AS Roma 2, AC Milan 1: Thrown to the Wolves

Milan have never won the Europa League trophy, but we have won the Champions League seven times. I would like to blame that fact for our excruciating exit from the Quarterfinals at the hands of the fifth place Serie A team that is 14 points below us on the table, but I don't think that was our problem. After a match that was conditioned by poor referee calls last week left us 1-0 down last week, Milan's proverbial back was up against the wall. In these situations, Pioli usually does one of two things: prepare the perfect match and win, or break the panic button because he hits it so hard. His prematch comments about his choices were worrying, because as soon as the starting lineups were released, it was clear that somewhere, a panic button had lost its life. The team never stood a chance with his choices, even with Roma going down to ten men, they were literally thrown to the wolves.

After being mauled by wolves, the team faced the Curva, who chanted at them.

At least we were not kept in suspense long for the impending pain. In the twelfth minute, Pellegrini took a shot that hit the crossbar, and with Maignan having reached for that shot, Mancini was there to tap it in to an empty net. 1-0 Roma. At least this week, it was harder to begrudge Mancini's goal, as he dedicated it to his brother-in-law's brother, Mattia Giani, who tragically passed away this week after suffering a heart attack on the pitch. 

Mancini got his goal again in this one, but was otherwise contained better than last week.

Roma have been through so much this week, between that and Ndicka's injury. Then, ahead of the match, Roma announced that they will be extending De Rossi's contract next year. All of these emotional events absolutely helped to galvanize an already fired up team. However, it seemed as if the gods were not pleased with how the match was going, as it started pouring rain shortly after Mancini's goal.

Milan began their efforts to score, with Theo sending a wild shot into the stands. In the 17th minute, Milan seemed about to score, but Bove had both arms around Tomori and pulled him to the ground as he was trying to shoot the ball point blank in front of Svilar. As mentioned in the preview, Marciniak is one of the best referees in the world, but between the intense atmosphere of the Olimpico, the less than ideal atmospheric conditions, and the intense emotions between the two teams, this was never going to be an easy game to ref. 

Loftus-Cheek hit the crossbar, but wasn't able to get on the scoresheet.

Loftus-Cheek had the best chance of the first half for Milan in the 20th minute when his shot hit the crossbar. But two minutes later, Pellegrini sent the ball forward to Lukaku, who was storming down the pitch, shoved Gabbia to the ground (no foul called, no VAR review,) and crossed the ball in. Gabbia had gotten himself up in time to clear the ball, but unfortunately, he passed it straight to Dybala, who settled it and sent it curling past everyone into the back of the net. 2-0 Roma.

Next came what was for some a controversial call, but if you watch it back, Marciniak absolutely got it right. Leão was running full speed down the wing, and Çelik swept not just one, but both of his legs from behind, sending the Portuguese player sliding for several meters. Marciniak immediately showed an straight red card. Leão, who never complains about a call, went from grinning and running to screaming in pain and absolutely incensed at such a dangerous and horrific foul. After all of the swarming of the ref and the complaining, Roma were down to ten men.

Leão got the assist and was also taken down for Çelik's red card.

With Milan down 2-0, the gods sent a hail storm to show their displeasure. Milan played with a sense of urgency, even if they were still erratic and disorganized. Leãsent a great ball in, and  Loftus-Cheek sent a fantastic diving header straight into... the back of Spinazzola. Everyone was frustrated, including, it seemed, Pioli. At the 40th minute, he took of Bennacer and replaced him with a more attacking option, Jović. Our singular midfielder who knows how to defend was subbed off for another striker. Unless Bennacer was injured, which I have not heard, this was very early and seemed very desperate, even for Pioli. Make it make sense. He went from Pioli is on Fire to burning this team to the ground when it really matters.

Things went from bad to worse when a handball call went in favor of Roma. Three players were wrestling in the box, and the ball was deflected after clearly being handled. After a VAR review, however, it was determined that the ball hit Giroud's arm first, so a free kick was given to Roma. While this is the letter of the law, it was ironic because of the reason the rule exists – to prevent opponents from using their arms or hands to clear the ball in the box, which the Roma players did. No penalty for Milan, even though logically, it really should have gone our way.

Pioli's choices sent this team to the wolves.

