AC Milan 0, AS Roma 1: Down, But Not Out

Milan players are probably so grateful for Atalanta's shock 3-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield, because that has deflected much of the media attention away from Milan's 1-0 loss to Roma at the San Siro. Although they might want a little more attention paid to Clément Turpin and his team's abysmal job refereeing, specifically the error that led to the Roma goal, and the failure to call what looked like a handball against Roma late in the game that would have given Milan a penalty, for example. However, Milan's performance was not great, and that was as obvious as the referee errors. So, with the second leg left to play in Rome, Milan are a goal down, but not out.

Frustration and regrets the theme of this match.

Milan actually took 25 shots, with five on target, two hitting the crossbar, while Roma only took ten shots, with only three on target. Reijnders had four out of five of Milan's shots on target (Adli had the fifth,) it seemed like this was almost personal for him or something. He also had the first shot on target, less than ten minutes in. Calabria also had a nice block at the other end to shut down Pellegrini. It was looking to be a competitive match.

Reijnders with most of our shots on target in this one.

But the controversy came in the16th minute, when there was no offside called on Lukaku on the buildup to an El Shaarawy shot that Maignan did well to tip over. Pioli protested about the lack of a call, because it made the difference between Milan taking a free kick and having possession, or Roma being awarded a corner kick. Turpin was not appreciative of Pioli explaining how they should do their jobs, and showed Pioli a yellow card (and it was not the first time he had shown Pioli a yellow card, either, which is unusual for the Milan manager.

Pioli actually had the perfect vantage point, too, as he had been just about even with the linesman when the offside occurred. People question Pioli's abilities, but he was able to manage Milan and do the linesman's job better than him simultaneously. Roma knew they had gotten away with something, were happy to take the corner, and of course, Mancini scored a header from that corner kick. 1-0 Roma. 

Does Turpin have some kind of vendetta against Milan?

Had Turpin's linesman been doing his job as well as Pioli was doing the linesman's job for him, or if Turpin or his assistant had the humility to admit they had made such a grievous error that was so obvious to the entire stadium and the millions of viewers watching, then Roma would not have had the corner kick. Hence, Roma would not have had the goal. Which should have been the correct outcome here, but instead, the errors and arrogance of the referee team literally cost Milan the game.

Milan had not even really found their rhythm yet, but having such a simple referee error go against them, then lead to a goal so early in the match both left them rattled and out of sync, while it only empowered and emboldened Roma that much more. In spite of this, Milan continued to attack. Giroud had back to back headers in the 21st minute, both of which were cleared off the line.

Giroud had just about enough of Mancini and his dirty fouls.

Pulisic was shown a yellow card for apparently breathing on El Shaarawy in the 33rd minute (I guess he must have clipped him from behind, but I was unable to find the contact in the camera angle they showed.) Leão attempted an overhead bicycle kick, but it went about as poorly as the rest of his night. Between being so heavily marked, the Roma players may have separation anxiety now, and the completely unwarranted criticism he received this week from washed-up-wasted-career-Milan-traitor-current-waste-of-space Cassano, Leão was particularly frustrated. The timing of Nutella man's comments was likely calculated, as he played his best days at Roma and hates everything and everyone at Milan, despite the fact that Milan doctors saved his life and gave him the best trophy campaign of his career, with both a Scudetto and a Supercoppa.

Roma continued their siege on Milan's net through the first half, but Maignan and the defense held strong. Reijnders started the second half with yet another shot that was saved, and then Mancini used the guise of pretending to jump in the air for the ball to try to fly into Giroud, who otherwise would have been through on goal 1v1 with Svilar. Although Mancini came nowhere near getting the ball, and Giroud did his best to avoid the brunt of Mancini's flailing knees and boots, Turpin called Giroud for the foul. So a great opportunity for Milan turned the ball over to Roma because of an incredibly dangerous play from a Roma player. Makes sense, right?

Gabbia and Thiaw did well to neutralize Roma, helping to hold them to only ten shots, three on target.

Finally, in the 59th, Pioli brought on Adli for Bennacer. There is no question as to Bennacer's quality, but he has always shown when he has been paired with someone with stronger physique and better defensive skills. Paired with a more attacking player like Reijnders, he gets stuck doing more of the defending, and we miss out on his ability to create plays. That changed when Adli came on, who, while still a bit rash at times, has fire in his soul and breathed some life into the team. Although he did get the rash part out of the way right away with an accidental stomp on Pellegrini's foot, for which he was rewarded with a yellow card.

