An extraordinary Çalhanoğlu performance and Colombo’s first competitive goal for the Club: this was enough for AC Milan to beat Bodø/Glimt and progress to the play-off round of Europa League qualifying, with the Rossoneri now set to face Portuguese side Rio Ave on 1 October. Tonight’s match at San Siro finished in a 3-2 victory for the Diavolo, who initially fell behind before turning matters around thanks to Hakan’s brace and a goal from the young Lorenzo on his full debut. The Norwegians reduced the arrears through Hauge and, especially in the closing stages, caused a tired AC Milan side problems. Indeed, Saltnas had two chances to bring them back on level terms but failed to do so. Despite suffering from numerous absences and fatigue, Coach Pioli’s side showed plenty of heart and determination, while they also had the irrepressible Çalhanoğlu to thank. Next up for the Rossoneri is an away trip to Crotone at 18:00 CEST on Sunday. After that, the team will travel to Portugal to face Rio Ave, who managed to overcome Beşiktaş on penalties.
It was a difficult start for the Rossoneri: the visitors took the lead in the 15th minute through Junker, who confidently dispatched Hauge’s low ball into the box. AC Milan’s response was instant, with Çalhanoğlu unleashing a left-footed scorcher from the edge of the box to level matters. In the 22nd minute, AC Milan’s pressing saw Bodø/Glimt give the ball away at the back, with Bennacer being denied by the outrushing Haikin. In the 26th minute, Colombo produced a lovely turn and shot, only to see the goalkeeper tip the ball over the bar. From the resulting corner, Çalhanoğlu stung Haikin’s gloves with his right foot. Colombo then scored his first AC Milan goal with 32 minutes on the clock, adding the finishing touch at the back stick after Çalhanoğlu had expertly flicked on Theo’s low cross from the left. Now deservedly ahead, the Rossoneri continued to come forward, with a shot from Castillejo being deflected out for a corner in the 38th minute.
AC Milan immediately went on the hunt for a third goal after the restart, and it only took five minutes for it to arrive. Hakan once again took centre stage, stroking home a wonderful volley from Castillejo’s corner. In the 55th minute, however, the Norwegians reduced the arrears through Hauge, who found the net with an unstoppable long-range strike. The visitors gained confidence from the goal and came close to an equaliser after 59 minutes, when Zinckernagel fired narrowly over the bar. AC Milan had a double chance with 62 minutes on the clock: first, Gabbia’s header was cleared off the line; then, Hernández was thwarted by Haikin. In the 63rd minute, Daniel Maldini had a goal ruled out for offside. After a drop in tempo, the Rossoneri almost restored their two-goal lead after 79 minutes as Saelermaekers’ effort was somehow hacked away by Moe with the goalkeeper beaten. With just a one-goal advantage, the Diavolo were made to sweat in the last ten minutes. Calabria did excellently to get a foot to Hauge’s attempt, while Donnarumma then produced an excellent near-post stop to keep out Saltnes’s header. Two minutes into added time, Saltnes squandered a gilt-edged chance from inside the box, much to the Rossoneri’s relief. AC Milan are now just one step away from the Europa League group stage.
AC MILAN 3-2 BODØ/GLIMT
AC Milan (4-2-3-1): Donnarunmma G.; Calabria, Kjær, Gabbia, Hernández; Bennacer, Kessie; Castillejo (65' Krunić), Çalhanoğlu, Saelemaekers; Colombo (57' Maldini). Subs.: Tătărușanu; Kalulu, Laxalt; Díaz, Tonali. Coach: Pioli.
Bodø/Glimt (4-3-3): Haikin; Björkan, Moe, Lode, Sampsted (83' Solbakken); Saltnes, Berg, Fet (65' Konradsen); Hauge, Junker, Zinckernagel. Subs.: Smits, Höibraten, Foosnaes, Hagen, Boniface. Coach: Knutsen.
Referee: Fran Jović (Croazia).
Goals: 15' Junker (B), 16' Çalhanoğlu (M), 32' Colombo (M), 50' Çalhanoğlu (M), 55' Hague (B).
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