Napoli gets chances, but Milan wins Italian underdog in Champions League
AC Milan won the first match in the Italian underdog in the Champions League quarter-finals at home 1-0 to Napoli.
The Napoli frontrunner was the better team, but will have to work hard next week in the return game. The only goal came just before halftime from the foot of Ismaël Bennacer.
Napoli, missing injured striker Victor Osimhen, completely overpowered Milan in the early stages and could have taken a 1-0 lead within a minute. A shot from close range by Georgian tastemaker Chvitsja Kvaratschelia was cleared off the line by Rade Krunic and in the rebound Mário Rui popped high over.
It was the start of a phase in which Napoli was lord and master and had chance after chance. Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan had a good reflex to tap André-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s shot over the crossbar and a header by Giovanni Di Lorenzo went wide.
Milan doesn’t get in the game
And then less than five minutes had been played. Milan were totally out of the game and saw Maignan save on a seething shot by Piotr Zielinski and a second header chance by captain Di Lorenzo disappear into the roof of the goal. All still within fifteen minutes.
It dizzied Milan, who surprised early this month by beating Napoli 4-0 in the league. A defeat that didn’t hurt Napoli much, as the team is a stride ahead in Serie A and has its first league title since 1990 up for grabs.
Milan goal against proportion
The home side tried to unsettle the Neapolitan machine with fouls and had their first serious chance after half an hour: Rafael Leão shot wide after a fine rush. Just before halftime, Milan even took the lead.
Brahim Díaz steamed up and via Leão and again Díaz the ball ended up with Ismaël Bennacer, who drove the ball hard via the leg of goalkeeper Alex Meret into the goal. Completely against proportion, but Milan – with a possible semifinal against city rival Inter in mind – did not care.
With the lead in their pocket, Milan were also pinned down in their own half after halftime, but Napoli were no longer as dangerous as before halftime.
Napoli with ten men
Striker Eljif Elmas had another great chance, but his effort went over via Maignan and the crossbar. The Neapolitans’ drive gradually waned, especially after Anguissa was shown his second yellow card fifteen minutes before time and had to leave the field.
Still, Napoli had two great chances for the equalizer just before time. Magnain had a great save in store for a close-range effort by Di Lorenzo and a drive by substitute Mathías Olivera ended up in the roof of the goal.