Napoli were defeated for a second time in as many matches by Milan, who will head to Naples with a UEFA Champions League narrow lead.
Ismael Bennacer scored the only goal of the game as Milan secured a slender UEFA Champions League quarter-final advantage over 10-man Napoli with a 1-0 win in Wednesday’s first leg.
Just over a week after being thrashed 4-0 by Milan in Serie A, Napoli were the dominant force for large parts at the San Siro – only for Bennacero to suffer a maddening strike after 40 minutes.
The Algeria international’s first Champions League goal proved to be the difference as Napoli, who had Frank Anguissa sent off in the second half, were unable to respond without injured star striker Victor Osimhen.
Luciano Spalletti will be hoping to have Osimhene and his replacement Giovanni Simeone back fit for the return leg as Napoli look to overcome their home deficit next Tuesday.
Rade Krunic’s goal-line block was blocked by Khvicha Kvaratskhelia as his own errant pass teed up the Georgia winger with less than a minute left.
Anguissa and Piotr Zielinksi forced Mike Maignan into smart saves soon after, before Rafael Leao wasted a great chance by dragging Milan’s first chance wide.
However, Napoli did not heed the warning as Brahim Diaz exchanged passes with Lea and volleyed towards Bennacer, who left-footed a shot past the helpless Alex Meret.
Milan should have doubled their lead at half-time but Simon Kjaer headed over the bar from Theo Hernandez’s corner.
Maignan tipped Eljif Elmas’s header onto the crossbar after the break, although Napoli’s comeback hopes were dashed after 16 minutes when Anguissa was sent off for two quick yellow cards.
Yet Milan still needed late heroics from Maignano, who parried Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s late effort wide of the goal.
AC Milan player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Mike Maignan – 8/10 – Called into regular action from early on and throughout. Preserved his side’s lead.
RB: Davide Calabria (c) – 7/10 – Had to marshal Kvaratskhelia but ultimatley kept his man at bay.
CB: Simon Kjaer – 7/10 – Threatened to break the crossbar with his powerful first half header. Put in a solid defensive performance too.
CB: Fikayo Tomori – 7/10 – Used the ball well and repelled the danger.
LB: Theo Hernandez – 7/10 – Lozano was quiet and Theo was quicker than Anguissa in the key moment.
CM: Rade Krunic – 7/10 – Blocked one on the line straightaway.
CM: Sandro Tonali – 7/10 – Grew into the game after a slow start.
RM: Ismael Bennacer – 7/10 – Took his goal extremely well and had to work hard off the ball.
AM: Brahim Diaz – 7/10 – His excellent solo run made Bennacer’s goal possible. Arguably the most proactive on the ball in Milan colours.
LM: Rafael Leao – 7/10 – The catalyst for Milan’s improvement midway through the first half.
ST: Olivier Giroud – 6/10 – Didn’t get a lot of direct service but made intelligent use of it when the ball did come his way.
Alexis Saelemaekers (67′ for Bennacer) – 5/10
Ante Rebic (80′ for Diaz) – 5/10
Stefano Pioli – 6/10 – Oversaw a functional performances, although his team perhaps rode its luck at times.
Napoli player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Alex Meret – 5/10 – Not that convincing and should have done more to stop Bennacer’s strike.
RB: Giovanni Di Lorenzo (c) – 7/10 – Got forward in support of the attack at every opportunity.
CB: Amir Rrahami – 7/10 – Defended admirably.
CB: Kim Min-jae- 6/10 – Not a particularly commanding performance given his reputation. Harshly booked and will miss the second leg through suspension.
LB: Mario Rui – 7/10 – Certainly put himself about. Could even have scored straightaway.
CM: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa – 6/10 – A real driving force in midfield during Napoli’s early dominance. Could have avoided being sent off, which killed Napoli’s momentum.
CM: Stanislav Lobotka – 6/10 – Close to flawless on the ball, but made a costly poor attempt at a tackle on Diaz right before he made Milan’s opener.
CM: Piotr Zielinski – 6/10 – Limited to shots from distance.
RW: Hirving Lozano – 5/10 – Fairly quiet compared to others in blue. Had a penalty appeal denied.
ST: Eljif Elmas – 5/10 – Not a patch on the absent Osimhen. Did hit the bar though.
LW: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia – 7/10 – Had a shot cleared off the line after mere seconds, part of a bright start that faded once Milan found a foothold. Revived his energy in the second half.
Giacomo Raspadori (69′ for Lozano) – 5/10
Mathias Olivera (82′ for Rui) – 7/10
Tanguy Ndombele (82′ for Kvaratskhelia) – 6/10
Matteo Politano (83′ for Zielinski) – 7/10
Luciano Spalletti – 7/10 – His team played well and started both halves by far the better team. Substitutions even made a positive difference.
Player of the match – Mike Maignan (AC Milan)
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