A goal by the Brazilian in the final keeps the Rossoneri’s hopes alive. In the last game, however, it will be necessary to beat Liverpool and hope for the right joint between Porto and the Spaniards
The road remains uphill, very steep, but how beautiful and gratifying it is to be able to caress the dream until the last act. The Milan that never dies accomplishes the feat managing to do the only thing that would have kept him alive in Europe: winning the first of the two intersections in which the three points were mandatory. This 1-0 that silences the red and white Madrid is a hymn to the beautiful stories of football – the winning goal of Messias, who until six years ago played among amateurs – and a slap in the face of injuries and the knockout of Florence, which the most hasty had branded as the beginning of a possible crisis. Pioli this time puts Atletico under the final whistle and wins his first success as a coach in the Champions League. But above all, he wins the authorization to hope again in the second round. It seemed an impossible thought to dare.
Practical projections? It will also be necessary to beat Liverpool in the last round and hope for a draw between Porto and Atletico, or for an Atletico victory but in the context of an overall goal difference that is worse than the Rossoneri. As it was, it is already a half success to be able to try in an evening that, without the three points, would have ousted the Devil in one fell swoop not only from the Champions League, but also from the Europa League. Above all, the Rossoneri have shown that they can have their say in some way even in the “round of death”.
Pioli, forced to think also (and above all) in terms of the championship, opted for caution in attack. That is, out Ibra and Leao, the best in Florence, and in Giroud and Krunic, with the Bosnian behind Olivier and Diaz widened to the left. Median delivered to Kessie and Tonali, always Kalulu instead of Calabria and Romagnoli paired with Kjaer to better treat Tomori’s absence. Simeone in front relied on Griezmann, rehabilitated by the sports judge, and Suarez, or Milan’s executioners at San Siro (together with referee Cakir). In defense of the season debut in the cup for Savic after the long disqualification. As in the first leg, the Rossoneri confirmed themselves at ease in front of Atletico and had no particular problems in pouring into the Spanish half. A convincing attitude, the only one possible given the obligation to win, but not taken for granted. For a good part of the first half the match was played by Milan, especially aggressive on the left with the hissed former enemy “blanco” Hernandez and with the intersections of Diaz and Krunic. The best news came from Brahim, again on very appreciable levels after the opaque post Covid phase. The Rossoneri’s approach, very courageous, led Atletico to close down and to rely almost exclusively on restarts. Dangers arrived from the wings: Llorente on the right and especially Carrasco on the left have more than once found an opportunity to slip in and sow a discreet panic. But mostly defenses dictated the law. Milan has always managed to find the correct organization within the area, Atletico did not allow the Devil to get too close to Oblak. It was the spikes who paid for it: Giroud, Griezmann and Suarez did not arrive in the first 45, cut off from the game. A bad habit that did not change even when around half an hour Simeone ordered his team to attack the highest, which put Milan in difficulty more in the overall management than for real dangers. Definitely boring game, however. On the notebook only a miracle by Tatarusanu on De Paul (offside, however) and a sparkling slalom by Diaz ended with a strangled right. End of emotions.
The recovery began with a few more bubbles from the hosts. A right foot from Lemar saved by Tatarusanu, a prized inspiration from Griezmann, but the fierce pressure of Atletico lasted no more than five minutes. Then Milan came out (Kjaer high with the head) and in the 20 ‘Pioli made a fourfold change: Florenzi for Kalulu, Bakayoko for Tonali, Messias for Krunic and Ibra for Giroud. A relay race, the latter, already foreseen but accelerated by a muscle problem for the Frenchman, who came out in pain. Yet another trouble at the Rossoneri’s home. The first sliding door of the Rossoneri hopes opened at minute 27: Messias slipped away to the left and served on the Bakayoko run in the center of the area, but the conclusion, weak and predictable, was rejected by Savic. A golden opportunity badly managed by the French. A few seconds later Hernandez messed with the ball all alone a few meters from Oblak. Another chance thrown to the pulp but, at the same time, a clear signal of how Milan wanted to end the match: in the Spanish area. The goal fell on Wanda Metropolitano, already silent for some time, in the 42nd minute. Action developed on the left: Hernandez for Kessie, in the unusual role of winger, soft and perfect cross for the head of Messias, jumped (easily) between Gimenez and Praise. The man-match you don’t expect and who confirms how many arrows are in Pioli’s bow. The final was convulsive, with the Spaniards furiously looking for an equal who did not arrive (badly Cunha in the recovery a few steps from Tatarusanu) and a penalty that the Slovenian Vincic did not take.
November 24, 2021 (change November 25, 2021 | 01:09)
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