Friday February 14 2020
Controversy overshadows Milan performance

Milan put in another strong performance only to be held by a combination of Juventus, the referee and their own needless behaviour, writes Vijay Rahaman.

Controversy ultimately shrouded yet another instalment of this classic rivalry in Italian football, as it seems Milan and Juventus cannot go head-to-head without some debate about refereeing. It is a pity to see the Rossoneri’s impressive performance pushed off the headlines by debate on officiating, but the signs of improvement are definitely there.

Since the start of the new year, both Milan and Juventus have relied on two main proponents for their goals, in the form of Ante Rebic and Cristiano Ronaldo. At San Siro in the first leg of the Coppa semi-final, both men were on the scoresheet yet again. However, the manner in which each put the ball in the back of the net was vastly different.

Both teams had suffered defeats at the weekend in the league and the Cup tie presented the opportunity to rebound quickly. The Rossoneri stuck by the same side that played so impressively, at least in the first half in the Derby Della Madonnina, with Davide Calabria replacing the suspended Andrea Conti. The Bianconeri on the other hand under manager Maurizio Sarri have yet to play his infamous "Sarri-ball" and significantly he pushed Juan Cuadrado into a more attacking role after months as a right-back.

As on Sunday night in the Derby, Milan were the better team in the early exchanges, as they pressed Juve high up the pitch and did not allow the Piedmont side to just play the ball around as easily as they would have liked. Even when Juve did beat the press and had possession, they did not do much with it and it was the hosts who created the best chances. 

Rebic was of course heavily involved, as the Croatian twice forced Gigi Buffon into saves. A sign of things to come later. Ronaldo could not get a sniff at goal, but was still involved in the build-up play. Colombian Cuadrado revelled in his favoured right-wing role and created a chance of his own with a run and drive that Gianluigi Donnarumma did well enough to parry away. 

In a slightly more open second half, Milan did take the deserved lead. Samu Castillejo crossed into the box from his right sided position, the ball went over everyone in the box including 6ft 4in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and all the Juve defenders, fell at the feet of Rebic and he calmly volleyed the ball into the net. Even with all his heroics at the ripe old age of 42, Buffon could not reach that one.

Intriguingly, Sarri wasted no time in responding to his team going behind, by bringing on Rodrigo Bentancur for the out of sorts Aaron Ramsey. Say what you will about his rigid and maniacal tactics and formation, the coach did not waste time over-thinking when his team needed a change.

Say what you will about the refereeing, but Milan’s cards were all needless and avoidable. There were several players one yellow card away from suspension and they knew to be careful. Instead, Zlatan Ibrahimovic jumped elbow raised, Samu Castillejo punched the ball away in a show of petulance and Theo Hernandez managed to not only get booked, but also a second yellow for a futile lunge on Paulo Dybala. Paolo Valeri was being heavy handed when it came to passing out yellow cards, either as a way to assert his authority or to make a name for himself, but the players have to take their own share of the blame.

Then the big talking point occurred in stoppage time. Ronaldo attempted a scissor kick, it hit Calabria's arm with the defender's back to goal and not looking at the ball and initially no penalty was given. Valeri was alerted to the incident by the VAR officials, he went and had a look and pointed to the spot. The Milan players were incredulous with rage, largely because this was far from a new experience when it came to Juve games.

The award of the penalty has and will continue to cause major debate in Calcio circles and already references to other similar incidents have been mentioned. Just this season in a match between Cagliari and Brescia, the Rondinelle were given a penalty for a similar incident as the Calabria one. In the aftermath of that match, Italian refereeing designator Nicola Rizzoli, himself, not ever far from controversy, clearly stated that the decision to award Brescia that penalty was wrong, yet here we are almost five months later and it was given yet again. 

There were some differences, as in the Cagliari incident Alberto Cerri’s arm was flush with his body, whereas Calabria’s was more detached. But then it was far from an unnatural movement, as Calabria had jumped to intercept the cross and was just a fraction of a second too late. When the rules are so open to interpretation, with so many caveats, it becomes nigh-on impossible to define precisely what is or isn’t handball.

VAR has made it easier to pore over and consider penalty incidents, but at the end of the day, we are back to the old adage: we’ve seen them given. Unless there is greater clarity in the rules, no amount of technology will quell the controversy.

Have your say...
You can ONLY think that was NOT a penalty if A) You don't know the rules, or B) You don't know how to read (Often when dealing with small children, or those with the same mentality, these are the same)
on the 17th February, 2020 at 7:55pm
It doesn't matter if it is "nigh on impossible" to judge what a handball is and isn't when the antagonist is Juve. In a game against a lesser team that penalty gets given for Juve but not against them. It's the same every year. The Alex Sandro incident last season, for example. It's something that incenses you, but what's the point in arguing the point. Just accept that Juve's success is owed to good business acumen and questionable refereeing decisions.
on the 17th February, 2020 at 7:49pm
You can ONLY argue there was penalty if you A) are corrupt or B) a Juve fan (often these two are the same).

