solidarity for him. First, they decided that the ad boards should run the ad campaign #StandUpToAllHate all night long. Because ad boards definitely stop racism, as Maignan clearly pointed out last week. And this all seemed quite hypocritical after they did absolutely nothing to support Rafa Leão when he was racially abused by Napoli fans ahead of our Champions League match in April, and never said a word publicly to support Theo Hernández when he and his baby son received death threats online from Napoli fans around the same time. (#StandUpToSomeHate?)

Was this really for Mike? Because they didn't seem to listen to him.

So, Furlani's big surprise that he could barely contain himself about ahead of the match was that they stopped the match in the 16th minute, a tribute to Maignan's number. They put a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote up on the big screens talking about driving out darkness with light, while fans in the stadium turned on their cell phone lights and held them up. The dramatic effect was lovely, but, as with most efforts to eradicate racism in Italy, their metrics were slightly off target. When the cameras panned to Mike Maignan, it appeared that he was uncomfortable, too. (No player likes a match to be stopped, let's just start there.) Because, even in a show of love and solidarity, singling someone out for being different is... a little bit racist. They could have used their power to speak out against Udinese for appealing their stadium ban, to speak up about putting more measures in place to prevent racism in the stadium, enforcing the protocols, increasing punishments, etc. But instead, they used this horrible situation almost as a marketing opportunity and brought more attention to a player who had already received far too much attention for being different. Bravo, tiny white people. 

That awkward moment when 70,000 fans & millions of people worldwide are focused on you because of your race.

After a great shot that forced Skorupski into a save, Leão was shown a yellow card for a foul on De Silvestri. Shortly thereafter, Gabbia had Maignan's back by clearing a chance from former Inter youth player, Fabbian. Five minutes later, Kjaer made a double block on him as well, but the ball went back out into play, and Califiori sent it past a bumbling Theo Hernández, whose system failures on the backend allowed Zirkzee to shoot. Worse, Theo actually deflected the ball, which prevented Maignan from making the save, and suddenly, Bologna were up 1-0.

A few minutes later, our Viking defender, Kjaer, nearly equalized with a header at the other end. Calabria saw yellow for a foul on Kristiansen, and then Ferguson made a critical error: Never f*ck with a Viking in the box. His boot met Kjaer's face, and Massa immediately called for a penalty and showed Ferguson a yellow card. This incensed Bologna manager Thiago Motta, who was subsequently shown a straight red card for whatever he said in earshot of the fourth official. And another of his staff was also shown a straight red just after the penalty as well.

Critical error: Never f*ck with a Viking in the box.

Was it a penalty? A boot to the face is considered dangerous play. However, considering that the face in this instance was closer to the ground because the player was diving head first, it is a difficult pill to swallow, and Milan have been on the receiving end of calls just like this before. Karma (or whatever is going on in Giroud's personal life this season that saw his penalty saved vs. Dortmund, get himself suspended for two matches, etc.) intervened on Bologna's behalf, and Giroud took a poor penalty that Skorupski easily saved, wasting a perfect opportunity for Milan to equalize. Critical error.

In keeping with the very physical, referee-centric theme of the match, Adli earned his yellow card for a foul on Aebischer just before halftime. Finally, Loftus-Cheek decided enough was enough, and in the 45th minute, with a great cross in from Calabria, he slotted it past Skorupski into the back of the net. 1-1 all. We saw once again Loftus-Cheek's NBA "too small" celebration, which would probably be a yellow card violation if the referee understood it, as it is not a particularly sporting gesture. But as a fan of the offending party, I am here for all of the taunting.

Unsporting, but deliciously wicked if you're a Milan fan.

With adrenaline pumping, and apparently also a fan of the NFL or maybe WWE, Loftus-Cheek offered Freuler a full body tackle just a minute later. And a minute after that, he tackled Beukema at full speed, a very dangerous tackle, actually, for which he received a yellow card (that could have been worse.) The halftime whistle was a welcome sound, so he could take a few minutes and chill before that adrenaline put us down to ten men.

