With the solitary goal in Wednesday’s tight 1-0 first-leg triumph, Ismael Bennacer handed AC Milan a small advantage in their all-Italian Champions League quarter-final against Napoli. After a wonderful combination between Brahim Diaz and Rafael Leao, Algeria midfielder Bennacer scored the game-winning goal five minutes before halftime in a packed, loud, and damp San Siro. The 25-year-old’s strike secured Milan’s second win in less than a week against Italy’s champions-elect Napoli and a small lead to protect at Stadio Maradona in Naples next week.
Napoli, who had Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa sent off in the 74th minute, should have Victor Osimhen back for the second leg on Tuesday, and despite having plenty of chances, Luciano Spalletti’s club came up empty-handed.
Milan custodian Mike Maignan made a number of great saves, particularly during an early salvo from Napoli that resulted in four good chances in the first quarter hour.
He also came to Milan’s rescue late in the game, clawing away Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s effort just as the more than 70,000 home fans were celebrating triumph.
Bennacer’s goal was enough
However, Bennacer’s goal was enough to give Milan hope of reaching their first Champions League semi-final since they were crowned European champions for the seventh and most recent time in 2007.
That potential will be even more tantalising for Milan fans. Given that their likely opponents will be local rivals Inter, who won convincingly against Benfica on Tuesday.
Napoli were without injured attacker Osimhen, and Eljif Elmas was a misfit in his place. Whereas Osimhen may have theoretically appeared in the right spots and converted half-chances, Elmas was a blunt, ineffectual weapon. Napoli needs Osimhen to play in the return leg next week or their finest Champions League run would likely come to an end.
Stefano Pioli insists the Champions League quarter-final with Napoli ‘remains 50-50.’ Even after Milan won the first leg 1-0. Acknowledging they felt both lucky and regrets at this result