AC Milan gave their hopes of Champions League football a boost as they earned a morale-boosting 0-0 draw with Napoli at the San Siro on Saturday evening.
The match itself was an intriguing watch with both sides carving out chances but neither quite having the quality to take them when it really mattered. The visitors did receive a blow in the closing stages as Fabian Ruiz Pena was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
Napoli start well
Napoli started the game on the front foot and the opening goal could have come about in tremendous fashion as Jose Callejon volleyed towards goal. However, Gianluigi Donnarumma was positioned well to deal with the Spaniard’s effort.
Lorenzo Insigne then also went close as the visitor’s positive start to the game continued but he could only shoot straight at the AC Milan stopper. He then sent a low shot just narrowly wide of goal.
Milan pass up opportunity to claim the lead
The hosts were continually being starved of opportunities bar a few shots from range. They were nearly the architects of their own downfall as Lucas Paqueta sloppily gave the ball away to Callejon but the latter could only curl the ball wide.
Despite that, Gennaro Gattuso’s men resumed after the break at a much better tempo and really should have opened the scoring a few minutes after the restart. Raul Albiol’s awful clearance fell to Franck Kessie only yards out but his shot was blocked behind. Then, Paqueta put an effort straight into the arms of David Ospina.
A lapse in concentration almost saw Napoli claim the advantage however. Callejon’s deep cross looked to be harmless but it dipped right at the last second and clipped the top of the AC Milan crossbar.
Napoli spurn opportunities
Whilst the hosts were able to carve out some chances, Napoli were still the dominant side. Arkadiusz Milik hit a fierce drive straight at Donnarumma before the Italian stopper then produced an excellent, instinctive save to deny midfielder Piotr Zielinski on the volley.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men should have stolen the three points late on as they counter-attacked the hosts. With a four-on-two situation, Milik picked out Piotr Zielinski but the latter could only put his shot straight at Donnarumma.
Red card in closing seconds
Despite the lack of goals, fans inside the San Siro were given some drama as Fabián Ruiz Peña was given his marching orders. After being given a silly early yellow card, the midfielder was shown a second in the final seconds for an extremely controversial handball shout from the referee. The ball appeared to have bounced off his chest and onto his arm but the referee deemed it to be deliberate.
His dismissal did not appear to have a bearing on the result as with such little time left, neither side were able to find an opening goal.
The draw on the balance of play was probably a fair result. Whilst Napoli did probably create the better goalscoring opportunities, AC Milan did have plenty of possession and were defensively drilled. The game itself was an entertaining spectacle and fans will depart the San Siro content. However, Ancelotti will fume at having lost Pena to what appears to be an extremely debatable sending-off.
AC Milan: Donnarumma (7); Rodriguez (7), Romagnoli (6), Musacchio (7), Calabria (6); Paqueta (7) (Borini (5), 69′), Kessie (6), Bakayoko (7); Suso (6), Cutrone (6) (Piatek (6), 71′), Calhanoglu (7) (Laxalt (N/A), 90′).
Napoli: Ospina (7); Rui (6), Koulibaly (7), Albiol (6), Malcuit (6); Callejon (7), Zielinski (6), Pena (6) (Ghoulam (6), 72′); Insigne (7), Mertens (7) (Verdi (N/A), 80′), Milik (6).
Referee: Daniele Doveri
Yellow Cards: Cutrone (17′), Pena (18′, 90+3′), Albiol (86′)
Red Cards: Pena (90+3′)
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