Serie A blog: Don't blame the ref Milan, Barcelona were just better
MirrorFootball has teamed up with some of the blogosphere's best new writers to bring you even more great football reads every single day.
Today it's our Serie A blogger, footballitaliano.co.uk 's Mina Rzouki, with her take on the week's big issues in Italy.
As the whistle blew and the referee pointed to the spot to indicate a second penalty to Barcelona, each Milanista in the stands and watching around the world began to channel their inner Jose Mourinho: ¿Por que? The Portuguese has more than once claimed Barca enjoy an easier time of it with referees than their rivals.
“I don’t understand why they awarded the second penalty but now I know why Mourinho gets so angry when he plays here,” said Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a wry smile.
The decision to award Barcelona a second penalty distressed viewers. Yes Alessandro Nesta was pulling Sergio Busquets’ shirt but Carles Puyol was pulling his too. Technically it is a penalty but one that is rarely given, especially not in a Champions League quarter-final match.
The decision inspired hundreds of tweets from Milan fans and neutrals alike.
“Don’t worry, if Messi can’t do it, the ref can” read one message in reference to the Argentine’s inability to score from open play against Italian opposition.
However, whilst Milan and Italy wept into their cappuccinos leaving both European competitions without an Italian representative, coach Max Allegri and his men have only themselves to blame. It was their poor defending that saw them concede two penalties and it was their woeful passing and cheap give-aways that ultimately saw them lose to a good Barcelona side – not a great one.
The Catalans put in a brave performance and started the match with three at the back and four up top with Dani Alves playing in attack as a wide player.
Pep Guardiola had taken noted of Milan’s narrow style of play and deployed a unit that would stretch the back-line and take full advantage of the width of the pitch to create goal-scoring chances.
Allegri had advised his players to close down the opposition swiftly and take their chances when they could but his players devoted most of their energy on defending the central area allowing the home side to push down the flanks.
Yet despite enjoying the lion's share of possession and taking 13 shots in the first half (Milan only had only two), Barcelona were struggling to score.
Their attacking players were forced to retreat deep to collect the ball, Lionel Messi was left alone for much of the time up top and they were defensively exposed several times at the back. The moment the result became 2-1, Barcelona switched to a four-man back-line to restore defensive stability as Alves reclaimed his position at the back.
For Milan, their only option was to score and in the second half they went all out on attack only to leave acres of space for the Catalans to exploit, which they did to make it 3-1. By then the Italians had lost their confidence and resorted to long balls while Barcelona grew more and more confident.
The away side were left seething. Their frustration at the perceived injustice saw them collect seven yellow cards during the match. Meanwhile their fans watching at home and in the many cafes and bars around the peninsula were screaming at the TV. “Blind robbery” they yelled before likening Barca to Juventus – their Italian rivals punished in the match-fixing scandal of 2006.
Gazzetta dello Sport ran a headline this morning on the first page that read “Barca with help” whilst Corriere dello Sport simply wrote “Furious Milan”.
Were the Rossoneri robbed? No. They were lucky not to have conceded in the first leg. As Guardiola said of his side: “Five time semi-finalists. The players do the talking on the pitch.”
See you next year Milan.