Red Bull Salzburg 1-1 AC Milan: Saelemaekers nets as the points are shared

By Oliver Fisher -

AC Milan were forced to settle for a draw in their opening Champions League group stage game, though they did battle from a goal behind against Red Bull Salzburg.

In what was a familiar feeling after the last campaign, Milan seemed to be surprised by the tempo that their opponents played at and it was Salzburg who took the lead when Noah Okafor beat Pierre Kalulu and slotted past Mike Maignan to punish Ismael Bennacer’s giveaway.

The equaliser came at a good time for the Rossoneri as Alexis Saelemaekers collected a cut-back from Rafael Leao to thump into the corner at the near post, and there was the hope that it would spark something.

However, there would be no goals in the second half despite numerous opportunities for both sides, though the draw might not be a terrible result given Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by Dinamo Zagreb earlier.

Stefano Pioli made only one change to the team that triumphed in the Derby della Madonnina against Inter on Saturday as Alexis Saelemaekers got the nod to start on the right wing over Junior Messias.

The first shot on goal came inside the opening 30 seconds as a cross was wound up from Salzburg’s left side and it met the head of Capaldo who looped a header over the bar that Mike Maignan had covered. Less than a minute later Milan failed to clear their lines and the same player shanked an effort wide from the edge of the box.

Milan regained composure after a frantic early start to the game, and Theo Hernandez had a half appeal for a penalty as he went down trying to latch onto a feed from Sandro Tonali inside the box but it was correctly waved away without much protest.

There was a big chance for Olivier Giroud to follow up his derby goal by opening the scoring when he nudged the Salzburg defender away while he jumped for a bouncing ball and then surged into the box, however the Frenchman shot from a narrow angle when squaring it to Leao might well have been the best call.

Milan were growing into the game – one that Salzburg wanted to be played at the highest tempo possible – though the home size continued to show their threat. In the 25th minute Maignan was grateful to easily catch a shot from Fernando that had deflected, with the Brazilian having gained a yard on Calabria.

It was Red Bull Salzburg who took the lead, and it came via their in-form forward Noah Okafor. Ismael Bennacer gave possession away in a bad area and the ball was put through to the Swiss forward, who took advantage of Kalulu’s loss of balance to fire past Maignan from a narrow angle.

Five minutes before the break, Milan managed to get themselves level and it was no surprise that Leao was once again at the heart of it. The Portuguese winger picked up possession on the left flank after a ball from De Ketelaere and pulled it back to Saelemaekers, who finished powerfully past Kohn even if the Salzburg keeper got a touch.

Salzburg had already lost one of their ‘first choice’ starting centre-backs not long before kick-off as Wober was ruled out after picking up an injury in the warm-ups, and Solet was then forced off late in the first half having tried to play through a thigh issue that he had taped up, so the hosts essentially had two back-ups on in Pavlovic and Bernardo.

The two sides traded speculative efforts in the early stages of the second half, but the Austrian league leaders really should have gone back in front when Okafor found Kjaergaard and the Dane then fired a ball across the box that Fernando met but somehow sent over. He tried to redeem himself not long after when he surged and shot low, but it was straight at Maignan.

Substitutions followed as Pioli sensed his side looking a bit overwhelmed as Divock Origi, Tommaso Pobega and Sergino Dest – the latter making his Milan debut – came on for Giroud, Bennacer and Calabria who was on a yellow card.

The chances then began to come a bit more regularly just after the hour mark as first Seiwald’s shot from just outside the box was well parried by Maignan, and up the other end Pobega wanted to be the hero as he let fly from similar range but dragged his effort wide.

With 20 minutes left on the clock, Pioli decided to make a change in the playmaker role with Brahim Diaz coming on for De Ketelaere.

As both teams looked tired even despite the presence of substitutes the chances seemed to become half chances, with Pobega again skying an effort over the bar when he should have done better and Origi heading a Dest cross well wide.

A final substitution came with 10 minutes remaining, with the goalscorer Saelemaekers making way for Junior Messias.

Milan thought they had picked the lock when Origi played a wonderful ball in behind the Salzburg defence with his back to goal and Brahim Diaz darted through but Kohn did excellently to react quickly off his line and gather just as the Spaniard was stretching to poke it in.

