The last time that AC Milan faced a Portuguese side in the UEFA Cup/Europa League was in November 2008. While Mario Silva and his Rio Ave team are awaiting the Rossoneri’s visit to the Estadio dos Arcos this time around, back then, Jorge Jesus’s Sporting Braga travelled to San Siro to face AC Milan in a one-off match as part of the competition’s group stage.
Today, Jorge Jesus is very much a proven coach: he was highly successful at Flamengo, and Benfica invested a lot to bring him back to Portugal. However, twelve years ago, he was seen as more of an up-and-coming talent in the coaching world. Against his Sporting Braga side, AC Milan were expected to run out comfortable winners, but this isn’t exactly how things played out on the pitch.
As the game entered the 93rd minute, neither goal had been breached and it looked like AC Milan would have to settle for a 0-0 draw in front of just over 10,000 spectators at San Siro. But then Ronaldinho took centre stage, unleashing an absolute rocket into the top corner of Eduardo’s goal to win it for the Diavolo. Sporting Braga had proven to be a well-drilled side and a tough nut to crack.
That season, they went on to finish fifth in the league, while Jorge Jesus then became the Benfica coach for the first time in the summer of 2009. It was from that point that he ascended to the coaching elite. Rio Ave v AC Milan will pit Mario Silva and Stefano Pioli against each other. The former has already coached both Porto sides, namely Porto and Boavista, but now he’s very much focused on trying to overcome the Rossoneri.
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