Milan Player Ratings vs Tottenham: Diaz Gives Rossoneri First-Leg Lead

Milan returned to the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in nine season with a hard-earned 1-0 home win over Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of their last-16 tie. Troubled by injuries and domestic form woes, the reigning Serie A champions stood firm in defense to put one foot in the quarter-finals.

Inspired by a hard-earned 1-0 home triumph over Torino last Friday, Milan headed into proceedings seeking amends for a woeful Serie A form in 2023. Having fallen a staggering 18 points behind table-topping Napoli, Stefano Pioli’s men were out to rectify their mistakes in their first Champions League knockout appearance in nine seasons. 

With Pioli’s job hanging by a thread, according to several domestic sources, a growing injury list at the San Siro only amplified the Italian’s problems ahead of the kick-off. Forced to make a host of changes to fill the void left by the absence of Mike Maignan, Ismael Bennacer, Fikayo Tomori, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pioli had no right winning this match. 

However, Brahim Diaz got Milan off to a flying start, scoring a diving header only seven minutes into the game to fire the Rossoneri into a narrow 1-0 lead at halftime. That was pretty much it from Pioli’s side in the opening 45 minutes as they dropped back to hold onto a slender advantage for the remainder of the first half.

Despite applying a defensive approach in the second half, Milan had better chances, with second-half substitute Charles De Ketelaere and Malick Thiaw spurning two massive opportunities in a matter of minutes. But Pioli’s charges looked solid at the back for the second time in a row, offering the San Siro faithful a reason to look forward to thereturn leg in London.

Milan (4-2-3-1)

Ciprian Tatarusanu – 7

Arguably his most solid display since filling the shoes of Mike Maignan between the sticks. Pulled off a series of significant interventions in the first half to help Milan endure the siege. Though he sustained a minor injury in the second half, the Romanian goalkeeper shrugged off the pain to complete the game. 

Theo Hernandez – 7.5

If there was any doubt concerning the left-back’s dip in form in 2023, tonight’s showing put them to bed. Entrusted with the captain’s armband, the Frenchman led his side by example, playing a massive part in Milan’s opener and having numerous eye-catching ventures forward. 

Simon Kjaer – 7.5

Seemingly unfazed by a long-term spell on the sidelines, the Danish center-back had a phenomenal evening, keeping Tottenham’s star-studded frontline at bay. Won a host of physical challenges against Harry Kane, making Ciprian Tatarusanu’s life easier.  

Pierre Kalulu – 7

Shifting through positions seems to be doing no harm to the omnipresent youngster, who delivered another flawless defensive performance. Even though he barely had any attacking impact, he can be proud of his display against the likes of Son Heung-min and Ivan Perisic. 

Malick Thiaw – 7.5

Despite registering only his second start for Milan this season, the up-and-coming defender came up with a sublime display against non-other than Kane and Son. Wasted a glorious chance to double the lead late in the second half. 

Rade Krunic – 6.5

A near-anonymous attacking performance from the Bosnian midfielder, though he made up for the lack of offensive presence with numerous vital tackles to intercept Tottenham’s dangerous plays. 

Sandro Tonali – 7

Like his abovementioned midfield comrade, the Italian prodigy put his game in the service of the greater good. His massive defensive contribution came at the expense of his attacking ambitions. But his marking was clinical. 

Alexis Saelemaekers – 6.5 

It’s still a mystery how this guy carries such a prominent role in Pioli’s setup. Barring his tireless defensive runs, the Belgian winger once again failed to influence the match in the front third. 

Rafael Leao – 6.5

Despite enjoying more of the ball than any other Milan player, last season’s Serie A MVP award winner struggled for the final product, especially in the first half. 

Brahim Diaz – 7

In addition to scoring an all-important deadlock-breaker, the diminutive playmaker was integral to Milan’s build-up plays. Continuously made himself available in the center of the park and had several creative passes leading to dangerous-looking situations in front of Spurs’ goal. 

Olivier Giroud – 6.5

Had another rough evening by his standards, but truth be told, he didn’t receive a single inviting ball inside the box. Put on plenty of sacrifice to help out his side withstand the pressure after going up. 


Junior Messias – 5

Flew under the radar since replacing Alexis Saelemaekers.

Charles De Ketelaere – 6

Came on late in the 77th minute and missed a clear-cut chance to give Milan a two-goal cushion ahead of the return leg. Could and should have done better.

Tommaso Pobega – N/A

 Ante Rebic – N/A

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