With an ear to what was going on at the Parc des Princes between PSG and Newcastle United, Milan faced Borussia Dortmund at the San Siro in the penultimate Champions League Group Stage round. The Rossoneri were outclassed 1-3 but can still harbor some dim hopes of advancing to the next stage.
Since PSG tied 1-1 in Newcastle thanks to a late Kylian Mbappé penalty, Milan have a chance to qualify if they win against the English side in two weeks’ time, provided that PSG will lose against Borussia in the final round. Not an easy task, considering that tonight’s setback may take a tool on the Rossoneri’s morale.
Stefano Pioli recovered Olivier Giroud in the center of the front line, supported by Christian Pulisic (a former Dortmund player) and Samu Chukwueze. Rafael Leao didn’t manage to recover in time from the injury he suffered in Lecce two weeks ago. Yacine Adli was a surprise choice at midfield instead of Rade Krunic
Those looking for a thrilling start were treated with two penalties within the first ten minutes of play. Milan were awarded the first as Chukwueze’s shot in the box hit Mats Hummel’s arm as the German center-back attempted a slide tackle. Unfortunately for the Rossoneri, Giroud came up with a somewhat sloppy conversion that offered goalkeeper Gregor Kobel an easy chance to shine.
Five minutes later, it was Borussia’s turn to step up to the spot and Marco Reus made no mistake, firing the ball past Mike Maignan with a perfect conversion. The German were awarded their penalty as Davide Calabria naively fouled Jaime Bynoe-Gittens after the Englishman penetrated the Rossoneri’s box from the left side.
Milan thus found themselves down by one despite a courageous start and did feel the hit. They struggled to reorganize themselves and risked being caught on the counter on many occasions as Gittens continued to wreak havoc along the left channel. Fikayo Tomori had to go above and beyond to keep his side afloat while Maignan did his part as usual.
It was one of the most unexpected men to came to Pioli’s rescue as Chukwueze finally found his first goal as a Rossonero on 38 minutes, and he did so in a brilliant fashion. The Nigerian was picked on the right side and dribbled past two German defenders before whipping the ball into the bottom left corner from a tight angle. A true gem of a goal.
Milan seemed off to a good start in the second half, but luck was not on their side. Malick Thiaw picked up a thigh injury – the umpteenth in Milan’s tormented season – and had to be replaced by Rade Krunic, who is not a proper center back.
Thiaw’s absence opened a breach into Pioli’s defensive mechanics and Borussia built their decisive two-goal cushion in the space of ten minutes. On 59 minutes, it was Gittens again to steal the spotlight with a clinical shot into the bottom left corner of the net, finishing from a fine one-touch team effort.
Ten minutes later, substitute Karim Adeyemi scored the third goal of the night for his side. His conclusion bounced past Maignan despite the goalkeeper last-ditch effort to palm the ball away when it was past the goal line.
Pioli made some desperate moves as he sent in Luka Jovic and youngster Chaka Traoré, but all that Milan could pull off was a flurry of corner kicks and a couple of good chances for the Serb striker, who perhaps played his best portion of a game since he joined the Rossoneri. His header effort from a Calabria cross should have hit the net but crashed into the post, while a close-range deflection was defused by Kobel’s good reflexes.
Borussia, on the other hand, had some good opportunities to make it four as forward Niclas Fullkrug came close to hitting the scoresheet at least twice, his second effort being a terrific shot that made Maignan’s crossbar rattle. But it would have been too much for Milan who found themselves on the receiving end of a heavy home loss without truly understanding how.
Not all is lost for Pioli and his band, but chances of going past this Champions League Group Stage frankly look very small.
November 28, 2023 – Champions League Group Stage
MILAN – BORUSSIA DORTMUND 1-3
SCORERS: 10′ Reus (B, pen.), 38′ Chukwueze (M), 59′ Gittens (B), 69′ Adeyemi (B)
|MILAN (4-3-3): Maignan; Calabria, Thiaw (53’ Krunic), Tomori, Hernández; Loftus-Cheek, Adli (77’ Jovic), Reijnders; Chukwueze (77’ Chaka Traoré), Giroud, Pulisic (Mirante, Nava; Bartesaghi, Florenzi, Pobega) Coach: Pioli
|BORUSSIA DORTMUND (4-2-3-1): Kobel; Ryerson, Hummels, Schlotterbeck (55’ Ozcan), Bensebaini; Emre Can, Sabitzer; Malen (56’ Adeyemi), Reus (79’ Brandt), Bynoe-Gittens (66’ Wolf); Füllkrug (Lotka, Meyer; Blank, Reyna, Haller, Moukoko) Coach: Terzic
REFEREE: Mr. Kovacs (Romania)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Tomori, (M), Emre Can (B); Added Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 6′