The San Siro played host to an all-Italian clash of the titans, between the Serie A champions AC Milan and the new champions-elect Napoli, ten days after Milan put four past the gli Azzurri. Napoli are looking to play in their first ever European Cup semi-final, whereas seven-time winners AC Milan are no strangers to this stage and are aiming to set up a potential all Milan clash in the semi-final.
MIL: Maignan; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Bennacer, Tonali, Krunic; Leao, Giroud, Diaz
NAP: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Min-jae, Rui; Zambo-Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Lozano, Elmas, Kvaratskhelia
Napoli nearly took the lead in the first minute of the game as Zambo-Anguissa broke down the right hand side before playing a good ball across the box which found star man Kvaratskhelia – and with Maignan stranded, the Georgian had his effort blocked on the line. Napoli continued to dominate the ball without threatening Maignan’s goal.
Milan’s first shot of the game came on the 25 minute mark and for Leao as he picked the ball up on the halfway line and just ran right through the heart of the Napoli defence, and his pace got him one-on-one – however he dragged his effort just wide of Meret’s goal.
Milan took the lead just five minutes before the break through Bennacer; after an explosive counter attack saw Brahim Diaz carry the ball deep into Napoli’s half. His pass found Leao, and he played the ball across the box to Bennacer who lashed the ball through Meret and the San Siro exploded, and against the run of play it was the Rossoneri who took the lead. They nearly grabbed a second in stoppage-time, as Kjaer sent a header thrashing off the bar – but ultimately Milan went in at half-time in control of the tie at 1-0 up.
The second half started like the first with Napoli nearly scoring as a cross from Zielinski found Elmas who looped his header and it looked to have put Maignan in trouble but the French keeper tipped the header onto the bar.
A few long-range shots from Zambo-Anguissa and Zielinski followed as Napoli tried to force the issue and get that elusive goal. Both teams did well to cancel each other out, as other than the Elmas header there were not many clear cut chances that followed.
A nightmare couple of minutes followed for Napoli and particularly Zambo-Anguissa as he committed two cynical fouls within a short space and received a yellow card for both and therefore was sent off. Kim Min-jae was booked not long after – meaning both will miss the second leg next week in a huge blow for Luciano Spalletti.
Huge chances for two Napoli substitutes as the game drew to a close saw Politano with a chance in box, but Maignan saved brilliantly from close range as the Italian’s volley seemed goal-bound. From the resulting corner, Olivera found himself free from a cross but he could only head over, as he looked bound to head home from 10 yards out.
It is advantage Milan as they held on for a 1-0 win, beating Napoli for the second time in ten days. That dream Champions League semi-final clash with city rivals Inter looks to be one step closer, but there’s still work to do at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium next week. Napoli will be without two key men in Kim Min-jae and Frank Zambo-Anguissa, and it is they who ill have it all to do if they are to progress to the semi-final.