The difference on the night was created by early goals from veteran forwards Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but there could have been much more. Regardless, Milan will need to put in some work when they rematch for the second leg the following week.
With only eight minutes on the clock, Milan were taken off guard as Dzeko used all of his cunning, knowledge, and talent to hold off Davide Calabria at Hakan Calhanoglu’s in-swinging corner and score with a left-footed volley.
Inter retaliated while the iron was still hot. This time, Federico Dimarco sent the ball into Mkhitaryan’s path after a counterattack down the left. The defense in front of him appeared to split, leaving the Armenian with only Mike Maignan to overcome for a double advantage.
When Calhanoglu, a Rossoneri player until 2021, cut over the ball and struck the inside of the post, it could have easily been three for the Nerazzurri. Inter continued to have an opportunity, as Mkhitaryan fired at Maignan’s feet before Barella missed the rebound.
Ismael Bennacer’s injury after 20 minutes dealt Milan another blow, but they appeared to be settling and gaining ground up until the electric Lautaro Martinez knocked Fikayo Tomori to the ground and appeared to be clipped by Simon Kjaer. Initially, a penalty was given, but after a VAR intervention, it was strangely overturned. When the halftime whistle blew, Inter appeared to pick up the pace once more, temporarily putting Milan on the ropes before they recovered.
Not long after the restart, Milan’s Brahim Diaz came close with a curling attempt. Later, Junior Messias squandered a wonderful opportunity to score after Sandro Tonali had put him through on goal. However, defensively, they were still questionable, allowing Alessandro Bastoni to easily advance from the back and feed Edin Dzeko, who was only stopped by a spectacular save from Maignan.
The closest the ‘home’ team had come was when Tonali struck the outside of the post following a fine Milan move. The tension inside San Siro continued to rise, but Inter also had chances, with Matteo Darmi being stopped by a superb block from substitute Malick Thiaw and Francesco Acerbi stinging Maignan’s palms from a distance.
In a collision with Acerbi, Rade Krunic straddled a precarious line and avoided being sent off.
The issue for Milan was that, even when they did get the ball into advantageous situations, there was a serious lack of quality when it mattered. As a result, they didn’t have a meaningful shot on target until stoppage time of the final quarter. When substitute Tommaso Pobega struck the ball directly at him, it was still an easy save for Andre Onana.
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