Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Schadenfreude Daily Double

For the 2nd day in a row I walk back to work drunk off of the sweet, sweet nectar of schadenfreude. All I can say is Gratzi Milan.

AC Milan 3-0 Manchester United. Milan advance 5-3 on aggregate.

No matter who your favorite team is or in what sport, any sports fan is familiar with the two best kinds of victories in big games. 1) An epic back and forth or come from behind effort that is a total and complete nailbiter that your team manages to pull out in the final seconds. You are a nervous wreck the whole game but then at the very end you explode into an uncontrollable joy/ecstasy that no drug could replicate. Example: Georgia defeating Auburn at Auburn in 2002 by scoring a touchdown on a 4th and 17 in the final minute to capture their first appearance in the SEC Title game 2) A total and complete asswhooping where long before the game is over there is absolutely no doubt that your team will win, and you get to sit back and enjoy both the success of your team and the humiliation of your adversaries. Example: Georgia's annihilation of LSU in the 2005 SEC Championship game, or Georgia's complete annihilation of LSU in 2004 in Athens.

Well damn if these same two kinds of victories for your team don't also translate exactly into losses for a hated rival. Yesterday Chel$ea were in it until the last kick of the ball, when they were knocked out on penalties a la scenario 1 above, and after much trepidation I exploded in joy that they were out. Today was scenario 2, and the last 30 minutes was pure joy in the failure and frustration of Rooneh the whiner, C Ronaldo the diver, and Sir Alex Fergusmoan.

Milan showed that they were up for it from the start, with Kaka blowing past Vidic int he first minute and nearly creating a goal. It continued to be one-way traffic for the first 10 minutes and then Kaka turned this tie on it's head with a ridiculously good left footed volley finish in the pouring rain that was completely unsaveable. 1-0 to Milan and Kaka 3-3 ManUtd on aggregate, with Milan going through on away goals if the result remained unchanged. I have said it before and I'll say it again: Kaka is the shit, pun intended. If you're counting at home, that's an off the charts, insano 11 goals in 13 Champions League matches this season. Is that a record for 1 CL season? I'd look it up, but instead I'll just wait for Moin to come school us all in the comments...

Milan continued to dominate and Seedorf made it 2-0 later in the first half with an excellent strike of his own that again was unsaveable. Milan really in the drivers seat now, as United would need not one but two goals to win. It went to halftime 2-0 to the home side, and I really don't remember ever seeing United play so poor a half or get so thoroughly dominated for 45 minutes.

Just as the first leg changed dramatically when Gattuso went off injured and ManUtd got back control of the game, tonight Gattuso was dominant as well- he once again lived up to his reputation as a total bulldog who controlled the midfield. He really set the tone that United were not going to have their way, especially with a couple of tackles of current ManU dynamo C Ronaldo. Myles Palmer sometime talks about choosing an XI to play for your life if it was on the line, and how that would be different than simply choosing an allstar XI or a best team in the world. I have to say that if my life were on the line, Gattuso would be right next to Vieira in my starting XI. Dude is like the Bill Cowher of European footballers with his passion, intensity, and commitment. The next time he goes out and plays half assedly will be the first time.

In the 2nd half Milan basically sat back and absorbed ManUtd pressure, which was not even of the fast and furious variety. I must say that I think Sir Alex Ferguson really fucked up in the second half. He started the match playing 4-5-1 with Rooneh up top, and that made perfect sense considering that his team were actually ahead. It even made sense to stick with that formation once Milan went up 1-0, as they only needed a goal at that point. You could even argue that staying in the 4-5-1 for the rest of the half when down 2-0 was fine, since it was only the first half so no need to panic just yet. But in the second half, needing to score 2 goals against Milan on their home ground, staying with the 4-5-1 was just dumb. He really needed to bring on Saha as a 2nd strike threat and revert to an attacking 4-4-2. The whole second half I was dumbfounded that this hadn't happened. He simply fucked up here and didn't put his team in the best position to enable a comeback during the 2nd half. He finally brought Saha on for defender O'Shea in the 77th minute, but it was waaaay too late and a pretty big ask by only giving this formation 13 minutes to produce the needed 2 goals. In the end it didn't matter, because 1 minute later Milan produced a breakaway that not even Gilardino could fuck up: he slotted it nicely and it was game, set, and match.

3-0 to Mee-lan and 5-3 on aggregate, and they totally deserved it. ManUtd were as hapless and feeble as you are likely to ever see them.

So your final is Liverpool-AC Milan, a replay of the epic 2005 Champions League Final where Liverpool overcame a 0-3 2nd half deficit to tie it 3-3 and then win on penalties. It really should be a great final, and I think that Milan will win it; they are simply playing better right now and with Gattuso's grit, Kaka's brilliance, and the deep desire to get vengeance for blowing that 3-0 lead two years ago I think that they will lift the trophy with the big ears 3 weeks from today, which would fulfill my August prediction of a cosmic bizarro karmic run to the cup after they were shamefully re-admitted to this year's competition on their I-lost-count-th appeal after being rightfully banned from this year's competition for their part in the Italian cheating & corruption scandal.


DC Trojan said...

I have very mixed feelings about this. I like a number of AC Milan players - Maldini, Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf - but I abhore the institution and that jackass Berlusconi. I don't like anyone who plays for Liverpool except Zenden and Riise. What the hell do I do with that for a final?

Kanu said...

DCT- Welcome. I share your sentiment, andMoin basically said exactly the same yesterday.

I really like Kaka and have always liked Maldidi, but yeah, it's Berlusconi which sucks. Plus the whole cheating thing on general principle. BUt the anarchist in me wants them to win just to throw egg on the face of the football powers that be who so stupidly let them back into the competition- that would be cool for the big wig idiots in UEFA who let them back in.

I'm actually pretty damn neutral about The Pool. I like Rafa OK, and I have to admire Gerrard's drive and ability to come up big at the biggest moments.

So yeah, I'm a bit conflicted as well, but at the end of the day I think I have to pull for The Pool but if MIlan wins then that is OK too.

Another way to look at it is this: we have already won, because imagine the horror of watching ManU or Chel$ea win it, or even worse if both of them have made it to the final.

That how I see it, so at this point it's all gravy for me.