Simon Kjaer First Goal with Milan Saves Rossoneri in Manchester

Simon Kjaer surely chose a good time to score his first goal since he joined Milan one year ago as his 92-minute effort helped the Rossoneri equalize a game they were undeservedly losing. Milan went down 0-1 at Old Trafford in the first leg of an Europa League Round of 16 match-up as Manchester United put their heads ahead with a goal from former Atalanta man Amad Diallo.

The Red Devils failed two incredible chances to round up their tally but it was Milan to be in control of the operations for most of the game. The Rossoneri had two goals disallowed on grounds of offside and created at least four-five more good chances to find the back of the net – though none as clear as Manchester’s.

All in all, a 1-1 tie is a fair outcome that leaves everything open as the two sides prepare to square off again at the San Siro in one week – though Milan will have the slight advantage of having scored one goal away.

When that happens, one could only hope that there will be a little less absentees as both sides came into tonight’s match with a depleted lineup. For Manchester, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could not count on goalkeeper David De Gea, as well as on Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani – among many others.

Milan were doing even worse, if possible, with at least six starters missing. Alessio Romagnoli, Theo Hernandez and Ante Rebic recently made it to an injury list that already included Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Hakan Calhanoglu, and Ismael Bennacer.

But despite a maimed lineup, Milan came to Old Trafford showing no fear and their aggressive efforts produced two goals in 11 minutes – though both ruled out. Rafael Leao saw his winning effort canceled for offside, while the VAR spot a Franck Kessié handball in the build-up that led to a stunning right-foot volley.

The Rossoneri were in control as United proved to be something more than vulnerable in defense. On their front line, Anthony Martial was rarely served by his teammates and remained isolated for most of the first period.

And so, the only chance for Manchester came from a dead ball situation. But, what a danger that proved to be for the visitors. From an Alex Telles corner kick, Bruno Fernandez let the ball slide for Harry Maguire who was all alone on the far post. But the United’s captain somehow incredibly managed to hit the post from point blank-range, missing the easiest conversion chance. Almost unbelievable.

Anthony Martial had left the pitch limping at half time and indeed didn’t make it for the second period. He was replaced by 18-year-old Amad Diallo, an Atalanta youth academy product who thus collected his 3rd cap with the Red Devils.

The impact of the Ivorian on the game was devastating: Five minutes after the restart, Bruno Fernandes picked him in the box with a long range cross and Diallo sneaked between Fikayo Tomori and Simon Kjaer to head the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma, who left his posts but remained stuck in no-man’s land. It was perhaps the only defensive amnesia from the Rossoneri in the whole game, but it could have costed them a lot.

The unexpected goal seemed to shake Milan’s confidence especially at the back. Davide Calabria risked making a mess with a risky back header to Donnarumma, but recovered just in time to block Daniel James’ progression after the Englishman stole him the ball.

It took almost ten minutes for Milan to regain composure and control of the match. Franck Kessié tested Dean Henderson from the left side, though his shot was not irresistible. Rade Krunic’s header from a Calabria cross was better but still out of target.

On 68 minutes, coach Stefano Pioli sent in Sandro Tonali and Samu Castillejo, replacing Alexis Saelemaekers and Brahim Diaz. He would eventually also add Pierre Kalulu, pulling out Davide Calabria.

Under a pouring rain, the match kept going and Milan were spared the second as Mason Greenwood picked Daniel James with a cutting cross from the right-hand side, but United’s no. 21 emulated his captain by missing the target from an incredibly favorable position.

The Rossoneri however paid their debt with luck on 84 minutes as there should have been a second yellow for Scott McTominay, who interrupted a clear Rade Krunic chance from just outside of the box. McTominay had already been booked for obstructing a Donnarumma throw-in earlier in the game but the referee opted for giving him only a warning this time.

Milan kept pushing. Franck Kessié was in berserk mode, putting his stamp on virtually every chance the Rossoneri tried. Rafael Leao, on the other hand, seemed to be lacking grit and determination – but he did have the merit of winning his side a late corner kick from which Milan would manage to equalize.

As the ball kicked by Krunic dropped in the middle of the box, Simon Kjaer found himself unmarked and ready to deliver a last-gasp header on which perhaps David De Gea’s backup could have done better. It was a goal of massive importance for the Rossoneri, who will meet again the Red Devils next Thursday with the advantage of an away goal.


March 11, 2021 – Europa League 2020-2021 Round of 16

SCORER: 50′ Diallo (MU), 92′ Kjaer (Mi)

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka (74′ Shaw), Bailly, Maguire, Telles; Matic, McTominay; James (74′ Williams), Bruno Fernandes (74′ Fred), Greenwood; Martial (46′ Diallo) (Grant, Bishop, Lindelöf, Tuanzebe, Shoretire) Coach: Solskjaer
MILAN (4-3-2-1): G. Donnarumma; Calabria (74′ Kalulu), Kjaer, Tomori, Diogo Dalot; Kessié, Meité; Saelemaekers (69′ Castillejo), Brahim Diaz (69′ Tonali), Krunic; Rafael Leão (Tatarusanu, A. Donnarumma, Tonin, Gabbia) Coach: Pioli

REFEREE: Vincic (Slovenia)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: McTominay (MU), Saelemaekers (Mi); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′