AC Milan let a two-goal lead slip in the opening game of their Soccer Champions Tour campaign, losing 3-2 to Real Madrid at the Rose Bowl in California.
It was ultimately a tale of two halves for Milan as they went in 2-0 up at the break thanks to Fikayo Tomori’s header from a corner and a wonder strike from Luka Romero.
A quickfire brace from Federico Valverde just before the hour mark – both of which were ultimately gifts coming from mistakes – brought the LaLiga side level, before Vinicius Jr. won it inside the final 10 minutes.
Result aside, it was nonetheless a useful runout for Stefano Pioli’s men on the west side of the United States as some of the returning internationals got minutes in their legs.
Given that Milan’s internationals were not available to start – having just returned to training – Pioli named a starting line-up that likely wouldn’t be his first choice, including the likes of Marco Sportiello, Jan-Carlo Simic, Alessandro Florenzi, Tommaso Pobega, Junior Messias and Lorenzo Colombo.
The first real half-chance of the game went to the designated home side for the evening as Valverde fizzed a low shot just wide of Sportiello’s left-hand post with the goalkeeper seemingly beaten.
It became very apparent from the opening exchanges that the vast majority of the 100,000 fans present were supporting Real Madrid, with Milan players jeered every time they got the ball.
Milan’s first flash of danger came in the 17th minute when some smart pressing work saw Mendy gift possession to Colombo, who fired just over the bar from the edge of the box with a fierce effort.
There was a moment of worry not long after when Ruben Loftus-Cheek collapsed in a heap after what looked like a foul, holding the back of his ankle, but he was able to continue.
Shortly after Kroos had seen an effort fly just wide, Milan took the lead through Fikayo Tomori. A lovely whipped corner from Christian Pulisic on the left flank met the head of the Englishman who glanced it inside the far post.
It was almost 2-0 not long after as Loftus-Cheek picked up possession and ran through Real in transition, with the ball finding its way to Junior Messias who curled a shot just wide and over the top corner.
Just after the half-hour mark Messias went down holding his hip and the decision was made by Pioli to withdraw him from the action, as summer signing Luka Romero took his place.
Primavera centre-back Simic was given the start because Matteo Gabbia is close to joining Villarreal, and he produced a fantastic block to deny Militao’s volley inside the box.
Romero’s first real impact was something quite incredible. Three minutes before the break Krunic did excellently to win the ball back high up the field, and a nice one-two then saw the Argentine winger unleash a shot that sailed into the top corner past Lunin.
Real Madrid made eight changes at the break and brought on some of their heavy artillery, with the likes of Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo, Modric, Tchouameni, Alaba and Rudiger coming on.
Sportiello made a brilliant save to retain the two-goal lead after Vinicius went on a weaving run inside the box where he glided past Tomori and shot with the outside of his boot.
However, what followed a couple of minutes later was a gift. Valverde let fly from distance again and though the ball took a slight deflection it ultimately went straight through Sportiello when he should have made a routine stop.
Less than two minutes later, Real Madrid were level. A cheap giveaway from Tomori deep in his own half saw Valverde stride onto it and this time find the bottom corner with a thunderous strike.
With just over 20 minutes left, Pioli made 10 changes. Maignan, Theo Hernandez, Kjaer, Thiaw, Saelemaekers, Reijnders, Adli, De Ketelaere, Leao and Giroud came on. Sportiello, Calabria, Florenzi, Simic, Tomori, Krunic, Pobega, Loftus-Cheek, Pulisic and Colombo went off.
Oliver Giroud almost got Milan back into the lead with his first involvement of the game. Rafael Leao picked up possession on the left wing and whipped in a perfect cross for the Frenchman, whose glanced header was well stopped by Lunin.
Leao was electric in his cameo and nearly created a goal with one of his usual devastating darts down the left. He beat his man to the byline and set up Tijjani Reijnders whose shot was blocked, and Romero fired wide from the rebound when he should have done better.
The final chance of the game came from a free-kick around 25 yards out that Giroud took, and he was not far away from nestling it into the top right corner with Lunin well beaten.
Next up for Milan is a game against Juventus which will be played at the Dignity Health Sports Park in the early hours of Friday morning.
💪 @fikayotomori_’s header
😱 Romero’s golazo
📼 The highlights from our first game of the USA tour against Real Madrid👇
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) July 24, 2023