Milan just about clinched their spot in the last 16 of the Europa League this evening, advancing from their tie against Red Star Belgrade on away goals. After 2-2 in Serbia, the Rossoneri were hoping for a convincing win with a half-decent XI, but that ended up not being the case for them.
It started well as Franck Kessie converted a penalty after just nine minutes, but from there on Stefano Pioli’s men struggle to assert themselves in the game. Despite the early goal, Red Star showed great mentality as they kept plugging on and eventually got paid for the efforts.
In the 24th minute, they scored the equaliser through Ben, who got the better of Alessio Romagnoli. The captain has been heavily criticised since the derby at the weekend and he didn’t make things better tonight, once again failing to close down his man enough. Gigio Donnarumma must be frustrated, as that defending was unacceptable.
Diogo Dalot then had a great chance to restore the lead at the back post, but his effort was about as bad as his performance. Horrible, in other words. That goal could have made the game very different for Milan and it remains to be seen if they will send the Portuguese back to Man Utd in the summer or not.
At half-time, Pioli was forced to bring on Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic off the bench, just the sort of thing we could have done without ahead of the huge clash vs. Roma this Sunday. However, with the way the game was developing, it sure was a necessary change.
And it did have an effect, as especially Ibrahimovic motivated his teammates and completely changed the face of the game. In the first 15-20 minutes of the second half, Red Star barely had a touch of the ball. Rebic came close to restoring the lead but he failed to connect with Ibrahimovic’s header. Overall, the Croatian was disappointing tonight.
Despite a red card in the 70th minute, the away side kept putting pressure on Milan and things were indeed a bit nervous towards the end. Having said that, the Rossoneri had more than once chance to close the game but failed to convert, which is one thing they certainly need to improve on.
In the dying seconds of the game, Red Star got a corner but the referee blew for full-time, which obviously didn’t please the Serbian side. Even as a Milan fan, they should have been allowed to take the corner, and given how good they were on set-pieces on the first leg Ibrahimovic and co got a bit lucky.
On Sunday, Milan will take on Roma in what will be a crucial game for the standings, as they absolutely need to bounce back with a big win in the league. However, they can’t continue to play like this and it’s clear that Pioli will have to make some changes, even taking into consideration that it wasn’t our strongest XI tonight.
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