Friday October 2 2020
Milan resurrect in the pouring rain

Milan seemed dead and buried several times against Rio Ave but their spirit and a bit of luck helped them to make it through the knock-out stages of the Europe League, writes Vijay Rahaman.

In the pouring rain in Portugal, Milan somewhere and somehow managed to make it through to the group stage of the Europa League where they will meet Celtic, Sparta Praha and Lille. The Rossoneri seemed dead and buried several times in Portugal, but displayed a spirit that has become a bit of a forte under Stefano Pioli.

The coach himself alluded to that fact claiming he had a gut feeling they would make it through. Quietly confident he was...

Truth be told the match took a while to get going, as the first half was nothing to write home about.

Pioli saw the need for a change and in what has become a theme so far this campaign, Samu Castillejo stuttered yet again and in came Brahim Diaz. The livewire forward used his instinct to find his way inside the box and his deflected shot meant a corner.

From said corner, Alexis Saelemaekers celebrated his first ever call up to the Belgium national team with his first European goal for the Rossoneri. He immediately went and celebrated with Pioli, in a show of true unity and respect between player and coach. One would think having taken the lead and been in control for the most part, the away side would build on that lead, but that match was never going to be as simple as they thought.

This was after all the club's fifth match in the space of just 15 days and given all the absentees already at this embryonic stage of the season, it was going to take a toll eventually. That heaviness of the workload manifested itself with the two goals Milan conceded.

Last week against Bodo/Glimt, Milan conceded a goal from an attack on their right side and the same happened in Portugal. 

The first goal arrived as the home team managed to beat the Milan press with a well worked attacking action superbly finished off with a one-time shot by Francisco Geraldes. After an inter-change of close shaves for either side, they could not be separated, and the game went into extra-time.

Before even a minute, the team based in Villa do Conde shocked the Rossoneri with a fortuitous bounce of the ball and Gelson Dala who drove home the ball into the far corner.

Milan fought and created chances, but Ismael Bennacer's free-kick and Theo Hernadez's shots were both smartly saved by Paweł Kieszek. By that point Sandro Tonali had come on just like Brahim Diaz had done earlier making moves on the pitch. They both answered Pioli's call later on.

Despite their best efforts, the equaliser was not coming from their pressing and intricate passing play, so it was time for some route one football. It worked! With the last sequence of play a seemingly innocuous ball was played into the box, Borevkovic who had been solid up until then, stuck his arm out and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.

The club's main penalty takers are Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Franck Kessie and with neither of them on the pitch, it was left to Hakan Calhanoglu to assume responsibility. The Turk confirmed his growing status as Milan's number 10 with an expertly taken spot kick.

The final whistle blew and a number of players dropped to the floor. With a heavy pitch due to the rainfall and the intensity and significance of the game, this was going to be both a physical and mental battle till the end.

Penalty kicks it would be...

Despite their exhaustion and despite the weight of the occasion, players of both teams took their penalties precisely. It was 7-7 in the shoot-out and the first player to miss was 18-year old Lorenzo Colombo, who unfortunately blasted over the bar. He pulled his jersey on his face in despair, as almost as if he thought he cost his team victory, but hope sprang eternal.

With the chance to win it for Rio Ave, Nelson Monte's effort hit not just one, but both posts and went out. Were the "football spirits" smiling on Milan? The nerve racking responsibility fell to both goalkeepers, but both skied their kicks..they can be excused right? After all, they are more accustomed to clearing the ball high than placing it into the corner of a goal.

Ultimately the decisive kick fell to Simon Kjaer. The Dane has been monstrous since his arrival at the San Siro and especially since club captain Alessio Romagnoli has been injured. He was the only one to score twice in the shoot-out.

And so, we reached a match-up between Santos and Gigio. The Brazilian went high, but Donnarumma stuck out his big right hand to save it! A see-saw of a match saw four goals, Milan taking the lead and then ending up behind, a last second penalty and going up a man and 24 penalty-kicks in the shoot-out and they were through to the group stages of the Europa League!

Somewhat ironically, Donnarumma barely celebrated even while his teammates and the coaching staff barrelled down towards him. He simply smiled and gave a thumbs up, a man on a mission perhaps of the bigger picture?

Nobody knows what the future holds for this current Milan but what has become apparent is that there is an undeniable fight to the end mentality that has engulfed everyone. It could take them to the promised land.

Have your say...

Worse still,
Big clubs will now hoard even more great players (than they already are).

It will be almost impossible for the likes of Fiorentina to have "Batistutas" & "Rui Costas" now. :(
(Even Di Natale would leave Udine for Juve in this new football.)

Powerful people designed FFP to make sure power stays with the powerful... & this new 5-sub rule will also help them further!
on the 5th October, 2020 at 4:23pm
I totally forgot Serie A again has 5 subs this season!
(Who could blame me when Fonseca usually only uses 2 subs in a game.)

This means Chiesa & Dejan, (if they'll play the same position), can interchange every game, one playing 60 minutes & the other 30.

