Friday, August 31, 2007

Subdued Super Cup: AC Milan v Sevilla

No surprises here... the UEFA Super Cup was bruised by sadness for the loyal Sevilla supporters who journeyed to Monaco, the heartsick Sevilla team who had to face the Champions League title holders AC Milan, and hell... everyone, really. The death of Antonio Puerta on Tuesday has affected countless people around the globe, even football-mad fools who have never seen the team play before. People who had perhaps never heard of the 22-year old midfielder before have now learned more about him this week....

Sevilla (who won the Super Cup last year against Barcelona) already had their Champions League qualifying match against AEK Athens postponed until this Monday due to Puerta's death, and there was serious talk about having today's Super Cup match delayed as well. But Sevilla agreed to play, though it was obvious that despite some urgency in the first half--in which they did score in the 14th via striker Renato--it was going to be a difficult night for them to get through. After the Renato goal, the Sevilla players huddled together and, with fingers pointed heavenward, honored Puerta... their supporters, many of whom displayed flags and banners adorned with Puerta's face, no doubt were offering up prayers, blessings, and thoughts as well.

And the match went on....

Inzaghi, the Great Venal One, elaborated on why he's one of the most hated players in Europe by ridiculously fumbling to the ground in the box in the 20th, which should have earned him a yellow card but didn't. It's easy to hate the rat-like "Pippo." I'm not particularly enamored with him either--he reminds me too much of a degenerate Borgia count, an extra in a Charles Bronson movie, most likely playing "mugger #3" or "rapist #4," or Klaus Kinski's debased brother... the one he kept in the attic and would refer to as Werner...but woe to the player who underestimates Pippo's goal-poaching cunning.

Renato followed with a brilliant opportunity in the 26th but shot it wide. Milan's Seedorf, after Inzaghi comically tried to backheel the ball past Sevilla's keeper Palop, attempted to head the ball in but also blew it. Only thing was, Seedorf didn't look like a fool. Inzaghi bulleted a long shot toward goal in the 33rd, but again there was to be no payoff.

Sevilla's Kanoute had a wonderful chance in the 42nd when he found himself open at the top of the box. Deftly controlling the ball off his chest, he whipped around and rocketed the shot toward Milan's Dida, but the shot (I think it deflected off a Milan player) went nowhere. Inzaghi scored in stoppage time, but surprise, surprise the goal was offside.

But in the 55th minute, Inzaghi wasn't offside--a nice header in front of goal via a beautiful cross from Gattuso from the right-hand side. Game was indeed on, though it became even more apparent that Sevilla was losing form and perhaps inspiration.

Milan duce Silvio Berlusconi beamed from his eagle's nest in the stands, no doubt wondering which "man suit" he would don later that evening for the annual beginning of the season sacrificial ritual. Something fresh or something classic?

Milan's Czech left-back, Marek Jankulovski, a man not known for his scoring, did just that in the 62nd after receiving a textbook clean ball from Man of the Match Pirlo. It was another nice shot, too. And then Sevilla looked like they were going to fall apart. Midfielder Duda received a yellow, then Dani Alves (whose mind, even before Puerta's death, was already elsewhere) wanted a yellow as he rolled around on the ground, looking as if he was auditioning for a role as an extra in a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western, then immediately jumped up when the ref looked at him disappointingly. But the ref was kind enough to reward Sevilla's Christian Poulsen with a card seconds later.

Kaka was taken down in the box in the 86th and was rewarded with a penalty kick, which he subsequently missed. But the player, who was just named as the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, headed in the ball which had deflected off of Palop's face, serving up the victory once and for all to Milan. Kaka is a class act, though, and he repeatedly pointed to Puerta's name on the back of his jersey (all of the players wore Puerta's name on the back of their shirts) while modestly celebrating the goal. Seedorf also made a point to display Puerta's name when he was subbed off a few minutes later....

Sevilla will hopefully play better against Athens on Monday, and no doubt this will serve as a much needed warm up for a team that would probably rather not have to be playing games so soon after the tragedy. But I'm guessing Antonio Puerta would have wanted his teammates back on the pitch and winning matches, not lost in their grief.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

What have you got against Borgias? Put yr ear to the ground and hear the groaning sound of Borgias all over Europe tossing in their tombs at being compared with the Rodentlike One...