Sesko provided a reminder of his threat and why RB Leipzig have moved early to secure him when he shot from 20 yards and curled an effort narrowly wide of the post.

Two final chances Milan when a move down the left saw the ball drop to Origi inside the box who looked to turn and shoot, yet he had enough pressure on him to not get anything close to a clean connection.

The last big opportunity was inches away from being a dramatic late winner as a low cross-shot from Leao deflected onto the post with everyone rooted, but the danger was then cleared and the referee blew for full time not long after.

Tags AC Milan Red Bull Salzburg Milan


  1. Absolute garbage. The only players that looked like quality in this game were Bennacer, Saelemaekers and Theo. Kalulu was ok except for the goal where he got caught off-balance. Everything else was sh!t. Tonali is one of the worst players I’ve ever seen, Leao did his invisiblity act again. CDK was good when he had the ball but unfortunately he seems scared to get too involved in the game. Calabria is a hole in defense, and the subs were all completely useless. This was a performance with no balls. I’d rather lose and have balls than see this toothless performance.

      1. Every player will show up on the screen at least once or twice during the 90mins. But for a star player asking for 7M€ that’s not a performance to be proud of. Besides the assist his contribution was waaaay below e.g. Saelemaekers. Saelemaekers! You know the one that everyone here bashes for his lack of skills etc. 🙂

  2. “the draw might not be a terrible result given Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by Dinamo”

    A draw is never a terrible result, but this means one of the teams competing for the 2nd spot now has 3 points. What if Dinamo win both games against Salzburg – now they’re at 9 points, and we need 3 wins out of 5 games, two of which are vs Chelsea.

    A lot of things can happen, but I wouldn’t be too happy about the Chelsea loss. I’d rather see them win, go top and be complacent when we play.

  3. That referee was distributing yellow cards like it was his wedding invitation card. The refereeing on fouls was somewhat biased. That has to be said.

  4. Playing diaz just kills our game really hope that we send him to Madrid in january the guy is just trash and is taking important minutes that should be given to CDK and Adli!

  5. Ugly match. Sorry for the tough love, but Pioli got it all wrong with the subs. He should have left Bennacer in. Changes were too early in the match. With all respect to Pobega. He’s not CL quality yet. CDK should take more shots on goal, it seems like Pioli instructed him to take more of Krunic role than an AM role. Kalulu had a horrible match unlucky for him. At nights like this we needed Florenzi. Dest… No comment.

    1. CDK would have a shot on goal if Leao pass the ball to him right before half time. CDK was unmarked with plenty of space at that time but Leao chose to try to beat 2 defenders instead.

  6. Satisfied with the point. Don’t think we deserved more with the way the team played.
    Good game by Saelemakers , not just because he scored, he was the most energetic and direct player. Hopefully he can build up some confidence from this.
    Okafor didn’t take advantage of Kalulu’s lost of balance, he caused the loss of balance. He put Kalulu in a pretzel with his twist and turn and then nutmeg him and Maignan.
    Bennacer was bad today. Their goal was mostly his fault.
    When Maldini goes to Salzburg’s locker room to ask nicely for their right back Dedic to let the serie A MVP to come out of his pocket do they can go back to Milano, he should also start negotiating to sign that kid. He was awesome defending and going forward.
    Their midfielder Kjaergaard was also very good.
    Pioli needs to find a way to get CDK more involved into the game and on the ball. He is the best passer in the team

  7. Fair result.

    Salzburg played well but Milan also responded well after Salzburg goal and dominated the match. Sadly Milan forwards didn’t have the finishing touch because they had enough good chances to win the match.

    This is a good experiences for young players like Kalulu, CDK, Tonali, Leao, Sale, Pobega, Dest etc. They can still improve and play better in the next match.

