Stefano Pioli’s AC Milan side sealed a 3-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb at San Siro to move to the top of Group E in the Champions League.
The home side took the lead on the stroke of half-time from the penalty spot after Rafael Leao was fouled in the box by Dinamo centre-back Josip Sutalo. Olivier Giroud made no mistake from the spot kick, placing his penalty into the bottom-right corner.
Milan came out of the blocks quickly in the second half and doubled their advantage two minutes after the restart, as Alexis Saelemaekers headed in Rafael Leao’s cross from close range to score his second Champions League goal of the season in as many games.
Dinamo Zagreb got themselves back into the game less than 10 minutes later, when Mislav Orsic placed a curling strike into the corner of the net from inside the area after some great combination play with his strike partner, Bruno Petkovic.
Tommaso Pobega then scored his first goal for the Rossoneri with just under 15 minutes to play, as the midfielder rifled home a powerful strike from inside the penalty area which came off the bar on its way into the net to seal a comfortable win for Milan – their first at home in this competition in nine years.
TALKING POINT – MILAN TAKE INITIATIVE IN GROUP E
Going into the game, it was all to play for in Group E after Chelsea’s shock defeat to Milan’s opponents on the opening matchday. The Rossoneri themselves could only settle for a 1-1 draw away at Salzburg, so Pioli knew his side had to get the three points ahead of their upcoming double header against Chelsea, and they succeeded.
The quality from the home side shone through in the end, and on the balance of play, Milan were the better side despite their defence allowing Dinamo forward Orsic – who scored a stunning solo effort against Chelsea – to get into pockets of space from time to time.
For Pioli, Saelemaekers, Brahim Diaz and Leao all looked dangerous in spells, and the Milan coach will be keen for his side to continue their unbeaten start to the season. It was also the Rossoneri’s first win at San Siro in the Champions League since they defeated Celtic 2-0 at home back in 2013.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – ALEXIS SAELEMAEKERS
The 23-year-old Belgian, who was deployed out on the right wing for the Rossoneri this evening, had a great game from the flank. He got on the scoresheet for the second Champions League match in succession, and Stefano Pioli will hope that his winger can keep up the good performances for his club, after a mixed spell during his time in Milan so far.
In total, Saelemaekers made three successful tackles, made one successful dribble and made one key pass.
AC Milan: Maignan 6, Calabria 6, Kalulu 6, Tomori 6, Hernandez 7, Bennacer 7, Tonali 6, Saelemaekers 8, Diaz 7, Leao 8, Giroud 7. Subs: Messias 6, Dest 6, Pobega 7, Krunic 6, De Ketelaere 6.
Dinamo Zagreb: Livakovic 6, Moharrami 6, Ristovski 6, Sutalo 6, Peric 7, Ljubicic 5, Ademi 6, Misic 6, Ivanusec 6, Orsic 7, Petkovic 7. Subs: Drmic 6, Marin 6, Spikic 6, Baturina 6.
33’ – POOR FROM LEAO – What a chance for Milan. Diaz, who has easily been the home side’s best player, puts in a cross towards the far post from the right byline, but Leao, who hits it first time, gets his finish all wrong and it ends up going out of play near the corner flag!
35’ – CHANCE! – Orsic is given a sniff of a chance down the left byline, and he almost takes it! He picks up the ball, before cutting inside past Calabria and hitting a low curling shot from just outside the area towards the far corner, but it narrowly goes wide of the post. That was almost too close for comfort for Maignan.
45’ – GOAL! (Olivier Giroud penalty) – Milan win a spot-kick! Tomori plays a quick through ball for Leao into the box, and Sutalo just about clips him on the lunge! A little soft, but Milan will not care! Giroud makes no mistake from the spot, and he calmly puts it right into the bottom right corner, giving Livakovic no chance at all. Milan lead here just before half-time!
47’ – GOAL! (Alexis Saelemaekers) – What a start to the second half for the hosts! After some great passing and moving in the final third, the ball is played to Leao on the inside left channel, and the winger uses his pace to get past Moharrami with ease. He then delivers a floated cross into the box and Saelemaekers is there to send a powerful header past Livakovic from close range.
55’ – GOAL! (Mislav Orsic) – The away side have stepped up their urgency since conceding the second and they get themselves back into this one. Petkovic drags both Kalulu and Tomori towards him in the box after receiving it from Orsic. The latter continues his run into the box and latches onto the give-and-go with his strike partner, before placing a nice strike into the corner from inside the area. Game on.
76’ – GOAL! (Tommaso Pobega) – Pobega, who has not been on the pitch long, has a big goal for his side! A really nice move. Leao lays it off to him just outside the box, and the midfielder plays the give-and-go with Hernandez. The latter plays in Pobega with a superb through pass into the centre of the area first-time from an acute angle on the left, and the midfielder finishes brilliantly into the net, with the ball taking a touch off the crossbar on its way in.