Monday February 27 2012
In the eye of the storm

Week 25’s Milan-Juve was full of intrigue, yet, as Rob Paton writes, it may only be remembered for one very specific controversy.

Milan-Juventus was billed as a definitive clash in the sides’ Scudetto race, yet even as the Bianconeri’s draw gives them the advantage and the better head-to-head record, it will be a while before focus moves away from what might have been.

Post-match saw heated debate between sections from both sets of players on the pitch, Antonio Conte involved in a furious live television argument and Massimiliano Allegri again taking the opportunity to jibe at Juve: “I’d complain, but I don’t have permission from Beppe Marotta.”

La Gazzetta dello Sport described the 1-1 result as ‘a poisonous draw’, whilst Il Corriere dello Sport echoed Allegri’s words in deeming it as falsified. In short, the season’s biggest game had ended with the spotlight on the officiating. Where there was Alessandro Matri’s incorrectly disallowed goal for a close offside call and inconsistencies in similar fouls from Arturo Vidal and Simone Pepe - the former sent off, the latter booked - one particular incident has drawn attention.

A goal to the good through Antonio Nocerino’s deflected effort and in the ascendancy in the first half, Milan thought they had scored a second on 25 when Sulley Muntari appeared to head the ball over the line. Referee Paolo Tagliavento also thought so as he turned and pointed to the centre-circle. However, assistant referee Roberto Romagnoli on the far side had not flagged, Tagliavento had to trust him and so waved play on. Replays showed that the ball had crossed the line by a good metre and that, frustratingly, Romagnoli’s perfectly sighted gaze was fixed upon it.

It remains to be seen the direction that the game would have taken had that goal been correctly awarded. However, as it was, the Rossoneri struggled soon after that to penetrate the Juventus penalty area again, with only Robinho managing a second-half wayward effort inside the box, as Conte’s adjustments brought his side back to a more organised state.

Certainly, post-match focus should be on the work both the Juve boss and his adversary on the Milan bench carried out over the 90 minutes that made the game as fascinating as it was. With a team’s worth of absentees again, Allegri’s selection of Alexandre Pato, Robinho and Urby Emanuelson may not have carried the same immediate level of industry and inspiration that Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Kevin Prince Boateng.

Yet, that trio contributed to a collective effort of high-line pressing that somewhat startled Juve and can be directly attributable as the reason for the Rossoneri’s early ascendancy. From Leonardo Bonucci’s mistake that led to the opening goal to a noteworthy instance of Andrea Barzagli and Stephan Lichtsteiner heatedly exchanging words after an uncomfortable episode led to the centre-back’s booking, a Milan side that was otherwise weak in many ways, had Juve on the back foot and rattled.

Equally, Conte’s response - a formation change just before half-time followed by Simone Pepe, Mirko Vucinic and goal-scorer Matri’s respective second-half introductions - stole back momentum. As Pepe and Vucinic demonstrated in having more touches-per-minute than those they had replaced, the Bianconeri’s switch in shape, coupled with Milan’s tiring, saw the away side take possession in areas that mattered more.

At the same time, Matri’s highly effective 20-minute contribution of the disallowed goal and then equally legitimate equaliser came from a remarkably small number of touches - just eight. However, it was enough to put Robinho’s otherwise seemingly influential performance, Conte’s initial team selection and the weekend’s later international call-up all into a context to favour the former Milan youth product and current Juve top scorer.

Whether or not Matri’s goal should have been making the score 1-1, 2-1 or 2-2, however, is a question neither camp will agree on. Perhaps, though, both can gain solace from the overriding pre-match admittance that whatever the result, it would not be determining the forthcoming title race.

As it was at San Siro so it proved to be across an unusually high number of games in Serie A, as referees maintained centre-stage in Week 25.

Both Parma and Lecce can feel aggrieved to have seen penalties for involuntary handballs awarded, particularly as a similar incident against Chievo was not given. Indeed, in the latter episode, Cesena were the side ‘penalised’, according to debutant Coach Mauro Beretta, who also saw defender Maurizio Lauro sent off for a debatable second yellow card.

Likewise, Roma will feel hard done by for seeing Pablo Daniel Osvaldo sent off and not Atalanta’s Luca Cigarini for similar actions in their off-the-ball clash, whilst Palermo were also aggrieved this weekend to see Federico Balzaretti’s straight red in the first minute of play at Siena, and the hosts awarded a soft penalty to equalise later on.

