Milan are alive and kicking in the Champions League this season after a late goal from Junior Messias gave them a vital 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
The victory means there is a three-way, matchday six playoff between the Rossoneri, Atletico and FC Porto in Group B to determine who will join runaway leaders Liverpool in the last 16.
The first half was a niggly affair with clear-cut chances at a premium. There were just six attempts at goal in total, which accumulated a combined xG value of only 0.27.
Rodrigo De Paul fired off a long-range strike that never looked like troubling Ciprian Tatarusanu, while Pierre Kulu saw a shot from inside the box saved by Jan Oblak.
Immediately after the break Thomas Lemar finally found a gap in midfield and he surged through before firing a tame effort at the goalkeeper.
Just after the hour mark it was Milan’s turn to threaten the Atleti goal, with Simon Kjaer heading just over from Theo Hernandez’s free-kick cross. The Rossoneri went even closer 10 minutes later with substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko having his shot from inside the area blocked on the line by Stefan Savic.
Milan would have another near miss with five minutes to play when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was slipped through before seeing his effort spectacularly kept out by Oblak. Seconds later though, they did score with Junior Messias heading Franck Kessie’s excellent cross into the unguarded net.
Matheus Cunha then spurned a golden chance to equalise before the end, getting his feet all wrong as he attempted to tap home Marcos Llorente’s cross.
A dramatic finale in Group B will see Porto – who lost to Liverpool 2-0 this evening – start the last matchday one point ahead of both Milan and Atletico in second place.
Here is how both sets of players rated…
Jan Oblak (GK) – 6/10 – After a quiet night he was called into action at the end, making two good saves.
Stefan Savic (CB) – 7/10 – Made a vital block to deny Bakayoko at the end. Atelti’s best defender but could not prevent the defeat.
Jose Gimenez (CB) – 6/10 – 71% passing accuracy is a bit worrying. Lost Messias for the goal too.
Mario Hermoso (CB) – 6/10 – Tried to help out in possession when possible. Involved in the balls up that led to Milan’s goal.
Marcos Llorente (RWB) – 6/10 – Huffed and puffed by influence was minimal. Unconvinced that this is his best role but needs must tonight.
Thomas Lemar (CM) – 6/10 – Surprised he was taken off as he looked most likely to force something for the visitors.
Koke (CM) – 6/10 – Horrible, niggly player. He must be a nightmare to face.
Rodrigo De Paul (CM) – 6/10 – The bright spark in an offensively bad first half. Did his best to gain ground with very little space to work in.
Yannick Carrasco (LWB) – 4/10 – Very quiet. Gave the ball away a lot too.
Luis Suarez (ST) – 3/10 – Barely in the game. When he did get the ball, he should have done more.
Antoine Griezmann (ST) – 5/10 – More involved than Suarez. He looked more likely to make something happen too.
Angel Correa (CM) – 5/10
Renan Lodi (LB) – 5/10
Matheus Cunha (ST) – 2/10 – Unforgivable miss at the end.
Sime Vrsaljko (CM) – N/A
Geoffrey Kondogbia (CM) – N/A
Ciprian Tatarusanu (GK) – 6/10 – Excellent. He is a very capable deputy to Mike Maignan, not that he had that many chances to prove it.
Pierre Kalulu (RB) – 6/10 – A threat in the final third. Not asked too many questions by Carrasco.
Simon Kjaer (CB) – 8/10 – Great leadership at the back. He is a truly elite defender.
Alessio Romagnoli (CB) – 8/10 – Impressive in the absence of Fikayo Tomori. Authoritative in his defending and spotless in possession.
Theo Hernandez (LB) – 7/10 – Shook off an early knock to play well. His delivery was excellent.
Franck Kessie (CM) – 8/10 – So rarely gave the ball away. You can see why he’s a wanted man. Set up the winner.
Sandro Tonali (CM) – 7/10 – Relished the midfield battle in the first half, racking up two interceptions and three tackles. Taken off on the hour.
Rade Krunic (CM) – 5/10 – Nothing of any note to report at all. At least he didn’t make a mistake.
Brahim Diaz (RW) – 5/10 – Atleti shut him down with a string of fouls. Six, to be precise.
Olivier Giroud (ST) – 4/10 – Comically isolated for much of the game. Battled hard but was feeding off scraps.
Alexis Saelemakers (LW) – 4/10 – Full of energy and pressed well but offensive execution was poor. Got the fans gassed up at the end, though.
Tiemoue Bakayoko (CM) – 3/10 – Missed a golden chance after coming on. Thankfully for his side, it did not matter in the end.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (ST) – 6/10 – Denied by Oblak twice. Likely devastated not to have won it for his side. He is a lion after all.
Junior Messias (CM) – 7/10 – A very unlikely hero for his side.
Alessandro Florenzi (RB) – 6/10
Ismael Bennacer (AM) – N/A