Monza 4, Milan 2: Comedy of Errors

Humor is a great coping mechanism in the face of tragedy, and apparently, our team believes this as well. From Pioli's squad rotation that went one rotation too many, to the defensive errors of a young player just coming back from injury, to a player wanting in on Milan's red hot red card action this season, the tragedy turned farcical. All of which were impacted by a freak accident involving two Monza players as well as a freakishly long stoppage in play to treat them. And, despite Pioli doing well to compensate for and correct the errors, as well as some killer instincts that got Milan back into the game, a couple of heartbreaking late goals turned this match into a travesty as Monza finally got a 4-2 win over Milan. Some people are angry, that is their choice, but if you step back and look at how absurd the events of this match were, you could also choose to laugh at the actual comedy of errors.

Giroud is all of us after this one.

Things were going so well for Milan, with a nine game unbeaten streak in the league. So that is when we know as fans that we should worry most, and perhaps I was not worried enough going into this match. When I saw Pioli's lineups, though, I definitely did worry. He started: Maignan; Florenzi, Thiaw, Gabbia, Theo Hernández; Bennacer, Adli; Chukwueze, Loftus-Cheek, Okafor; Jović. We have seen time and time again that we need at least one of our top quality players at each position – defense, midfield, and attack – to control matches and get results. So in that lineup, we have Theo, Bennacer, but we are missing either Leão or Giroud up front. Even adding Pulisic or Reijnders would have helped so much.

Part tragedy, part comedian, part manager.

I understand that we just played on Thursday, the players need to be rested. And after the match, Pioli talked about Rafa Leão starting from the bench because of a potential calf issue that we saw on Thursday, and Pulisic not being fit, either. Then he promptly subbed them both on at halftime when things were going south. So why not start them, get control of the match, and sub them off? Same amount of minutes. But having experienced players on to start the match means you are less likely to lose control of the match in the first place, and there are fewer chances for errors. This is something Pioli has never learned. He just changed one too many players in this lineup, and like an ice skater who rotates just a little too much, he fell. We fell.

Milan were not great for the first 36 minutes, but were not horrible, either. Considering who was on the pitch, with Chukwueze having just returned fro AFCON where his biggest contributions was carrying a giant speaker out of the tunnel for Nigeria, it was not surprising that he struggled to connect with teammates he had not played with in two months. Gabbia took a knock in a collision with Bennacer, but was still pretty solid, and there were a few chances created, but Di Gregorio was up to the task. Monza's best chance was from Đurić in the 31st, a header that kissed the outside of the crossbar.

The leadership that was needed from the first minute didn't come on until much later.

The gamechanger was in the 36th, when Di Gregorio came out for a ball and collided with Theo Hernández and Andrea Carboni. Theo managed to avoid any apparent damage, but the two Monza players's heads collided, causing bleeding, and, in Di Gregorio's case, perhaps worse. Particularly because the goalkeeper was involved, play stopped for a very long seven minutes while the medical team tried to patch up both players. The delay impacted Milan more, as icing our players for that long clearly affected both our rhythm and our focus. On the contrary, losing their goalkeeper to injury seemed to give Monza a cause to play for.

Almost as soon as play resumed, tragedy struck. Thiaw's brain temporarily left his body and he made two naive tackles in a row. Like so bad that they were comical, really. The ultimate comedy of errors. Unfortunately, whether it was for the first tackle on Đurić, or the second even more inexplicable challenge on Dany Mota, or just for the overall performance, referee Andrea Colombo whistled for a penalty. After a VAR review, which was probably more of a "What did we just witness?" than a "Was that a penalty?" review, the formerly Milan-owned Pessina took the penalty and converted it. 1-0 Monza in the 45th minute. Like being sucker punched by a clown, only I was also heartbroken for Thiaw. This was his first start after more than 80 days following his first major injury. And that seven minutes of stoppage time literally made him lose his mind.

When your first full day back at work is a tough day at the office.

About five minutes later, he was nutmegged, too, but the goal from the resulting play was not his fault, that was more of a team effort. Dany Mota scored a great curling shot to make it 2-0 Monza. Unbelievable. Tragic, and yet comedic. Milan had been in control of the match. Not dominating, but also not really in threat of conceding, either. And now they were going into halftime down 2-0.

Pioli reacted by subbing on Leão for Okafor, Rijnders for Adli, and Pulisic for Chukwueze at halftime. Okafor had been a ghost, Adli had made some costly defensive errors, and Chukwueze had not been able to unlock Monza's defense after his recent return from AFCON, where his biggest contribution was carrying a large speaker onto the pitch for Nigeria. However, five minutes later, tragedy struck again. Or should I say Jović struck again?

