All that was missing was a big win in Europe to thrust Pioli's AC Milan further into the limelight. Tonight that win finally came in the Champions League, at the home of Atlético Madrid. And it was well deserved. The Rossoneri put on a show at the Wanda Metropolitano this evening, dynamic and attacking, displaying both strength and skill, going head to head with an experienced and very tough opponent for the whole 90 minutes. Avenging, in just one game, the first leg defeat as well as a series of recent disappointing displays in Europe. Speaking of heads, Messias' header in the dying minutes secured the 1-0 victory over the Spaniards and keeps the Diavolo's hopes alive (thanks also to Liverpool's 2-0 win against Porto): qualification for the Round of 16 is still on the cards and now it will all come down to the final matchday of the group stages.
The Group B table has never hung in the balance more than it does after this evening: thanks to their victory, AC Milan now sit alongside Atlético in third place with a total of four points, one behind Porto. Now it is all riding on AC Milan v Liverpool, and if the past is anything to go off, it is sure to feel like a final. A win alone will not be enough, for the Rossoneri to qualify Porto must also not win. Difficult, but not completely out of reach. A night of celebration and progress that lets us dream of what could be, a night signed off by Messias: beautiful, magical, a truly unique way to score your first for the Rossoneri. The team will return from Madrid to get back to preparations for Serie A: on Sunday 28 November, at 15:00 CET, we face Sassuolo at San Siro.
CHECK OUT THE GALLERY OF ATLÉTICO MADRID v AC MILAN
Pioli entrusted his captain Romagnoli, along with Krunić and Giroud also starting. AC Milan started strong, with more possession and trying harder to play in a cagey affair. Díaz was our brightest spark in the first half: in the sixth minute, after a fleet-footed exchange with Saelemaekers, his right-footed shot in traffic went wide. Atlético created very little, with De Paul's shot from distance going over in the 19th minute being their only real chance. At the half-hour mark, Hernández was threatening when he struck a powerful but inaccurate volley from a tight position in the box. There was plenty of space on the pitch for an open game, but such attacks were what ended up costing both sides, allowing their opponent chances of their own, though any real chances were few and far between until after the break.
In the 47th minute, Oblak saved Saelemaekers' effort, then on 48 minutes Tătărușanu denied Lemar, and in the 50th minute, Carrasco's lacklustre strike missed the target. The Rossoneri's pressure and dominance put the Spaniards on the ropes, with Giroud's 56th-minute shot going over the crossbar and Kjær's header from a free-kick in the 62nd going painfully close and making Atlético even more nervous. There was even more disappointment in the 72nd minute, after a flurry of substitutions when Messias put in a ball looking for Bakayoko: his left-footed effort, almost on target, was blocked by Savić. But the game was far from over: in the 75th minute Tătărușanu denied De Paul; in the 77th minute Florenzi missed from distance, and in the 80th minute Bakayoko's effort came close to hitting the target. The only thing missing was the goal, which finally came in the dying minutes. 87 minutes into the match, Messias masterfully opened and closed the scoring in style with a header from Kessie's pinpoint cross. There was also a brief scare in stoppage time when Cunha missed a golden opportunity to equalize, but then the final whistle blew.
ATLÉTICO MADRID 0-1 AC MILAN
ATLÉTICO MADRID (3-5-2): Oblak; Savić, Giménez, Hermoso (64' Lodi); Llorente, Lemar (64' Correa), Koke, De Paul (77' Vrsaljko), Carrasco; Suárez (77' Cunha), Griezmann (81' Kondogbia). Subs: Lecomte; González; Herrera. Coach: Simeone.
AC MILAN (4-2-3-1): Tătărușanu; Kalulu (65' Florenzi), Kjær, Romagnoli, Hernández; Tonali (65' Bakayoko), Kessie; Saelemaekers, Díaz (78' Bennacer), Krunić (65' Messias); Giroud (66' Ibrahimović). Subs: Desplanches, Mirante; Ballo-Touré, Gabbia; Leão, Maldini. Coach: Pioli.
Referee: Slavko Vinčić (SVN).
Goals: 87' Messias (M).
Booked: 27' Giroud (M), 60' Savić (AM), 67' Bakayoko (M), 93' Hernández (M).
Match KIT, clothing, accessories, gift ideas and much more: visit AC Milan online Store!