The weekend also saw some football played and some extraordinary action take place - you need look no further than Catania goal-scorer Giovanni Marchese for such evidence.

Have your say...
Geez. Some people really need to get a grip. Until the day football is officiated by some crazy 16-camera robots with offside precision like FIFA 12, there will ALWAYS be human error. Do you really expect the referee to see EVERYTHING? The match is over. What is the point making up conspiracy theories now? Who cares?? Let us be frank here, without these human errors, football would be very boring. That is a fact. While everyone blasts Buffon in public, secretly, most would have done the same.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 9:59pm
How about the single penalty for Juve this season Ben,despite being camped in our opponents box?Despite being 6' 4" Ibrahimovic goes down as if shot by a's clear that Milan have picked up numerous points due to favourable officiating.Little wonder they say little about officials.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 9:38pm
I find the arrogance of AC fans funny :)

The fact that you are all over the refs for only things that affected your team in a negative way is one thing, but to say that with 2-0, you are untouchable is hilarious.

Or just disrespectful?

Many, many fans don't have respect for this new hardworking Juve and for that I am sad. I wish it had been 2-0. Conte would have corrected himself faster and after Mexes' red card...(oh wait), we would have made it 2-2.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 8:14pm
The idiot that says muntari is offside. When you start watching soccer. Seem to me you're the type of fan that watches a spectale game like this twice a year .. Oh wait now that's an assumption right. Just like everyone is commenting on the game went. Loser
on the 27th February, 2012 at 6:56pm
I’m surprised at the level of aggression I see here. I’m a Juve fan, but I respect Milan and have no animosity towards them. Their efforts, along with Napoli & Inter have restored pride to Calcio Italia in the Champions League. Milan may still end up with the title and if they do I’ll be the first to congratulate them, but there’s no need to attack Juventus because they have finally returned back to being a team with some pride and passion.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 6:52pm
lets put this to bed, I've just watched the game back.
1. Vidal high boot on 52 minutes(RED CARD).
2. Vidal off the field when Muntari strikes: no rule saying offside.
3. Pirlo elbows Van Bommel: RED CARD
4. Pepe with a high tackle not playing the ball: RED CARD
Count Mexes into the equation:
The correct position would have seen 10 man Milan 2-0 up against 9 man Juve.
Contini is an idiot. Btw, Matri's first goal WAS offside. The whistle had gone before he struck, Abbiate would've saved easily.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 6:43pm
Guess what Milan fans, once and for all we're more than happy to call your bluff. We have made our points and going into the specifics again would be beneath contempt. Our strength is in despite all adversities we will never give up. Mark my words, undermine our calls for fair treatment at your peril, and make up non existent fouls by Pirlo co. You will come to regret this. In Conte we trust.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 6:20pm
Want to respond to Ben's comment:

Pirlo may have made contact with his elbow on Van Bommel, but it's not even close to the Bruce Lee moves Muntari pulled on Lichtsteiner. And Van Bommel himself is guilty of quite a bit of rough play. The stomp on Bonucci's head as well as his tackle coming through the back of Pirlo. Vidal was sent off for a similar challenge. Nothing was given to Van Bommel. This was because the ref was compensating for the disallowed Milan goal. A draw was the best result.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 6:08pm
Meelan's conduct has been pathetic. Crticizing juve all week then doing worse things than we did after. Yea a bad call can decide a scudetto,, but so can the many dubious penalties Milan have gotten of course it was the wrong call, but Milan can consider it karma for all the unjustified goals they have gotten. Its not like tht for sure would have put game away at all (see how juve played first 2 times) conte would have subbed earlier and our better players would have gotten us 3 pts
on the 27th February, 2012 at 6:06pm
The second goal would have put the nail in Juve's coffin. Juve fans are quick to note Mexes/Muntari fouls while failing to note the elbows from Pirlo to van Bommels head. The elbow from Chiellini to Mexe's torso in the box. How about the blatant trip on Robinho just at the edge of the box in plain sight. Yeah Juve fans don't just gloss over those. You got lucky, just admit it and let's move on.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 4:41pm
D match ended as a draw. that's What it should have been. What will Milan fans hav said if Matri's hadn't scored a second time after d 1st d disallowed goal? So many could hav happened as Muntari may well have been offside. A draw was d right result. And why did Juve even sign Boriello? Amauri is a hundred times better! And Conte should leave d 3-5-2 for smaller teams.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 3:51pm
You Juve fans are truely unbelievable lol. You really think that the 2 missed calls are comparable?? Wow. Oh well.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 3:34pm
lets put this to bed, I've just watched the game back.
1. Pato shoves Vidal (FOUL) which leaves him off the field when Muntari strikes: OFFSIDE
2. Muntari punches Lichtsteiner: RED CARD
3. Mexes punches Borriello: RED CARD
End of story. hopefully video evidence will see those two banned for 3 games each for thier cowardly acts.
Therefore the correct position would have seen 9 man Milan holding on to 1-0 against a reorganised Juve.
Campanale's OTT blog looks rather silly now, eh?
on the 27th February, 2012 at 3:19pm
The real problem is that Conte completely misfired his starting lineup. Quag and Borriello should not be starting a big game like this. Quag is just getting fit. Borriello is awful - he's our new Luca Toni. A waste. How Vucinic and Matri didn't start - particularly Matri is beyond me. I don't understand what Conte was thinking.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 3:06pm
Milan have been stating all week that Juventus lack dignity when they challenge the officials.The bottom line is despite x3 opportunities to defeat Juve they have failed.Frustration is not a stanger to us Juventino this year.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 2:39pm
To sum it up, it's been a crazy week in Serie A.