Someone who stands up to a bully may have to sit out up to 3 matches.

Izzo had been bullying and pushing and shoving and antagonizing Jović and other Milan players for the entire match, it's kind of his thing. Here, he blatantly shoved Jović, and when Jović went to push him back, Izzo's ugly face got in the way. Of course, Andrea Colombo initially only whistled and showed Jović a yellow card, but after looking at the monitor, he came back with a straight red instead. Jović did not even protest, he was already walking away as soon as the ref came back from the VAR screen. Milan were down to ten men. But my personal theory was that Jović was so stunned by the dreadful acting of the diving and rolling Izzo, that he just walked off to process it. Jović will also miss our match vs. Atalanta, and could be suspended for up to three matches, which is very unfortunate, because he is a fantastic super sub. 

Bad behavior apparently comes from the top, and during the VAR review, Palladino and Pioli started in on each other about the validity of the red card. To be fair, the Milan staff and bench had some good reasons to defend Jović. But Palladino apparently was the worst offender, and was shown a yellow card for his portion of the "conversation." Following that verbal altercation, Pioli chose to replace Bennacer with Giroud shortly thereafter to try to get the result. Which was clearly the right choice, as Giroud finally pulled one back when Pulisic headed a ball into the box for him in the 65th. The score was 2-1 Monza. Giroud immediately went to get the ball and ran back to the center of the field. He was there to turn this match around.

Winner vs. Weiner: Sorrentino refusing to give Giroud the ball, that's just bad form.

Milan playing on ten men pinned Monza back more than they had in the first half, due to the quality of Pioli's substitutions and the killer mindset of those players he subbed on. There were credible chances from Leão (blocked,) Florenzi (went wide,) and Loftus-Cheek (saved,) for example. Palladino brought both Milan-owned players on – Colombo and Daniel Maldini, as well as other impact subs. Meanwhile, Pioli's final substitution was to pull Florenzi off and replace him with Musah. I am a big fan of Musah, but defending is not his strength, and that ultimately cost us a point.

Gabbia was shown Milan's singular yellow card for a tactical foul on Pessina in the 83rd, the poor guy was practically a one man defense at times, making up for a lot of errors in the midfield. He also blocked a Pedro Pereira shot in the 86th. In the 88th minute, Thiaw sent the ball to Pulisic, who seemed to think about crossing it, but then chose to shoot, and scored an incredible goal to level the score. 2-2 all, and he was not done. They were fighting for the win.

Laser-focused, killer mentality, spectacular goal – Pulisic was next level in this one.

Unfortunately, Monza had the man advantage, and Milan were essentially playing a one or maybe two man defense, so in the 80th minute, Daniel Maldini sent a cross into Bondo at the top of the box, who settled it and then beat poor one-man defense Gabbia, sending a rocket flying past Maignan. 3-2 Monza in the 90th minute. Milan didn't quite give up, but they lost a bit of fight in that moment. 

And all spirit was killed when, in the 95th minute, Colombo took a pass from Pessina, and seeing the utterly gassed Gabbia, dribbled it past him and shot, scoring against the club that owned him. 4-2 Monza. He was incredibly classy, very visibly not celebrating, and then posted an amazing statement on social media about respect, always playing for the shirt he wears, and never forgetting the club he belongs to. Again, I love Musah, but he was so far out of position, he was only able to watch as helplessly as I was as Milan lost the match right in front of our eyes. (He, along with other players who could have done more in both situations.)

Gabbia is everything we want Milan players to be.

In the aftermath, Gabbia argued with Costacurta on live television, defending Thiaw from a man who used to play football and now only talks about it. Players should not have to do press after matches like this, but Gabbia's postmatch comments were as classy as his defending. The following day, one journalist from La Gazzetta dello Sport echoed many of our sentiments about Pioli's decisions, saying that because of them, Milan "lost twice" against Monza. By suffering in the first half due to not playing enough starters, then forcing the starters to come on and dig the team out of a hole, we did lose twice.

Not even the amazing white fourth kits by PLEASURES could save us. Apparently, those kits selling out so quickly was an omen... wearing them meant we would also sell ourselves out. We also sold ourselves short of an opportunity to leapfrog Juventus on the table. We broke our nine match unbeaten streak in the league. It's almost laughable, if it were not such a tragedy. The more games we drop points like this unnecessarily, the less we have to play for, so missing out on opportunities is tragic. Pioli's recurring questionable lineups are also tragic, and set the stage for a complete comedy of errors.

This post inspired by the music of Måneskin's "Gasoline"

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Monza 4, Milan 2: Comedy of Errors Monza 4, Milan 2: Comedy of Errors Reviewed by Elaine on 11:59 PM Rating: 5
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