AC Milan played their third Europa League match tonight, and were looking for a rebound match after a bad loss to Inter Milan over the weekend. However, instead of picking up a morale-boosting win, Milan lost their second straight match and must again regroup and get ready for Sunday’s match against Sampdoria. This loss will certainly increase the pressure on Gennaro Gattuso, despite the public backing of Leonardo and Paolo Maldini.
Milan looked extremely poor in the first half, and probably should have been down by at least three or four goals. Real Betis seemed to find it incredibly easy to get down the right hand side of Milan’s defense, and the play by the central defenders left much to be desired.
Milan had trouble in possession in the first half, seemingly unable to put pressure on Betis in the final third, leading to a number of swift counter-attacks and attacking movement from the Spanish side. Milan had no shots on goal in the first half for the second straight game, and this is even with Gonzalo Higuain in the lineup.
Betis’ first goal came from an attacking move down the right side of Milan’s defense. Calabria forced the pass inside and after the Betis player made Zapata look silly, Alessio Romagnoli and Pepe Reina seemed to lack communication and neither of them really went for the low cross and Sanabria slotted home the first goal for Betis.
Real Betis should have had a second goal after they were flagged for offsides, as once again, the attack came down the right hand side and after Reina saved a shot from the cross, the goal from the rebound was disallowed as the striker on the first shot was ruled to be offside, which was a very, very tight decision and appeared from the replays to be incorrect.
Milan dodged another bullet as Reina came about 15 yards out of his box, and while he got to the ball first, he very nearly chested the ball off of his arms, but nothing was given and Milan were once again able to avoid another goal.
Betis went close again, as the Betis striker was open at the far post as, once again, a cross came into the box from Milan’s right side. The shot, however, went flying over the bar when it looked as if any touch would have sent the ball into the back of the net.
Gattuso gambled in the second half, bringing on Patrick Cutrone and Suso for Tiemoue Bakayoko and Fabio Borini. Neither players had been particularly impressive in the first half, and the move to bring in a couple more attacking players was made in order to try and get Milan back into the match and get some more offense in the match for Milan.
Betis would add to their lead in the second half after Giovani Lo Celso scored an absolute golazo in the 55th minute, hammering home a shot from outside the box that kissed off of the post, leaving Reina no chance.
The defense could have been excused a bit for not closing Lo Celso down sooner, as it appeared that they were worried about the Betis attacker hanging out right by the edge of the box, but give some credit to Lo Celso for a remarkable goal.
Castillejo had a shot that came off the post in the 73rd minute as Milan pressed further and further forward looking to try and draw level. Lucas Biglia was taken off in the 80th minute, with Andrea Bertolacci coming on.
Cutrone gave Milan a lifeline in the 82nd minute, scoring a goal on a really nice low cross from Castillejo. Milan had been playing in a version of a 4-4-2 that often resembled a 4-2-4 with Suso and Castillejo going out wide, but the formation seemed to shift again, putting Suso in a central attacker role. Suso picked out the pass for Castillejo, and the Spaniard made no mistake, finding Cutrone who did well to fight off his marker to score the goal.
Milan were denied what appeared to be a pretty obvious penalty in the 90th minute, as Castillejo was clattered into by a Betis defender who didn’t seem to get any of the ball, just as Castillejo was going to shoot. The penalty appeals, however, were waved off by the referee and play continued.
A visibly frustrated Castillejo received a straight red card after sliding into a tackle on a Betis player late, but it was in the fourth of five minutes of stoppage time, meaning that it really had no actual effect on the match, other than Castillejo will be forced to miss at least the next Europa League match against Betis in Spain.
Milan ended up losing their first Europa League match this season 2-1 as Betis go top of the group, while Milan sit in second place with six points, two points ahead of third place Olympiacos while Dudelange have yet to earn a point in their first three games in Group F. Milan still have a very good chance of advancing out of the group, but made it just a little bit harder on themselves by not at least getting a draw tonight.