AC Milan kept their Champions League hopes alive with a sensational 1-0 victory against Atletico Madrid courtesy of a goal inside the last five minutes.
Milan came into the game knowing that it was a do-or-die situation; either they had to record their first victory of the group stage or they would be eliminated, and while they had to wait until the closing stages to get the goal their pressure deserved it did eventually arrive.
It came from an unlikely source as well, as a fantastic cross from Franck Kessie down the left wing perfectly met the head of substitute Junior Messias, who headed past a helpless Oblak to send the travelling fans into delirium.
Two second half goals from Liverpool at Anfield meant that the Rossoneri got the result they needed to help keep them alive, and it sets up another must-win game in matchday six against Jurgen Klopp’s men at San Siro.
Head coach Stefano Pioli made three changes from the team that lost for the first time in Serie A on Saturday night with Alessio Romagnoli coming into the back four for Matteo Gabbia, Rade Krunic joining the attacking trident in Rafael Leao’s place and Olivier Giroud preferred over Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It took just 10 seconds for a first flash point to occur, and it came when Koke chopped Theo Hernandez down as the Frenchman tumbled awkwardly on his knee and took some time to get up.
Inside the third minute Atletico Madrid made an absolutely sensational save to deny Rodrigo De Paul, though he will have been disappointed to look over and see the offside flag raised thus meaning it wasn’t a goal-saving stop so to speak.
Milan began to enjoy a bit more possession after an initial skirmish, and Brahim Diaz will have wanted another attempt at a shot he had from 20 yards out that he dragged wide of the near post having dribbled through three players.
There was a brief moment of panic for Oblak as the Atletico goalkeeper backpeddled to make sure that a Brahim cross drifted over at the far post in the 10th minute.
The game continued to be played at a high pace as Milan pressed up the pitch and forced Diego Simeone’s man into numerous dangerous giveaways, lacking the killer pass to punish them. Oblak did make a save from Kalulu’s header after a late run from the right-back, but it was routine.
Tension began to increase with a few niggling challenges causing anger from both sets of players, culminating just before the half-hour mark when Koke went down claiming he’d been elbowed by Giroud who was booked for what replays showed to be a forearm in the face.
Just over ten minutes before the break Theo Hernandez had a half-chance to open the scoring as a long cross fell to him at the far post, though he couldn’t keep his half-volley down as he flashed it over the bar following a difficult bounce.
The first opportunity of the second half went Milan’s way as Saelemaekers found some space to get a shot away that was straight at Oblak in the end.
As news came through of an opener for Liverpool at Anfield against Porto – something that certainly helped both sides – Giroud became the latest to fire over the bar with an ambitious swinging attempt from just outside the edge of the box.
Just after the 60-minute mark Kjaer had a colossal opportunity to give Milan the lead as he got to a Theo Hernandez free-kick first at the near post and somehow couldn’t direct his header on target.
A quadruple change came from the visiting team not long after that as Tiemoue Bakayoko, Alessandro Florenzi, Junior Messias and Zlatan Ibrahimovic came on with Tonali, Krunic, Kalulu and Giroud going off, all while the latter clutched his hamstring.
Milan fashioned two huge chances to break the deadlock as they twice got in behind down the left side. The first opportunity saw Messias cut the ball back for Bakayoko who sidefooted the ball on target but his shot was met by a desperate block from Savic, and then Saelemaekers fed a pass through to Theo Hernandez who was in shooting range yet failed to bring the ball under control.
Tatarusanu was called into a save inside the final 20 minutes as De Paul volleyed a Griezmann cross straight at him, while up at the other end Florenzi drilled a fierce shot over the bar. Moments later, Ismael Bennacer came on for Brahim Diaz.
Oblak produced a fantastic stop to deny Ibrahimovic who had been put through on goal and the flag did go up on the far side as the ball went out for a corner, though replays showed he was actually onside and a goal would have stood.
With just over three minutes left on the clock, it was Milan who got the goal their pressure deserved. A counter-attack saw Theo feed a ball into Kessie who was playing as a makeshift attacking midfielder at this point, and he stood up an inch-perfect cross where Junior Messias was waiting to head in for his first ever goal for the club.