PS. Kessie should have been sent to the shower for his elbow.
on the 17th February, 2020 at 9:56am
That was a penalty, there's no controversy. Whining about Juventus getting favourable treatment from referees is such a loser mentality. All teams get some penalties that are questionable in their favour, and some against them. In any case, the one awarded to Juve was not questionable. But cry on, nobody cares.
on the 17th February, 2020 at 12:04am
What controversy?
on the 16th February, 2020 at 12:13am
Juve is having problems, if Ronaldo is off his game, Juve is off. Teams are defencing
Dybala and Higuain, they have not been sharp and the rest of the team has been average recently. They were clearly outplayed by Milan and it shows that one man can make a difference to a teams psychology.
The referees and VAR are questioned for their decisions because they are inconsistent in decision making. However due to Juve's history of "problems" fans question the fairness in Serie A, just ask Commisso.
on the 15th February, 2020 at 7:43pm
I am going to eat my fist if Conte wins Serie A!
Why are some people born with gold spoon & everyone makes them favours?
Clubs go bankrupt for this guy to buy him Superstar players
--I'd love to see "amazing" Conte performing with Lazio's rooster!
Or getting Perez, Villar, Ibanez in Jan transfer window..!

I hope Juve crashes out against Lyon, fires Sarri & finally takes Inter/ Serie A seriously.
& get Pep next year!

Frankly, right now Inter deserves Scudetto more...
& Atalanta/ Lazio THE MOST.
on the 15th February, 2020 at 2:42am
But let's not stirr old stuff...

I thought I could never dislike Juventus more...

Then spoiled Conte comes to Inter...
Takes over Spalletti's accomplishments & club buys him AMAZING PLAYERS...

And Juve? Decides, THIS SEASON, to play like garbage, probably gifting Conte Scudetto??!!!
I mean, put CR7 into Verona & they'll fight for CL places!!!

You're packed with Champions!!!
You should play the best attacking football on continent, mauling Serie A!
--Not barely winning by a goal.
on the 15th February, 2020 at 2:15am
Anonymous, fair point.
You sound like Buffon or princess Bonucci --with composed demeanor & a subtle smile, brushing these things off...

Then a tiny thing happens against Real & ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!!!
Such hypocricy.
It's disgraceful/ shameful what Buffon said that night. And for a stone-wall penalty at that!!!
Way to keep your cool, "non-BarTalkNonsense" composure Gianluigi...
It's easy to talk when you're on the other receiving end.
on the 15th February, 2020 at 1:49am
I don't like this whining culture from Milan/Inter/Napoli fans. Cuadrado got an elbow to the face, no red card to Kessie. Another earlier penalty for Cuadrado arm to the face. No one is whining about that. Let's talk about the game instead and focus on how each team can improve going forward
on the 14th February, 2020 at 11:42pm
I’m not sure I’ve seen a team play sideways and back passes like Juve did last night. Ramsey in the 1st half alone must have made close to 20. Then the laborious way most players are on the ball. It comes to them and their 1st thought is to go backwards. Some want too much time on the ball and apart from Matuidi, no one presses the opposition. Dybala and Pjanic did a couple of nice 1 2s unfortunately they were going back. This has got to change as no chance in cl playing this way. It’s too lazy.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 10:50pm
So with no City next year in UCL, does that mean bye bye Sarri?
on the 14th February, 2020 at 10:11pm
"Why cant our midfield play passes over the top when Higuain and CR7 make early runs?"
Because Allegri and now Sarri think Pjanic has Pirlo's vision and passing range and continue to play him out of position which killed his natural talents and turned him into a defender (which he is still poor at). The same thing Allegri did with Manzu. And seeing how Pjanic himself is too stupid to realize this instead of trying to go to a new club, explains the sorry state of affairs for Juve's midfield.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 10:08pm
We have alot of fortune tellers and PhD statisticians in here. They already know what would be the case if the roles were reversed in the penalty situation.

As a Juve fan:
- Why is every team more hungry than Juve? Yes they won 8 in a row. PSG won 6 and when they play weaker teams its like they bring their guns to a fist fight
- Why cant our midfield play passes over the top when Higuain and CR7 make early runs?
- When will Sarri scrap zonal marking? It doesn't work for Juve
on the 14th February, 2020 at 4:46pm
I hope Juve get 20 more penalties this season. Deserved or undeserved , I don't care. It will give the whingers something to live for.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 4:34pm
Lino uses common sense to interpret hand-ball rules.

So when FI lists:
"IT WAS SHOT AT HIS ARM" (or Her arm in princess Bonucci's case)
I cringe...