  8. Can we be surprised and not hear some Milan “fans” just chastise and be angry at everything. This game was definitely winnable, we shouldn’t be unstuck against 19 &21 year olds at this stage of our cycle, but you know what it’s football.
    We can’t just pass the ball to Leao and hope for the best unfortunately as he will eventually tire out.
    I do think Mister got the subs wrong because once Isma left, we couldn’t string simple passes.
    Brahim I won’t talk about, Origi hasn’t lit the house on fire but the guy is still getting fitness.
    It will click, we can’t praise the same boys for slapping Inter then suddenly they’re crap after 4 days.
    In case we’ve forgotten, in champions league there is no “easy” team.
    It kinda gets irritating when fans scream and shout after every loss or draw, are we expecting an invincible season throughout? Come guys… let’s take it on the chin and focus on the next game in the league.
    #Forza Milan

    1. Well said Oora! Well said.
      I’ve been a Milan fan since 1988. I’ve been thru it all. Sometimes I wonder if our fans really know about football or not by their constant criticism and by their Hero to Zero mindset.

  9. Some positives to offset the bitterness:
    1. We didn’t lose, again
    2. We won vs Inter on the weekend
    3. Perhaps this will shake things up and encourager harder work and better focus
    4. If we play our cards right these 2 lost points won’t be significant

    We know this team can operate on a higher level vs teams of a higher caliber (Atletico, Liverpool). Pioli will figure it out.

  10. With this result we put ourselves in a tighter spot for those 2 games vs Chelsea. Our mentality is lacking in this competition. You can clearly see the nerves get to the players and they fail to do the basics right. The passing and defending were poor. Decision making inthe final 3rd was poor..everyone was too selfish to pass to a more open teammate.
    Ran out of gas at 60 mins.
    Our away form so far hasn’t been great and we have a habit of always conceding first. Not too many positives from tonight tbh. Saelamaekers was GREAT…Dest was ok..CDK was average in the few times he got the ball ( Idk why we don’t play through him more).
    I am disappointed with the performance and the draw is at least better than a loss so we’ll take it

    1. “With this result we put ourselves in a tighter spot for those 2 games vs Chelsea. ”

      Nope, not really. You think it will be easy 3 points for Chelsea & Zagreb in Salzburg? Heck no! I say the both qualifiers from this group will be decided on the last round as this will be TIGHT.

  11. Milan has got to be the worst passing team in the Champions League. Just terrible. Every pass is behind the man or to heavy. If they could pass better they would be really hard to beat but they are just so sloppy. And their corners and free kicks are just embarrassing. They get so many and do absolutely nothing with them. Tonali kicks it straight into the first defender every time, and Bennacer not much better.
    Also Milan have to stop conceding the first goal in every match! I hear everyone praise Tomori and Kalulu but they are over-aggressive and getting exposed too often. Can we get Kjaer back in there please.

    1. True not one good corner and the passing omg like amateurs theo gets on my nerves his so overated pioli is bad coach only lucky goals or by oponent mistake every game

    2. Chelsea is vulnerable this season while Milan continue unbeaten streak. I won’t be surprised if Chelsea fail to qualify to UCL next season. They will got a hard time against Salzburg and we are likely to win this group.

    3. Every time I was some other teams play I get surprised by the power and accuracy of the passes. For over a decade now Milan players have always been passing slow & sloppy passes even starting from the defenders.

      It’s one of the key elements of the game itself and year after year the same problem persists. It’s like they new players are taught right from the start to start passing the ball slowly and sloppy. They really need to work on that.

  12. I’ll take the point.
    Milan was coming off a derby win, where they expended a lot of energy.
    With so many injuries, the possibility for rotation I not there. The players look tired. The only one who looked fresh was Saelemakers , who was actually the only change from the derby.
    Salzburg isn’t some pushover. They are literally a copy of Milan, team of bunch of young players and most of them will be starters on some of the biggest European teams in near future.
    On to the next one

  13. Not a very comforting performance from us but overall i think both teams should be fairly happy about the result. Intense match with a lot of misplaced passes and missed opportunities. Propably all teams will find it difficult there so at least a point is a point.

  14. Very disappointing to be honest …I think the passing at times was very poor ,Giroud was not involved at all but of course service to him was not good .He ( Giroud) will come good again ,make no mistake about that ..Yes man of the Match salamakers ,not just because of his goal ,but because of his energy,and his passing was much better…Now the good news is that we got a draw,and that is good..I believe we will actually win the Group ..AC MILAN will do well ,great management team ,and a very good squad .

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