A strike from Ismael Bennacer helped AC Milan clinch a 1-0 win over the Series A leaders Napoli in the first-leg of their all-Italian UEFA Champions League quarterfinal tie at the home arena of San Siro Stadium on Wednesday.
Bennacer scored the first-half winner in the 40th minute, hammering the ball past Alex Meret, helping the side to move in a direction of their first Champions League semifinal since 2007, an year which saw them emerge as champions.
Napoli, 22 points ahead of Milan in Series A were without their star striker Victor Osimhen, who was injured. The visitors had some moments of dominance as in the first half, 53 seconds into the game, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia almost scored, he saw his shot cleared off the line by Davide Calabria, with Mario Rui blazing over the rebound.
Milan came to life during the 25th minute when Rafael Leao burst through on goal, but his shot was too wide. 15 minutes later, he collected the ball from Brahim Diaz to play across to Bennacer, who drove the ball past Meret despite the latter getting his foot on it. The scoreline read 1-0 in the 40th minute.
Milan almost doubled their advantage in first-half stoppage time as Simon Kjaer’s header crashed on the bar from a corner.
Napoli missed a chance to score as they hit the same bar five minutes into the second half as Eljif Elmas’ header was tipped onto the woodwork by Maignan.
Life for visitors became tough when Frank Anguissa was sent off in the 74th minute. He was shown a second yellow card for a tackle on Theo Hernandez, just minutes after being booked for a foul on the same player. just minutes after being booked for a foul on the same player.
The tie winner will either play Inter Milan or Benfica in the semi-finals. Inter is leading Benfica by 2-0 in the first leg. The second leg of the tie will take place on April 18 in Naples.
After the match, AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli said as quoted by Sky Sports, “It is still 50-50, the result is certainly a bonus bit it does not change much, there is still all to play for. We are halfway up the mountain but normally the last few bends are the hardest to overcome. A hard match awaits us in Naples none of us think we are already through.”
“I am above all happy to enjoy evenings like this with our fans. The history of Milan speaks to many Champions League victories, but the recent years saw us dream of getting here, so we wanted to enjoy it. We did not build out well from the back at the start, giving Napoli the chance to hurt us, but we got the first home win over Napoli in three years,” concluded the coach. (ANI)