REPORT | Milan reach Europa League knockout stages despite valiant Rennes second leg win

Drama ensued as Serie A side Milan averted a spirited fight from Rennes to progress to the Round of 16 of the Europa League. 

Rennes started the first half on the front foot as their manager Julien Stephan went with an ultra-attacking line-up. They had a mountain to climb with three goals down on aggregate and their inspired beginning bore fruit in the 11th minute when Benjamin Bourigeard drilled in a low, right-footed effort into the net. 

With the early lead, the home crowd expected to see their team reduce the deficit but after a bit of sparring between the two sides, Luka Jovic restored Milan’s three-goal lead by heading the ball home from a sumptuous cross by Theo Hernandez from just outside the box. The hosts kept on applying pressure to not lose the early momentum but the Rossoneri started exploiting the spaces left behind by their opponents’ offensive formation.

Stefano Pioli’s men had a nervy moment in the second half when Rennes got a penalty awarded as Simon Kjaer tripped Adrien Truffert inside the box. Benjamin Bourigeaud slotted in a precisive penalty strike into the bottom-right corner past Mike Maignan. The joy of reducing the deficit was shortlived as a defensive blunder from the home team let in Rafael Leao to score from short range unchallenged a few minutes later. 

Les Rogues took the lead for the third time when their star man Bourigeaud registered his hat trick by netting his second penalty during the night. The spot kick was awarded after a brief on-field VAR check which clearly showed a handball committed by Luka Jovic inside the box. Milan’s lead on aggregate still stood by two goals but attacking changes from manager Julien Stephan exhibited their positive and resilient intentions. 

Despite mounting an ambitious amount of pressure in the final stages of the match, Rennes could not find a way through a rock-solid Rossoneri defence. It was an inspired fightback from the Ligue 1 side but they fell short of topping Milan over the two legs. The visitors go through to the next round of the Europa League as the competition begins to take shape. 


Trambak Bhattacherjee | GIFN



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