Milan Concede Last Minute Goal as Rossoneri Are Held by Crvena Zvezda

There are many ways a football game can end, and surely conceding a last-minute goal is not the best one. Milan needed to bounce back after suffering a shocking setback to Spezia on Saturday. But, despite snatching a 2-2 away draw to Crvena Zvezda that puts them in an advantage position to qualify to the Europa League Round of 16, the way the Rossoneri conceded the Serbians a late equalizer leaves no room to celebrate.  

The upcoming Derby di Milano forced Stefano Pioli to give some rest to his key players. There were seven changes in the lineup compared to last Saturday’s unfortunate trip to La Spezia. Even the setup was unprecedented as Pioli abandoned his beloved 4-2-3-1 to switch to a 4-3-3 formation where Soualiho Meité, Ismael Bennacer, and Rade Krunic formed the midfield line. On the front line, Mario Mandzukic collected his first cap as a starter, supported by Samu Castillejo and Ante Rebic.

Crvena Zvezda, on the other hand, offered a good appetizer of the cross-town derby as they are coached by former Interista Dejan Stankovic. The white-and-reds’ attack was led by Bologna loanee Diego Falcinelli, with former Lecce man Filippo Falco sitting on the bench, and Inter loanee Axel Bakayoko also ready to come in.

The Rossoneri approached the game at the Marakana in Belgrade with a very clear plan: Saving their energies and controlling the match tempo. The plan seemed to work – at least until the very last minute of the game.

Their good start was frustrated by the VAR which caught Theo Herndandez touching the ball with his hand as he pushed it into the back of the net from a Pierre Kalulu right-side cross.

The first half was a pleasant display, with both sides not shying away from looking for an opener. Rade Krunic whipped the ball towards the goal but found goalkeeper Milan Borjan’s opposition. Crvena Zvezda replied with a fast break that forced Gianluigi Donnarumma to deflect Mirko Ivanic’s conclusion with his feet.

The next chance was for Ante Rebic, but the Croatian failed to hit the target from a favorable position. Ivanic did better than him on 25 minutes, drawing another difficult save from Donnarumma with a vicious long-range shot.

Things could have taken a bad turn for Milan as Bennacer picked up a muscle injury and had to be replaced by Sandro Tonali on 37 minutes. But fate soon gave something back to the Rossoneri, as they were gift-wrapped the opener by Radovan Pankov and his goalkeeper, who turned a seemingly-harmless Samu Castillejo cross into an own goal. Milan thus went for the break with a one-goal lead.

It was a lead that didn’t last long, however, as on 51 minutes Crvena Zvezda equalized from the penalty spot. Alessio Romagnoli’s handball when defending from Diego Falcinelli was evident, and penalty specialist Guélor Kanga made no mistake to draw level for the home side.

But, for some reason, Milan had Pankov on their side tonight as the Serbian center-back delivered the Rossoneri another kind homage by pushing down Theo Hernandez in the box. It was penalty again, and the Frenchman himself turned it into a new lead for the visitors with a perfect conversion.

Rodic gave some additional help to Pioli’s side as he collected two yellow cards in the space of a few minutes and forced his side to play with one man less in the last 13 minutes. The Rossoneri seemed to be preserving their lead with ease among multiple substitutions from both sides.

It was Dejan Stankovic to draw his trump card, however, as on 79 minutes he sent in his usual starter Milan Pankov in place of Diego Falcinelli. The striker would repay the trust with a last-gasp goal, slotting the ball home with a beautiful header from a corner kick. The Rossoneri protested for an alleged foul on Samu Castillejo in the build-up but they should have been more careful.

The two away goals they scored keep them fully in contention to advance to the next Europa League stage, but they left the Marakana in dismay and would have surely wanted to approach the Derby di Milano in a better mood.


February 18, 2021 – Europa League 2020-21 Round of 32

SCORERS: 42′ Pankov (C, o.g.), 51′ Kanga (C, pen.), 60′ Hernandez (M, pen.), 93′ Pavkov (C)

CRVENA ZVEZDA (3-4-1-2): Borjan; Pankov, Milunovic, Degenek; Gobeljic (73′ Gajic), Kanga, Petrovic (81′ Sanogo), Rodic; Ivanic (79′ A. Bakayoko); Ben (61′ Falco), Falcinelli (79′ Pavkov) (Popovic, Gabric, Sanogo, Srnic, Vukanovic) Coach: Stankovic

MILAN (4-3-3): G. Donnarumma; Kalulu, Tomori, Romagnoli, Hernandez (78′ Diogo Dalot); Krunic, Bennacer (37′ Tonali), Meité; Castillejo, Mandzukic (81′ Calhanoglu), Rebic (46′ Rafael Leao) (Tatarusanu, A. Donnarumma, Calabria, Ibrahimovic, Kjaer, Gabbia, Saelemaekers, Kessié) Coach: Pioli

REFEREE: Sidiropoulos (Greece)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Milunovic, Rodic (C), Romagnoli, Mandzukic, G. Donnarumma (M); Red Card: Rodic (C); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 4′