AC Milan came from behind to earn a 1-1 Europa League draw with Real Betis that was overshadowed by a serious-looking injury to Mateo Musacchio.
It appeared set to be another disappointing game for under-fire Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso, who had seen the pressure eased slightly by three straight domestic victories, as Giovani Lo Celso’s third goal in as many Europa League games put Betis on course for a second successive win over Milan having beaten them 2-1 at San Siro last time out.
However, a somewhat fortuitous 62nd-minute free-kick from Suso levelled matters after Betis wasted chances to extend their lead.
The mood at Estadio Benito Villamarin was dampened significantly eight minutes from time when Milan defender Musacchio was taken off on a stretcher in a neck brace after clashing heads with team-mate Franck Kessie.
Giovani Lo Celso: A man in-form
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) November 8, 2018
Betis opened the scoring in fine fashion in the 12th minute. Neat interplay between William Carvalho and Joaquin fed Junior Firpo down the left and his excellent pull back was confidently tucked into the bottom-right corner by Lo Celso.
Lo Celso and Joaquin then combined in a one-two that sent the latter through down the left side of the box, the veteran prodding towards goal but seeing his effort cleared by Ricardo Rodriguez to prevent Betis doubling their lead.
Again Lo Celso was involved as another clear-cut chance to make it 2-0 went begging, the midfielder playing the ball into Joaquin after a surging run before a low cross from Firpo was stabbed wide by Antonio Sanabria.
Milan came to life somewhat after the restart and an acrobatic save from Pau Lopez was required to keep out a curling effort from Suso.
But Lopez was unsighted as Suso restored parity three minutes later, his inswinging free-kick drifting beyond everyone in the box and into the bottom-left corner.
Fabio Borini then forced Lopez into action once more with a strike off the outside of his boot but the game ended on a concerning note as Musacchio left the field to applause from the entire stadium.
What does it mean? Milan keep things tight in Group F
Despite what has been viewed as a disappointing start to the season, Milan are in contention for the Champions League, sitting fourth in Serie A. Their hopes of keeping the Europa League route into the competition looked set to take a hit when Lo Celso opened the scoring but, while Olympiacos’ win over Dudelange has seen the Greek side gain ground, Milan’s fightback means Betis have just a one-point lead over that pair with two games to go.
Betis profligacy punished
Though Joaquin was unfortunate to see his goal-bound effort cleared, Sanabria should have done better with his chance and Betis did not do enough to make their first-half superiority count. They were sloppy in the second half and Suso ensured they were punished for their earlier profligacy.
Lo Celso looks the part
After starring at San Siro, Lo Celso was once again a thorn in Milan’s side, pulling the strings for Betis from midfield and taking his goal magnificently. Betis have an option to make their loan move for the PSG midfielder permanent and more performances like this should convince them to do so.
Betis pit themselves against the might of Barcelona at Camp Nou on Sunday, when Milan will aim to make it two defeats in a row for Juventus and trim their lead at the top of Serie A.
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