The stupid "5 sub rule" will make the gap between world-class clubs & the rest even bigger!
Some players used to rather play for minnows than sit on giant's bench...
Now lots will flock to big clubs, satisfied with getting 30 minutes.
on the 5th October, 2020 at 4:06pm
@viktor, IDK, I ain't Pirlo. But hey it's natural top rich team like Juve loves to collect great talents. Chiesa will be Costa's replacement. He is younger, healthier and he's Italian. Idiots are those who reject 5M annual salary and to reject playing with Ronaldo and with the best Italian club who aims to win CL this season.

@ROMAntic, this time I don't laugh. Checkmate. ;)
on the 5th October, 2020 at 1:03pm

So they are planning on playing both Chiesa and Kulusevski at the same time then?

on the 5th October, 2020 at 10:03am
Ive said it in previous Milan blog, we need to enhance the squad. Our best 11 are competitive - especially with Dalot, Hauge, Diaz but if we get injuries etc we will be found out. Attacking Right Midfield we didn't recruit. Samu has to go in next season. We missed out on adding a FW, RM, CB, CM. Now we have to manage until January transfer window and pray for no serious injuries. I think we will get 1 final player tomorrow - most likely a CB. In January we will add a FW and RM.
on the 4th October, 2020 at 9:41pm
This writer makes it as if:
"Milan was a bunny that got attacked by a tiger...
But bunny bravely fought back, jumped on surprised tiger & kicked it with its feet!
Then bunny hopped to safety, leaving tiger completely perplexed..."

But in reality:
"Bunny got attacked by tiger & could only helplessly close its eyes...
When tiger pounced, it missed bunny completely & hit the rocks behind. Tiger did this repeatedly 4 TIMES! LOL
In the end, tiger layed down unconscious as bunny hopped to safety..!"
on the 4th October, 2020 at 6:08pm
@ACM Northern voice
Huge respect for the first part you wrote! I value (your) honesty.

You as well. You're always objective, I love your posts.

Same goes for Vero Rossonero, my favourite Milanista.

@House Party
Oh man, metaphor writing is my job! :)
But you nailed it perfectly --THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED! HAHAHA

@Milan Fan
I'm pretty sure LMAO laughs all the time ;)

Chiesa is an idiot if he goes to Juve. He'll ruin his own or Kulusevski's career..! Or both :(
on the 4th October, 2020 at 12:37am
So what if 3 Milan starters didn't play! What kind of an excuse is that for this game & opponent??


- Rio Ave also played five games in two weeks! They also had missing starters!

- Milan's team is valued at 404 MIL.
Rio Ave's at 25 MIL!

- Lucas Biglia has higher earnings than the WHOLE PORTUGUESE TEAM COMBINED!!!

- Some annoying Milan fans will continue to boast about their "European DNA" when realistically their team probably won't even make it out of the EL!!! group stage!
on the 4th October, 2020 at 12:12am
WHAT MILAN SPIRIT?? What is this writer talking about???
You are trying to get on Milan fans' good side, OK...
--But have some respect for Rio Ave & the football sport! You are falsifying the TRUTH:
Milan was entirely at Rio Ave's mercy FOUR TIMES!

What does Milan got to do with Borevkovic's mind completely self-destructing for that handball penalty he gave in 120th minute? ...Or with Rio Ave players shooting goal posts on penalties??

Milan was lucky, and ONLY lucky.
on the 4th October, 2020 at 12:03am
@Headless Milan fan, You should thank Conte for that. Otherwise, Tonali was going to sign for Inter. And guess what? Mighty Juve wasn't interested.. and we all know all young Italian players are dreaming to play with Ronaldo. Ask Chiesa. LMAO...

Be honest to your self, Milan can't afford Chiesa after they have bought Bertolacci 2.0. LMAO...
on the 3rd October, 2020 at 4:38pm
Context: Milan were without Ibra, Rebic, Ale. Did we ride some luck? Sure (and I’m always one to say ‘luck is for losers’ but that’s kinda what Milan have been the last decade), but Games like this can build players. We’re still unbeaten since the restart, and have an winnable game Sunday Prior to the International break, which give us time to get some guys back and train.

If we add a couple of additional pieces (a CB, CF), I like our chances of making the UCL this year.
on the 3rd October, 2020 at 3:23pm

I didn't see you laughing when Milan signed Tonali. So shut it now like back then.
on the 3rd October, 2020 at 12:33pm
@Vero Rossonero - Couldn't agree more. When we switched to 442 after selling Suso, Samu seemed so energetic and he was literally everywhere on the pitch putting himself on the line for the team but since the restart he's been really casual, like he knows there's nobody in the team that can take his place but - honestly - I would rather play someone out of position (Conti in a 442, for example) with a good attitude in his space than feel forced to stick with him.
on the 3rd October, 2020 at 9:02am
@Viktor, Chiesa to Milan??? Hahahaha... Dream on! The kid is heading to Juventus. Let me remind you that Milan is a mediocre club who can't afford great young player like Chiesa.
on the 3rd October, 2020 at 8:33am