What if the match between Milan & Juve ended 2-2 ??? what would the headlines be ?

Roma getting trashed & Inter's woes seems to get worse.

Lazio recorded another victory despite off the field problems between Reja & Lotito.

Its been a Helter Skelter week in Serie A !!!
on the 27th February, 2012 at 2:18pm
The issue with the extra officials is that they seem scared to death of giving a decision other than the one the referee or linesman decide, numerous European games where incidents occur literally a couple of feet infront of them and they do nothing ?!

It is definitely another massive nudge in the way of goaline technology, there seems to be more and more incidents such as these cropping up.

Come on FIFA, pull your finger out.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 1:49pm
@ Anonymous, that was my initial thought too, that Muntari's goal was offside, since Vidal was standing outside of the lines and I couldn't believe the officials didn't spot the ball going over the line. But seeing how the ball wasn't put on the ground for a free kick, I guess the referee didn't blow his wistle for an offside. In any case it's sad how a potentially good game is totally lost in controversy. Seems like Real-Barça now.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 1:41pm
Muntari and Mexes should have been sent of. Muntari and Matri should have had there goals. Serie A needs the extra ref behind the goal + goal line technology (without any gamestop)..
on the 27th February, 2012 at 12:22pm
Can't help but agree with Tommy here, I don't know how Conte managed to pick Borriello ahead of Matri. If he is signed in the summer I will be furious! Also, Estigarribia is not Juve quality. He'll work hard, but there is not much quality there. If we had Giaccherini, Matri and possibly Vuci ahead of Quag we could have won the game. Also, I'm not certain here, but was Muntari's goal offside? Vidal seemed to be playing him on but he wasn't on the pitch. Any suggestions?
on the 27th February, 2012 at 12:18pm
...As it turned out it was more than balanced out by the punch of Mexes, if Milan insist on saying 'what if' about the muntari header then we have every right to ask what would the score have been with Milan down to 10 for 45 mins when they were already tiring? offside call againt Matri was tight to be fair but incorrect all the same. this could all have been avoided! Come on Platini, get these extra refs ratified and then all avoid this misery in future! we should be discussing a cracking game.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 11:37am
the sooner we get the extra byline assistants in permemently the better. this should be implemented in all top flight football, whatever the cost. Surely the amount of money riding on these games, more than covers the expense? I am Juve fan and after the goalline incident even I felt sick because i knew that no matter what happened in the rest of the game, the focus would be on that. i then spent the rest of the game hoping it would be balanced out.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 11:29am
Besides the error that destroyed the game as a spectacle, Conte's disasterous team selection shouldn't go unnoticed. Quagliarella is not fit.He should not start games. Borriello, my initial optimism about his transfer was massively misplaced. He is hopeless. Bonucci should be employed in a new position - scrubbing the changing rooms before and after the actual players use them. How Matri,the one person actually capable of scoring, can be left out of the starting lineup is absolutely beyond me.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 11:13am
In future, Officials should be at each goal end as in UEFA matches to aid referees with ALL events they were unable to see clearly. goal lines, fouls in and around the area, off the ball inidents, everything.
on the 27th February, 2012 at 9:58am

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