AC Milan were given a very tough examination in their Group E opening game, eventually having to settle for a draw against Red Bull Salzburg.
Corriere dello Sport (via MilanNews) have reflected on the game, remarking how Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb were seen as the teams that Milan should beat if they are to get through to the knockouts, but last night’s results (with Zagreb beating Chelsea 1-0) showed there really are no easy opponents in the Champions League.
Salzburg managed to keep Milan in check by using their own strengths against them, with the Austrian champions succeeding in playing at high rhythms and the constant search for one-on-ones across the pitch.
It is no coincidence that the home side’s goal to go 1-0 was made from a situation of extreme pressure that led Ismael Bennacer to lose the ball at the edge of the penalty area, and then Pierre Kalulu to be beat in a 1v1.
Milan seems fatigued too after the derby win against Inter because of the physicality and intensity such a game required, but in Europe something more is needed. Nonetheless, Milan did escape with a point from a stadium where Red Bull Salzburg have not lost in 36 games.
There were some positives too, such as the great determination to respond to going behind and also the goal plus positive performance overall from Alexis Saelemaekers. The Rossoneri now have the strength and the maturity in order not to fall apart after going behind and almost always find an immediate reaction.
Now, the team must learn from what was a very demanding first game and put it into practice in the remaining five matches of the groups.