The second half started and Giroud immediately took a knock that he needed treatment for. A couple of minutes later, the brilliant Zirkzee got himself into the perfect scoring position, and gratefully skied the ball into the stands. Not the best of auditions for a player who media outlets say would like to come to Milan, but he made up for it the rest of the match. Maignan saved his next one, then it was time for Pioli to sub. He had Giroud, who was not 100% mentally or physically, and four players on yellow cards, so he had to make some tough decisions. He chose to bring on Florenzi for Calabria, Musah for Adli, and Jović for Giroud. From the other bench was also a Saelemaekers appearance for Bologna, but he was just returning from an injury and was unable to wreak any revenge on his parent club for sending him away.

Leão is judged only by his goal output, but could never live up to some people's expectations anyway.

In the 64th, Reijnders sent in a curling shot, only for the ball to just hit the corner of the woodwork. Error: goal not found. Leão sent one painstakingly just wide a few minutes later. Our Viking defender made a great headed clearance in the 72nd, and then we were gifted yet another opportunity to make things right. Beukema, apparently also an NFL fan, offered a straightarm block to Leão in the face in the penalty area. That was definitely a penalty. Leão is honestly one of the most overly criticized players in Serie A, but he does not dive or complain about physical contact. He only stops when he is actually really in physical pain.

Massa obviously gave the penalty, and with Giroud on the bench now, Theo stepped up to take it. And he hit the post. No worries, though, he immediately took the rebound and put it in the back of the net. One problem with that, though, the rules state that the penalty kicker cannot score after hitting the woodwork unless the ball has touched another player. Which we immediately saw on Pioli's face when the camera went to him. So, after a VAR review to confirm, his goal was called off. Critical error.

Loftus-Cheek flying high with five goals so far for Milan this season.

Loftus-Cheek had enough of this. So, in the 83rd, when Leão set the ball up perfectly for Florenzi, he sent the cross in, and Loftus-Cheek sent a powerful header past Skorupski, who got to it, but could not stop it. 2-1 Milan. The San Siro erupted, and it felt like maybe this stupid Moneyball algorithm was finally going to get this Milan program running. 

Speaking of light in the darkness...

Unfortunately, in the 87th, Pioli sent in Okafor for Rafa Leão and then replaced Pulisic with Terracciano for some beta testing. And just two minutes later, poor Terracciano lost his man when Orsolini sent in a great cross, and the newest Milan signing grabbed Kristiansen's shirt to try to keep him from reaching the ball. He had learned nothing from Ferguson's critical error: Never f*ck with a Viking in the box.  

Guida, who was on VAR duty, told Massa to look at the play again, and after going to the monitor, Massa had absolutely no choice but to award Bologna the penalty and show Terracciano Milan's fifth yellow card of the night. (Apparently the "Bad Boys of Serie A" are back?) Orsolini, who had created that chance, stepped up and converted the penalty to equalize. Of course. 2-2 all. 

All is fair in love and war, as Dutch and Italian teammates from both sides catch up at the end of the battle.

The open source Milanista Pioli Out program that has been running constantly since before he was even officially hired, a program that clearly has never had any maintenance, keeps sending messages across my screen that dropping points in this match was all Pioli's fault. They should really do some regression testing on that program. Because Pioli did not take Giroud's penalty, nor did he save it. He did not take Theo's penalty, nor was he the crossbar that prevented the ball from going into the back of the net. Pioli was not the goalkeeper that saved Leão's early shot. Pioli was not in Theo's boots when he failed to block Zirkzee's shot for the first goal. Pioli was not the crossbar that Reijnders hit. Pioli was not any of the critical errors that Milan players made in this match. He did his job, he prepared the team well, his tactics were sound, and his subs were completely reasonable.

Obviously, Pioli is to blame. 404 Page not found

The metrics for this fan base have become so toxic that it is virtually impossible to have a reasonable conversation about our manager or his future at the club, let alone discuss a match in which the players' user errors were actually the biggest issue. The possession and shots and shots on target for both teams were nearly identical, so on paper, a draw was a logical outcome. However, this program was written for a Milan win, and in spite of still missing seven players, the system seemed to be running smoothly, except for a few ref bugs. Instead, at the final whistle, we were left with the error message: three points not found. And that was all due to critical errors.

This post inspired by the music of Radiohead's "OK Computer" album

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 23
Frosinone vs. Milan
Suaturday, February 3, 2024 • 18:00 CET (12noon EST)

Milan 2, Bologna 2: Critical Errors Milan 2, Bologna 2: Critical Errors Reviewed by Elaine on 6:00 AM Rating: 5
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