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Champions League: AC Milan takes a slender lead over Napoli

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AC Milan 1-0 Napoli Champions League
AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer scored the winner against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals first leg. | PHOTO: Sky Sports |
  • AC Milan hosted Napoli at San Siro in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals first leg
  • The match came days after Milan thrashed Napoli 4-0 in the Serie A
  • A sole goal from Ismael Bennacer sealed a first-leg victory for Milan against 10-man Napoli side

AC Milan grabbed a narrow UEFA Champions League quarter-final edge against 10-man Napoli with a 1-0 win in the first leg on Wednesday.

Just over a week after being humiliated 4-0 by Milan in Serie A, Napoli dominated for long stretches at San Siro, only for Bennacer to deliver a sucker blow after 40 minutes.

The Algeria international’s first Champions League goal proved decisive, as Napoli, who had Frank Anguissa sent off in the second half, were unable to respond without injured ace scorer Victor Osimhen.

Luciano Spalletti will hope to have Osimhen, as well as his substitute Giovanni Simeone, healthy for the return leg as Napoli attempts to overcome a slender deficit at home next Tuesday.

Rade Krunic’s goal-line block denied Khvicha Kvaratskhelia with less than a minute remaining after his own inaccurate ball set up the Georgia winger.

READ: Napoli through to Champions League quarter-finals for the first time

Soon after, Anguissa and Piotr Zielinksi both forced smart Mike Maignan stops before Rafael Leao squandered a golden opportunity by dragging Milan’s first effort wide.

Napoli, on the other hand, ignored the warning, as Brahim Diaz swapped passes with Leao before flicking towards Bennacer, who hammered a left-footed strike past the helpless Alex Meret.

On the stroke of halftime, Milan should have increased their lead, but Simon Kjaer headed against the crossbar from Theo Hernandez’s corner.

After the break, Maignan turned an Eljif Elmas header onto the crossbar, but Napoli’s comeback hopes were dashed when Anguissa was sent off for two yellow cards in short succession.

Yet Milan still needed heroics from Maignan, who parried wide from a late Giovanni Di Lorenzo header.

AC Milan takes a Champions League advantage

Earlier this month, Milan gave Napoli its greatest league defeat since December 2007, as well as its largest margin of defeat in a home Serie A game since October 2000.

The Rossoneri were somewhat less rampant and far more hardworking here, scoring with their first effort on goal after Napoli had nine attempts – three of which tested Maignan – inside the first 23 minutes.

AC Milan 1-0 Napoli: Ismael Bennacer

AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer celebrates after scoring the winner against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals first leg at San Siro on Wednesday, March 12 2023. | PHOTO: Evening Standard |

Milan may not be able to rely on such fortune in the return leg, but they will travel to Naples with an impressive record, having lost only one of ten all-Italian matches in Europe (W5 D4).

Many consider Napoli to be the dominant force in Italy and a European favourite, but the Partenopei have struggled to contain Milan’s onslaught this season.

Spalletti’s team has conceded six goals against Milan this season, twice as much as they have against any other team (Cremonese, Ajax, and Liverpool – all three).

Before the return meeting at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, Napoli hosts Verona in Serie A on Saturday – three hours after Milan kicks off at Bologna.

Nathan Sialah is a journalist by profession with interest in politics, sports, cryptocurrency and human interests with 5 years experience in Radio and Digital Journalism. This has helped Sialah develop a responsible approach to any task he undertakes or any situation that he is presented with.

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