After Pioli had inexplicably started Bennacer, Musah, and Loftus-Cheek, he made more changes at halftime. He brought on two players many thought he should have started against this Roma side – Reijnders and Chukwueze, but pulled off Calabria and Loftus-Cheek. What his tactical plan was for his mystery midfield or how he was expecting this team to defend makes me very concerned. He has been known to make strange choices when he panics like this, but his choices in this match made me concerned that he was having a mental breakdown, or was perhaps possessed, or completely wasted. Or maybe all three. 

And if it was none of those things, then, as it has been over-speculated since before his actual arrival, perhaps it really is time for Pioli out. Even if Milan are second in Serie A, our Champions League Group rivals are both in the Semifinals, and we pushed all the way to the Europa League Quarterfinals, we cannot have a manager who chooses his midfield like he's playing roulette, and players withering in big games against opponents they have defeated already this year.

When your ideas only make sense to you, it may not be working out anymore.

If we were confused as to what he was doing, then imagine how disoriented the players must have been. It was almost reminiscent of those matches with Giampaolo, when he was not effectively transmitting his ideas to the players. And while we know that Pioli is very close with his players and talks to them individually and as a team all the time, these matches make everyone question how those relationships are actually going.

Milan players were getting frustrated, and it's difficult to blame them. They were whistled for a total of 20 fouls, and received six yellow cards, the cards all shown in the second half. The first card went to Gabbia for a foul on Pellegrini. Then Adli, who never even got a chance to play in this one, received a yellow card from the bench for doing something behind the Roma goal when a ball went out and he was at least pretending to warm up.


Tomori and his good friend Tammy Abraham got into a bit of a tussle as Fik wrestled him to the ground. Milan continued to take shots, taking a total of 20 on the night, but only four were on target. Roma only needed to park the bus and defend, and yet, on ten men, they still attacked, with Spinazzola forcing Maignan into a save in the 57th and Abraham sending it over the crossbar later.

In the 69th minute, genius confused old man Pioli made his final changes, pulling off Pulisic and Musah and bringing on Okafor and the former Roma player, Florenzi. Pioli's changes really just made it seem like he was a madman with a handful of knives, throwing them all at once, hoping one of them would hit the target. And Milan's playing style increasingly reflected this, too. Jović got a yellow card after colliding heads with Bove, but not apparently for the collision, for adamantly arguing with Marciniak. 

Gabbia got a goal, but it did not mean a lot with that scoreline.

Reijnders took a shot that Svilar pushed just over. And finally, Milan pulled one back. Leão sent in a fantastic cross, and Gabbia headed it home. Now it was 2-1 Roma, or 3-1 on aggregate. Calabria was carded from the sidelines for something here, having already been subbed off. Chukwueze fired a rocket from distance, but it was saved. Tomori was shown a yellow card for a foul on El Shaarawy.

Finally, in stoppage time, there was one more little controversy, as Theo Hernández was shown a straight red card for a foul on El Shaarawy. However, There was a VAR review, and Marciniak went to the screen to review it himself. His initial view of the foul was not great, and after seeing the VAR images, he chose to reverse his decision and rescind the red card, so Theo only received a yellow card for the foul. Roma were not happy about it, but I agree with this call, too. It was nothing like Çelik's foul, and did not warrant the red card.

The heavens were crying for Milan.

Going out of the Europa League at this stage would have been painful, no matter what. But going out like this, to a league rival that we defeated twice this year, with such miserable performances, hurts more than words can say. Sure, there were the ref controversies at San Siro, but the players did not show up the way we know they can. Yet it's difficult to put all the blame on them after Pioli's incomprehensible choices. At least the players ran for 90 minutes, even if they were dazed and confused because they were basically thrown to the wolves.

This post inspired by the music of NIN's "Hurt"

UEFA Youth League Semifinal
FC Porto U19 vs. AC Milan Primavera
Friday, April 19, 2024 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)
watch on the Milan app or on

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 33
Milan vs. Inter
Monday, April 22, 2024 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)

AS Roma 2, AC Milan 1: Thrown to the Wolves AS Roma 2, AC Milan 1: Thrown to the Wolves Reviewed by Elaine on 4:00 AM Rating: 5
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