There seemed to be a huge chance to Ibra to seal the three points when a Florenzi shot was parried into the Swede’s path and he lifted the ball over Oblak but his effort was cleared off the line. At the other end, Cunha wasted a huge chance for Atletico to level as he diverted a cross wide at the near post.
That would be the final chance of the game as late penalty appeals were waived away when Correa took a tumble, as Pioli’s resilient Rossoneri live to fight another day.
I am so proud of this team. Having 5 starters injured and still dominating Atletico at their stadium. This is nothing short of a miracle. I have no words, really! 😇🤩
Big beautiful progress…
Unbelievable progress, mate. Few years ago this would be unimaginable. What a team we have, so much dedication and potential! I just need this injury epidemic to finish soon and to have all our players finally available!
Well played boys..bravo
All we need to do now is to work on shot at goal..we are really poor at that
Once again Bravo guys
A few twicks here and there and some fresh meat from the market come January might actually see us reach far…if we beat Liverpool that is
Was a sweet victory no doubt… Messias needed that game more than any player on that pitch, his intent was clear from the second he came on, “Get in behind the defenders and press their wall”. I’m happy the way his debut went, he did more in 25mins than some players did in the first 65 mins of the game. Several players put up a good show, Kalulu still showing his versatility in the game, has been useful in the absence of Calabria. Giroud acts like an unfortunate bystander, sometimes he’s a horror to watch, he needs to take more ownership of the attack. Brahim showed some technique going forward but still misses that cutting edge in the final third. Krunic is still a big question mark “?” in this team. I’m struggling to understand what he offers in the Attackimg phase of our game. Injuries to our starters are no excuse for fielding him, when he plays he never goes forward with ball, he only goes forward when he makes carrying the ball some other player’s headache, no responsibilty shown whatsoever. Great substitution form Pioli, I can say he got it right there, but I think the starting line-up could have been better, except he wasn’t expecting to win this one. Our younger players need to understand what playing in the Champions League is. In the UCL you fight for every ball, you play aggressively, you play like every game is the Final, you do not leave any thing to chance, first commit to every ball play and then ask questions later, put the ball behind the net before you find out if you are offside. The boys need to show more Grit. Congratulations to the team on their first UCL win of the season, it was well desrved and long overdue. Congratulations to Messias, hope to see more from him. Lets enjoy it guys. Forza Milan.
Sorry no excuse for starting Rade? Who would you have started or would you have just sent out 10 men?
Wonderful analysis. Agree on both Krunic and Giroud. The former offers very little when it comes to attacking, whereas the latter has been rather ineffective, even in terms of winning balls. I think Krunic will get much less playing time once all our players are back in shape. My question is – when is that going to happen? 🙊
I am happy cos we won on the other hand pioli changes made it count once again
NB: dead ibra over fully fit giroud any day any time……
Ýeah we are so much better with ibra… giroud has been pretty dissapointing..
The subs were superb (not to take anything away from the starters). Generally I have no problem with Atleti but it’s satisfying to see their flopping asses get beat! Watching Simione race down the tunnel before all his players left the field was pretty satisfying too. Wonderful day. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a Liverpool result against Liverpool and root hard for Porto.
The boys played this match like a final and overall in the two games between Atletico and Milan was far superior to Atletico. The took the initiative, were ambitious and played very sharp. Messias and Zlatan coming from the bench were decisive. Too bad we couldn’t have Leao tonight, because Leao in top form would have been devastating against the erratic Atletico defence
The Liverpool game at San Siro is a final. But o go through we need Porto NOT to win vs Atletico…And we must win that game.
Let continue Mr. Pioli we are with u forzamilan.
Hopefully, Pioli would has Maignan, Tomori, Leao, Calabria and Rebic soon. Milan would be in their best if their important players are available. New players are also needed at least a playmaker or right-winger and a midfielder position.
What heart this team displayed tonight. Never gave up. Amazing. Especially since we were on the road in a notoriously difficult place to play and we’re unjustly screwed by the ref the last time we played them. Happy for Messias as he finally showed something after months of injuries and false starts. Hope he can keep this up we need the depth. Great job by Pioli his substitutions were spot on. Now we await Liverpool. Forza Milan!