Yesterday at 245 EST my U15 boys took the field against one of the strongest Premier teams in Connecticut. This meant that first and foremost my attention for the Milan game was elsewhere as my boys were preparing for a stern test and second I would have to watch the game after the fact, never an easy task. The odd thing is that not only did the matches start at the same time; they paralleled each other in eerie fashion. My boys defended like dogs in the first half, well organized and tactically sound, while Milan dominated the attack in the first half. In the 79th minute my boys had a goal wrongfully disallowed, in the 23rd minute Milan had a goal wrongfully not given. At the end of the match my boys earned a hard fought nil-nil draw (proud of you fellas), something no one expected, while Milan also shared the spoils. Now I leave you with the exact same thing I told the boys. You will NEVER be rid of referees and the errors that they make, so the sooner you accept this fact and move on the sooner you can prepare for the next match.
I don’t want to discuss the goal; I don’t want to discuss goal line technology, or any of that nonsense. Instead I want to focus on what was an incredible football match and even upon a second viewing this morning, I found even more interesting and intriguing. The first half proceedings were clearly dominated by Milan, Allegri made some smart tactical choices and it allowed Milan to exploit Conte’s brazen decision to play three at the back away from home. Milan’s key to success the absolute incredible work rate of my Man of the Match, Robinho. Nocerino’s goal, a testament to Robinho's pressure on the ball, while his off the ball runs and jack in the box appearances left the Juventus in fits. His touches were almost always positive and his incisive running and combinations with Urby were incredible.
To his credit even Emanuelson seems to continually improve with each and every minute on the pitch. His role as a CAM today was not spectacular, instead it was industrious and workman. His positioning made it difficult for Pirlo to be effective, and Milan’s possession in the first half meant that they saw little of the ball in the midfield, losing the ever important midfield battle. Nocerino was once again in stellar form, chasing down everything and making great runs. While Muntari continued to serve his detractors heaping plates of humble pie, while today I prepare a little dish called Roast Duck, it will be served here all week long, at 35M a plate. Robinho was by far the better man, and never before have I witness a striker see so little of the ball, injury or not he has no place left in this team. Credit must also be given in defense, 9 players tracked back for Milan and kept impeccable shape and even when Juve did breakthrough it was Mexes, Silva and Antonini who were stout time and time again.
In the second half Conte did what any Coach should do, he recognized his error and adapted. He played four at the back, helping to neutralize Milan’s attack more effectively, but more importantly it allowed Juventus an extra body at the back meaning it was easier to play the ball out of pressure and build some possession. Up until the Juventus goal, Milan continued to dominate the midfield but the tempo of the match began to favor Juventus. Allegri morphed into a 4-4-2 more or less, removing Urby for Ambro in the 72nd, his second sub after removing an ineffective Pato at half time (a waste in and of itself), to lock down the midfield, but it proved too good to be true. As Matri broke through in the 83 minute on a very fortune goal, a collection of marking issues combined with a great run, gave Juventus the equalizer. A demoralizing goal and one that surely was not expected as outside of a few minutes in the second half Milan were the better team on the day.
At the end of the day, Milan was simply the better team, but that does not always guarantee the result. As mentioned earlier, referees and their errors are part of the game so we should take the high road, unlike our opponent. Milan exposed their weakness, they exposed their 3-5-2, and instead of calling a spade a spade they are doing what irrational and illogical teams do, they make excuses. Milan fans should praise Allegri, especially the ones who had given up hope, and praise the players you turned your back on as well. With the beauty of all this being that we have a trip to Turin coming up, something we can all be excited about, but more importantly we have something else. Confidence, we know our team excelled, while they showed weakness, we know what is left to be done, WIN, while they have to always watch their backs. This title is ours; Juventus just doesn’t know it yet…