Injury time goal gives AC Milan a 1-1 draw in the opening leg
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It’s a game of 90 minutes (plus injury time), and Manchester United learned that the hard way Thursday.
A Simon Kjaer header in the 92nd minute gave the Rossoneri a valuable away goal in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
The Reds thought they were home and dry after an early second-half goal from teenage sensation Amad Diallo gave them a 1-0 lead.
The injection of youth was the spark United needed after a very stagnant opening 45 minutes.
However, Milan’s persistence in attack eventually paid off as they got a deserved equaliser right at the end.
Less than a week after United beat Premier League leaders Man City 2-0, the Reds came out very flat in the opening half.
Both sides were missing some key attacking options with Marcus Rashford and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both out through injury.
It was United though who looked lost without their young striker.
Five minutes in, and Milan had a goal disallowed.
Rafael Leao latched on to a lovely ball over the top from Simon Kjaer. The Portuguese man did well surge into the box and blast a shot past Dean Henderson, but the flag was up for offside.
The Rossoneri should’ve gone ahead six minutes later. A David Calabria throw-in was controlled well by Franck Kessie as the Ivorian planted a well-placed volley into the top corner.
However, after a VAR check, United was reprieved when the referee ruled Kessie controlled the ball with his hand. It appeared however that it struck his hip, but United escaped what should have been a goal for the Italians.
In the 20th minute, Alex Telles spotted Gianluigi Donnarumma off his line and went for goal, but his shot went narrowly over the bar.
United should have gone in front in the 38th minute. Bruno Fernandes flicked on an Alex Telles corner on the right flank towards captain Harry Maguire who had an open goal. The ball, unfortunately, struck his shin and hit the post.
In the second half, it was an injection of youth that turned the tide in United’s favour.
Amad Diallo came on for a hobbling Anthony Martial to start the half.
The 18-year-old made his presence felt in the 50th minute.
A beautiful ball clipped into the box by Bruno Fernandes found the Ivorian on his own. With Donnarumma off his line, Diallo intelligently headed the ball over the keeper for his first goal with the senior side.
Milan came close on 58 minutes as United cleared a corner only as far as Alexis Saelemaekers, who offloaded it to Kessie. The Milan man took a neat touch and fired an excellent low shot that Henderson parried away.
The Italians had another chance to equalise in the 64th minute. A dangerous cross from David Calabria from the right found Rade Krunic, who got in front of Aaron Wan-Bissaka with a nice close-range header that went wide.
With the game seemingly well in hand, the Rossoneri drew level right at the end.
A lovely corner delivered by Rade Krunic found the head of Simon Kjaer from close-range. The Dane’s header made good contact as it flew in past Dean Henderson. It was a bang-bang play, but the header was also straight at Henderson, who could’ve saved it.
Man of the Match
Rade Krunic set up the all-important equaliser late in the match, but the Bosnian had many more chances in this one.
He came close in the 64th minute getting in front of Wan-Bassaka but headed it wide.
In the 92nd minute, he finally got it right with a dangerous cross that was headed powerfully past Dean Henderson.
The late goal he orchestrated puts his side in the driver’s seat with an away goal heading to the San Siro next week.
The Bosnian was dangerous down the flank all game long, causing fits for United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who always seemed to be a step behind him.
Giving it away
After a series of strong performance by the Reds backline, they returned to their old bad habits at times in this one.
Wan-Bissaka, in particular, got burned several times down the wing, leaving Milan with a number of great opportunities.
They almost got away with it again, but ultimately it was the defence a little flat-footed that gave Kjaer a free header. Dean Henderson could’ve done better as the shot was straight at him, but ultimately, it was a just result.
Before that injury-time goal, United had kept four consecutive clean sheets in all competitions.
Tonight is the first goal they’ve conceded in the Europa League this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s been widely criticised for not playing the right players in the right situations and getting his tactics wrong.
With a 1-1 draw, it’ll be hard to argue against that, but one smart move paid off handsomely tonight.
The insertion of Amad Diallo added some a much-needed spring into the Reds step in half number two.
United fans got a glimpse of exactly what the teenager is capable of with a brilliant and intelligent goal.
His presence and precision were on full display getting the first of what could be many for the Reds.
United paid £37m for the Atalanta youngster, and tonight he showed his worth.
Tickling the Ivories
Tonight, we got a first-hand look at the talent of the Ivory Coast.
Amad Diallo put together a great half of football, including his first goal with the Red Devils.
Franck Kessie had a goal ruled out for handball which should’ve counted. He was perhaps Milan’s biggest attacking threat in the absence of Ibrahimovic.
Eric Bailly earned his 100th appearance for Man United and put together a reliable performance.
Bailly barely got a foot wrong tonight, and he needed several vital interceptions.
With the talent we saw from those three, the Ivory Coast look could be a force for years to come.
Following the match, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the draw was a fair result given how the match played out.
“We could have scored one or two more, but then again, they had loads of attempts and especially the header in the second half at the back stick, that could have gone in. Probably a draw is a fair result.”
All to play for
With the score even, its game on next Thursday when these sides meet in Italy in the return leg.
Milan has the upper hand with one away goal, while United will look to exercise some San Siro demons.
In five matches in European competition against Milan, United have just one win while losing four times.
The last victory came in 2010 thanks to a pair of goals from Wayne Rooney in a 3-2 win.
It’s the only game in which the Reds have found the back of the net against the Rossoneri.
United look to close the gap between themselves and Manchester City in the Premier League this weekend.
The Reds host West Ham on Sunday from Old Trafford at 7:15 pm.
The second leg of this matchup goes next Thursday, from the San Siro at 8 pm. (JSL).