While Turpin was very quick to punish Milan throughout the match, while giving Roma the benefit of the doubt more often than not, he only whistled a foul when Thiaw smashed into Dybala, shoving him to the ground, right in front of the referee in the 64th minute. One of those knees on the long legs of Thiaw crashed into Dybala's thigh, requiring treatment, but only the foul, no card. That may have been Turpin's only moment of generosity toward Milan, perhaps he doesn't like Dybala? 

Leão and Dybala were both neutralized, though I think Dybala was physically worse for the wear.

Five minutes later, Theo headed an Adli corner just wide. We also saw Giroud face off with Mancini, clearly having had enough of the dirty fouls already. Turpin broke that up, but nothing could ever change Mancini's ways. While it was fine for Smalling to wrap his arms around Giroud and kick him in the back of his leg to knock him down as he was going for the ball, Loftus-Cheek was carded moments later for a tackle on Dybala after actually getting the ball first, because the Argentinian did his best Neymar impression.

Adli's shot after a clever layoff from Pulisic forced Svilar to push the ball onto the crossbar, one of Milan's best chances. In fact, after Adli came on, Milan started to play their game and create more chances, even if they were still unable to score, such as Leão's shot from close range, which was blocked. Pioli finally made a couple of other changes, bringing on Chukwueze for Pulisic and Okafor for Leão. De Rossi apparently finally remembered that he, too, could substitute, making all five of his changes after the 81st minute. 

Adli brought some life back into the disorganized and disheartened Milan.

Chukwueze absolutely brought energy to the Milan attack. After Gabbia's shot was deflected over, Chukwueze took a chance from way outside the area that went just over. A few minutes later, he dribbled through defenders next to the goal line, then served the ball up for Giroud, whose reflex attempt just hit the crossbar, the chance many fans rued the most afterward. 

In the 90th minute, there was another refereeing controversy, as Smalling attempted to clear a Milan corner with his head, he missed and cleared it with his arm instead. While Turpin apparently missed this very blatant handball, which checked all the boxes for a clear handball offense, a VAR review did not reverse his non-call, despite having the advantage of however many camera angles and the ability to stop and look at it as much as they wanted. While Milan should have had a penalty here, once again, Turpin and his team got it wrong. The second error that potentially changed the outcome of the match.

That is a handball by definition.

Reportedly, VAR was used to review the possible handball, but would not overturn the head referee's decision unless there was an "egregious error." But what constitutes an egregious error? When the referee's decision incorrectly denies one team a penalty that could potentially change the outcome of the match, is that not egregious?

While I have always given some leniency for human error in refereeing, with VAR reviews, they are supposed to atone for the human-ness and correct these errors. Given the fact that conspiracy-loving Italians pointed out that Milan have now played five matches that Turpin has refereed both episodes in which either an assistant and/or VAR could have helped Turpin make the correct decisions. In a perfect match, Roma don't score that first goal, and Milan get the penalty and score it, this result is completely flipped. Or at the very least, a goalless draw.

Those look like players resolved to get the result next time.

But those are not even the only possibilities. Given the fact that the early goal affected the mentality of both teams, the final score could have been entirely different. Sure, Milan did not play their best. But even without their best effort, they created two and a half times more chances than Roma, with nearly double the shots on target. Also considering that Milan defeated Roma both in September and again in January in the league, this referee team failure is incredibly influential in this tie.

However, only one goal down going to the Olimpico, this also shows that Milan are not yet out of this competition, either. Should UEFA choose to send a competent referee team that doesn't have a bad night, Milan can definitely come up with two more goals than Roma in the return leg next week. Whether or not they do is the big question – for both Milan showing up and the UEFA referees. Milan have had myriad controversies with UEFA refs costing us important matches, and Milan have both pulled off miracles and also tanked in important matches. Our future is (mostly) in our hands. Milan may be down, but we are not out.

This post inspired by the music of Queen's "I Want It All"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 32
Sassuolo vs. Milan
Sunday, April 14, 2024 • 15:00 CEST (9am EDT)

AC Milan 0, AS Roma 1: Down, But Not Out AC Milan 0, AS Roma 1: Down, But Not Out Reviewed by Elaine on 9:08 PM Rating: 5
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