Football can be a brutal business at times. It deals only in winners and losers with little room for shades of grey. On Sunday night at the San Siro it was Gonzalo Higuain’s turn to feel its wrath.
This was HIS game, you see. In the match build-up, everyone of a red-and-black persuasion was anxious to know if he would be ready to face his old team. The player himself was clearly keen to prove Juve made a mistake when they shuffled him out to make room for Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer. But, instead, he fell flat on his face in front of his former teammates in the most spectacular style.
Desperate to take a penalty which could have reopened the game after Milan had fallen behind to a Mario Mandzukic header, he could only watch in despair as he was thwarted by Wojciech Szczesny. In the process, he gave more material to those who call into question his character in the biggest games.
He has a trophy cabinet more than large enough to silence anyone who makes such claims, but still this latest error will sting. In truth, at this stage of his career he is probably never going to change anybody’s mind one way or another.
But if things were already going badly, they would only get worse later in the game. A goal from Ronaldo rubbed salt in his wounds and then he reacted angrily to a foul given against him on Medhi Benatia.
There is probably a debate to be had over whether the Moroccan international should still have been on the pitch - he might have picked up a second yellow card for his handball which gave away the earlier penalty - but nonetheless Higuain’s reaction seemed exaggerated. In the heat of the moment we all make mistakes, of course, but he lost his head more spectacularly than most. A red card, and ensuing angry reaction, finished off a miserable night.
It was a sort of greatest hits package of Higuain's historic weaknesses: missed penalties in big games, losing his rag when things don't go his way.
In some ways, in the long term at least, Milan should be pleased. It shows just how much he wants to do well at the club and how desperate he was to score against the Bianconeri. However, in the short-term, the Rossoneri may well have to do without him for a wee while after the inevitable suspension he picks up - and that will only make his pain even greater.
Taking a wider look at the match, it is impossible to know if converting the penalty would have turned the tide in the home team’s favour. They gave everything they could - with some key players missing - but always looked a bit short of Juve’s standards. Rino Gattuso’s men tried to play with the character and style that had dragged them back up the table, but it rarely troubled the reigning champions. There was enough to suggest the Milanese giants can stay up towards the Champions League zone in Serie A but, for now, they are still some way off a Scudetto challenge.
As for Max Allegri’s team, this was a nice tonic after their disaster against Manchester United in Europe. It took them a long time to kill off their opponents and that must still be something of a concern. What is good enough to win games in Italy is not always sufficient in continental competition and they will have to produce a bit more if they hope to secure that much-desired prize in due course.
You couldn’t rule it out, though, with a team that has this kind of quality players at its disposal and a well-established winning habit. Yet another league title looks theirs for the taking and a crack at something bigger - if they can get all the elements to click. But don’t expect Gonzalo Higuain to be watching on the telly if they do get their hands on the Champions League trophy. He is sure to have switched off quite some time ago.