All for the rest of you let me remind you all that we are UNBEATEN since feb, going back to back against top 4 last season, without losing. Yes, they played without dignity against Rio, BUT the opponent faced milan in a very strategic way, with force and strength knowing that Milans average age was like 22 if it wasn't for Kjaer. Milan need another exp player beside from Ibra. They should also sign Chiesa, Rebic on the right Chiesa on the left seems deadly. ACM will reach CL this season.
on the 3rd October, 2020 at 7:57am
A win's a win and what a win. Sure we needed luck but we also showed the desire to win which is encouraging. The Italian league is not as good as it used to be so we should stop patronising Portuguese teams. They're physically in better shape and tactically more fluid. Rio Ave had the likes of Piazon who is owned by Chelsea. So stop with all of the cockiness. Milan need to learn that any team can beat any team. So every game needs to be treated like a final.
on the 3rd October, 2020 at 5:30am
@Chris. Agreed. Theo has some work to do on the mental side, but I think he will come through. Castillejo is just not good enough one way or another, so don't care. His replacement is actively being searched for. Leao unfortunately I think will turn out to be a bust. He has a similar lackadaisical attitude to Balotelli but without the anger/outspokenness. I am skeptical that he will be able to carve out a place in the starting 11. I bet he's gone next summer. Hauge will put him to shame.
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 11:11pm
it is hard to be optimistic considering how bad milan was if there is a crumb of comfort is that the team might of got a morale boast from the result.

If milan play like that against serious clubs there will be no return just utterly painful humiliation.
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 10:49pm
Ha! A bit of luck. I've never seen awt like it? It was the equivalent of robbing €15m from a bank, not bothering with a disguise, murdering 3 guards & then having a lucky accident outside that led to total facial restructuring and complete DNA overhaul enabling them to get off scot-free! I only saw 1st half & pens but they seemed a bit too complacent for me. Right down to team line-up. These games can be tricky. This may help em though. They won, didn't give up in end & it's great experience!
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 6:00pm
Let`s be honest. Milan won this one not because of the spirit or determination. Not because of quality either. Milan won only because they were very, very lucky. This performance reminded me Milan, that we`ve seen year ago - no quality, no clear ideas, what to do on the pitch, no Zlatan. I can only hope, that this is only temporary thing...
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 5:31pm
I truly believe that this match should be the BIGGEST lesson for this Milan team under Pioli so far! And a lesson that'll hopefully be learned in every possible way - in a way of playing, physical strength, subconciouss, the same way as the muscle memory works, psychological power, and everything else a young squad needs to go through in order to grow up and become what it needs, in order to become GRANDE MILAN!
Fortunately or not, Milan ended up in one of the 2 strongest groups, so, GO FOR IT!
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 5:29pm
Sure, this game wasn’t the best Milan had played and sure you could argue we were fortuitous throughout the game. But Ultimately Milan did enough to win and the Portuguese didn’t. Was it a wake up call? Hopefully! Was it a lesson not to take any games lightly or for granted! I sure hope so. Milan lacked a leader on the field that we always need. Ibra was that, then it was HC10, but not one for this last game. Ultimately we’re in and 15mil better off to improve the squad further. Long season.....
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 4:52pm
Not gonna lie, we should've gone out and it was a one in a million chance that things happened the way they did. Embarrassing performance but it could happen to such an inexperienced and young team sometimes.

We ran away with the qualification in the end but must sign another forward and right winger so this won't happen again,
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 4:05pm
I hate to be negative, but let's not talk about Donnarumma as a hero. He faced 12 penalties and saved one (though he did get a hand on another which unfortunately spun into the net, and two others missed). Saving one of twelve is not a good return for a GK playing at any level.
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 4:03pm
I think this article is putting a positive spin on a below par game. If the result was the other way around - which is very well could've been - we would be looking at a massively different article. The players have a strong and enduring mentality but there's some rot going through the squad. I do not like Theo's attitude, Samu has too much attitude for a man of such poor form, Leao seemed cool and collected but now that's coming off as arrogant. We were lucky, there is work to be done.
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 3:29pm
This was more than a bit of luck. Surviving one sudden death spot-kick miss is one thing, but 3 times in the same shoot-out is something else. Even though they were missing a few key players, this game does show that AC Milan still have some ways to go and this is likely show when they play tougher teams in the league and their group in the EL.
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 2:51pm
What a roller coaster of a game. Milan deserved to win, but in the end were very fortunate to win. I know there will be many haters saying that Milan can barely beat a team that finished 5th in the Portuguese league, but we have played so many games and are down at least 3 main starters for our team. All I can say is this team is really becoming a good side, and with so many young players it is only a potential sign of good things to come. Now just sign Chiesa and who knows how good we could be!
on the 2nd October, 2020 at 2:48pm

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