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Milan were surprised by a looping header from Milan Pavkov in injury time as the 10-man Red Star of Belgrade achieved a 2-2 draw in their Europa League clash in Serbia.
These teams won European Cup titles in successive years a generation ago, with Milan’s success in 1990 followed by Red Star taking the title 12 months later, but this season they are fighting for success in the knockout stage. in the second tier of the UEFA club competition. .
An own goal by Radovan Pankov gave Milan a small advantage at half-time, which was eliminated when Guelor Kanga scored a penalty for the hosts shortly after the break.
But Pankov’s costly second defensive error gave Milan a penalty of their own, and Theo Hernandez shot home to put the visitors seemingly in charge at that stage, ahead of the San Siro comeback game next week. Milan Rodic was sent off late by the hosts so that he can forget the trip to Italy, but Pavkov’s late intervention means it could still be a fruitful visit for Red Star.
A bitter result in Belgrade but 2 crucial goals away
– AC Milan (@acmilan) February 18, 2021
Milan winger Samu Castillejo had a goal disallowed in the sixth minute for offside, but the Rossoneri appeared to have gone ahead in the 12th minute. Goalkeeper Milan Borjan was unable to catch a Pierre Kalulu cross from the right, as Mario Mandzukic got upset and the ball was released for Hernandez to touch.
However, a VAR check canceled the hit, with replays showing the ball bouncing off Hernandez’s left arm before he found the net empty, giving Red Star a lucky escape.
Mirko Ivanic was rejected twice by Gianluigi Donnarumma, both sides of Ante Rebic despised a decent opportunity for Milan when they shot over the crossbar.
Milan’s breakthrough came in the 42nd minute, with a low cross from Castillejo from the right as home defender Pankov passed Borjan, almost in slow motion, for an own goal. Borjan put gloves on for the ball, but it slipped past him and crossed the line.
Rebic was replaced by Rafael Leao for the second half, but Milan was held back after conceding a penalty in the 51st minute, a blow from Diego Falcinelli to the right arm of Alessio Romagnoli. Kanga drove to the lower left corner from the spot.
Milan received a penalty shot eight minutes later, when Hernández fell during Pankov’s entry. Hernández placed his penalty in the left corner while Borjan lunged to the other side.
Rodic’s late red card, for a pair of bookable offenses, might have ended some teams, but the Red Star went ahead and Pavkov’s excellent header keeps them firmly tied.
What does that mean? Milan far from its prime
Ahead on the scoreboard and with a one-man lead, this should have been a game that Milan closed out. However, they are on a sticky streak and that meant that Pavkov’s late draw, which came in the third minute added, was not the big surprise it would have been if this match had been played a month ago.
They have ceded top spot in Serie A to Inter after recent losses to Atalanta and Spezia, and this was another unconvincing show, with Red Star leading the shot tally 21-12. That said, Milan left Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Franck Kessie on the bench for the entire time, indicating the quality they can bring to the second leg.
Hernández gives a perfect display
In addition to winning and converting his penalty, Hernández frequently irritated the Red Star defense. He was unlucky when he was denied a goal early on after the ball hit his hand before hitting bottom, but his energy down the left propelled Milan forward repeatedly. He had possession eight times, matching a team best, and made three useful punts.
Perhaps his main rival to be hailed as Milan’s best player was loaned defender Fikayo Tomori, who made more passes (50) than any other player in blue and also produced two useful blocks.
– OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 18, 2021
It was a night to forget for the poor Red Star center-back, who was upset by the fact that his goalkeeper couldn’t handle the ball he played from close range, instead of letting it roll towards the back of the net. And Pankov seemed aggrieved by the penalty decision that went against him as well, but his entry attempt at Hernandez was awkward at best.
He made a couple of punts and won possession five times for his team, but Pankov was certainly delighted that Pavkov transformed the narrative with his late intervention.
Milan have a great Serie A derby with Inter awaiting them on Sunday, while Red Star take on Spartak Subotica in the SuperLiga on Sunday.