1: Can’t Help But Feel Robbed, Part 1
Sadly, this is going to be part of the storyline of this match forever. I do not think Paolo Valeri had even a poor showing in this game, he was abysmal. Reviewing his decisions, I want to start with the Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku argument. Both players needed to receive yellow cards after their first-half argument, especially for how violent their altercation was. Valeri deserves some credit for trying to get control of the match in that regard.
⚽️ FOOTBALL ⚽️— DYD SPORTS (@dydsportscom) January 27, 2021
Zlatan and Lukaku were going at it in the Coppa Italia Milan Derby yesterday pic.twitter.com/2dp0scJ42a
That does not excuse him from the subsequent decisions that I fundamentally disagree with. First, the Ibrahimović red card was unbelievably foolish. This play was barely a foul, not even close to a yellow card, and certainly not enough for a player to be sent off. I understand that Aleksander Kolarov was running away from the Swedish striker and that the challenge was from behind, but it was not even close to enough contact to be a second yellow card.
That might have been marginally acceptable if Valeri had kept the same standard with Lukaku. On a corner, the Belgian striker shoved Franck Kessié and jumped into Ciprian Tătăruşanu in the same play. I was perplexed how a small foul by Zlatan led to a red card but two different fouls on the same play did not have the same consequence for Lukaku. I have no concept as to why he was able to get away with this, let alone how Antonio Conte’s side ended the game with eleven men based on the ref’s prior standard.
2: Can’t Help But Feel Robbed, Part 2
There are two issues here, and both center around Nicolò Barella. I thought he should have seen a red card because of a flying boot challenge that hit Kessié in the throat. Almost every foul is an accident, but players are carded based on recklessness. Kicking a player in the throat is pretty reckless. I could not believe that this did not result in a card, let alone a VAR check.
Barella should have been sent off pic.twitter.com/AxIaRJbanM— Milanese Pat (@MilanesePat) January 26, 2021
Even worse, Barella was the player later deemed to have been tackled illegally in the box. I used deemed on purpose; this play was not a foul. Barella was falling already, it is unclear whether he was touched, and he dives. You are allowed to go down when you feel contact, but the Nerazzurri midfielder had put himself into a position to fall. The replay video was inconclusive as well, in my opinion. The brevity of the VAR check showed a referee who was struggling to properly manage the match or unwilling to recognize his own mistakes.
This is why I feel robbed. Poor decisions from a match official gave Inter a man advantage, a penalty, kept them at full strength, and won them the game. That is a lot of influence to have on a match, especially with countless borderline or missed calls going in favor of one team.
3: Despite this lot of Complaints, Inter Were Simply Better
I have to say that Inter were by far the better team. Even before the red card, the Nerazzurri were laying down an onslaught. The only reason Milan were in the match was because of an out of body performance from Tătăruşanu. Lukaku, Alexis Sánchez, and Ivan Perišić were creating massive problems for Stefano Pioli’s defense. Each one of these players had at least one play that turned into a dangerous shot or shot assist. Fikayo Tomori’s introduction helped quell some of these problems, but Diogo Dalot, Theo Hernández, and Soualiho Meïté’s performances all undermined Milan’s stability. Inter controlled the run of play. I thought Pioli needed to bring on Davide Calabria to introduce another player who directs play more, but the change never came. Without enough players who determine the direction of play, and poor days from both fullbacks, Milan were likely always doomed.
Also, for all the good Tătăruşanu did during the match, he was horribly misaligned on the Chrisitian Eriksen goal. You cannot stop every shot, but he missed his mark on this one.
4: Rafael Leão Came To Play
I have already talked about the - not - penalty, but I want to focus on his offensive achievements. Leão was in line to be the most impactful attacker in the match, prior to his penalty surrender. He dictated play down the left-wing, generated acres of space, and helped create dangerous crossing and passing avenues. It was frustrating to watch players pass up instances to get him the ball. I think he could have absolutely dominated this match if his involvement simply went up. It seems like the young Portuguese attacker is taking a step forward. If he does, watch out, he will be the most exciting player we have.
5: Overall Thoughts
This game made me steamed like a ham (incredibly frustrated). The refereeing was abhorrent, the play was terrible, the final forty minutes were impossibly anxious, and I simply hate watching Inter be happy. This was not the most crucial game of the season, but Milan is on poor form. We have lost our last three matches against the ‘good’ Italian sides. We have been losing our heads and are letting a wobble in form affect us deeply. The ship has to be righted soon. A win against Bologna FC 1909 will help, but we need to put down a marker against Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League, and against Inter in Serie A. Those will be statement games, regardless of the outcome. If we fail to win either, I am worried about our momentum for the rest of the season. This is the first precarious period this Milan team has had since January 2020. Positively, we are about to get multiple players back from the treatment table. These reinforcements should bring more stability to the team.