My favotite is "HE DIDN'T SEE THE BALL"
or when player commits a foul "HE DIDN'T SEE HIM --IT WAS UNINTENTIONAL".
(--Ala, Kluivert-Patric stolen penalty.)
Like that plays any role!!!
on the 14th February, 2020 at 3:58pm
On the Ronaldo situation, considering the ball was going towards goal, the decision was not at all surprising and probably correct. Considering the lack of intent and the hand not being in unnatural position, I wander whether the yellow card was warranted.
That being said, rules need to be reviewed ASAP cause the number of penalties given this season for hand balls is simply becoming ridiculous, and the rules do not follow the spirit of the game. It is (usually) not the referees fault though.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 3:54pm
Would like to here your opinions on the Cuadrado situation. When the referee went for the on field review, I was certain it's gonna be a penalty and then stunned it was not given. As stupid and (likely) accidental the defender's play was, the foul looked 100% and it was in the penalty box. On top of that, Cuadrado would have reached the ball and continued Juve's attack, instead of the goal kick for Milan final outcome.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 3:36pm

Player jumps into block with his legs & ARMS spread...
Ball hits him from close range into leg & bounces onto his arm...

Player(De Vrij--FIOR) falls, hand-first, interrupts opponent's play...

Player falls backward from JUMPING, uses hands to catch himself --THAT IS NORMAL, NO PEN.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 3:32pm
Yesterday was a 100% penalty, no controversy whatsoever.
Calabria knew Ron was behind him and didn't move arms away.

Imagine if players wore armors with only their arms unprotected... & ball would be made of Lava! :)
Calabria wouldn't jump like that!
De Vrij wouldn't fall with hand down against Fiore!
But he would lose that limb against Napoli in Coppa, because that was sooo accidental/unintentional.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 3:05pm
Why people can't admit that Juve ALWAYS get the 50-50% decisions in their favour??!!

OK, not always-always, but A LOT, A LOOOTTTTT MORE than any other Serie A club.

Go and look at stats.

When a 50-50% decision doesn't go their way it's probably because they are already 3-0 up!

It's OK, Juve earned this status. (Brought money/ fame to Serie A/ Italy)...
But sweeping it aside is offending to the rest of us when it's so obvious!
Defending it, only makes Juve-hatered stronger!
on the 14th February, 2020 at 2:45pm
It was most certainly a penalty.

Those that don't think so should probably read the rules. In this case, whether or not the arm was in an UN-NATURAL position is irrelevant. The position of the defender's arm in this case makes him un-naturally bigger than he otherwise is. If the arm is not there, the shot continues toward goal, and a chance to score.

Whether or not we agree with law the way it is written, or which team we support, is also irrelevant. That is a penalty.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 2:30pm
Did Verona get a penalty because Bonucci's arm was on top of his head and the ball hit it? nobody talked about controversy then.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 2:26pm
1. Bravo Varsavia!

FI needs to stop defending Juve.
If yesterday's roles were REVERSED and Milan WOULD NOT GET A PENALTY, FI would list how Ronaldo was too close with his back turned..!
Actually, scratch that --they'd only need ONE THING:"Ronaldo was TOO CLOSE".

FI, why do you always list handball rules after Juve games? LOL
These rules can be interpreted any way, (usually always to one club's favour) like I showed you in example above.

STOP DEFENDING JUVE, let fans argue amongst themselves.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 2:22pm
FI is so committed to dismissing Juve controversies, be it on the liveblog or blogs.

People have eyes, we see these discriminations and it has been going on for too many years now.

Muntari's ghost goal, De Sciglio's handball penalty, Alex Sandro's non-penalty, Calabria's handball yesterday, ...

I could go on for days ...
on the 14th February, 2020 at 1:46pm
Milan probably deserved more from the game for their effort but in fairness, Milan just do not have the ability to do anymore than what they did. Juve are in terrible form and a better team than this Milan would have defeated Juve convincingly.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 12:56pm
In was a penalty the very same way as it was a penalty given when the ball Alex Sandro's arm in similar fashion recently but you didnt hear Juve moan and resort to the usual losers stupid conspiracy theories. Vijay, surely you ment to write 'famous Sarri-ball' and not "infamous"? The whole of europe waxed lyrical about 'Sarrismo' with Napoli. Chelsea fans really need to get over it already
on the 14th February, 2020 at 12:47pm
Yeah lets just ignore the fact that Kessie should have been red carded for an elbow in the first half, and Cuadrado should have had a penalty earlier.
on the 14th February, 2020 at 12:30pm
"Really good team move from Napoli, Mertens spreads the play down the right for Zielinski, Padelli has to rush out and get his arm to it!
As it bounces off Padelli's arm, it also grazes De Vrij's hand, but he wasn't even looking and the hand was in a natural position, so VAR says to carry on.

Coppainfaccia71: Definitely a handball, arm was raised. Let off. Inter getting help as usual

Football Italia: 'Raised' means above the shoulder, so not, it was not."
on the 14th February, 2020 at 11:49am

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Your data may be made public and you accept our Privacy Policy. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.