AC Milan slipped to a rather disappointing defeat in Athens to Olympiacos which means that their Europa League adventure is over before the end of December. Milan fail to advance in Group F, while Olympiacos will go on, along with group champions Real Betis. This loss will go down as an inglorious end to Milan’s time in the Europa League.
The match started slowly, as both teams tried to feel their way into the match. Milan seemed a little on the back foot, and Hakan Calhanoglu got a yellow card for a fairly reckless challenge early on.
Milan would start to turn up the heat as the first half progressed, with perhaps the best chance coming off of a corner kick that Cristian Zapata drilled directly on goal, but was saved by the Olympiacos keeper, José Sa.
Calhanoglu fluffed a shot in the box, and Patrick Cutrone and Gonzalo Higauin also wasted chances to put Milan ahead in the first half, but neither team looked especially dangerous as the first half drew to a close.
The second half, however, is where the fireworks would begin.
Olympiacos took a lead that was probably a bit against the run of play, as they took a quick corner kick that caught all of the Milan players asleep at the wheel. Olympiacos took a one goal lead, but it wasn’t a crisis yet, as Milan would still go through with a one-goal loss. It couldn’t get worse, could it?
And yet it did.
Soon after Milan conceded the first goal, the completely unlikely happened and Cristian Zapata scored an own goal in absolutely insane fashion. Zapata stuck his foot out to block a shot, only for the ball to go spinning over the head of Pepe Reina, who helplessly flapped at the ball as it went into the back of the net.
Milan fans everywhere were in a state of shock, as the unthinkable was happening, Milan was going out after a Cristian Zapata own goal.
And then, Milan pulled one back almost immediately as Cristian Zapata scored another goal, this time in the goal he’s supposed to put the ball into. Goal line technology was consulted, but even on the replays it was pretty obvious to see that the ball had crossed the line and should have counted.
Milan were still losing, but only by one goal and would still go through. So was the match finished? Of course not.
Perhaps the weakest penalty call in the history of football went against Ignazio Abate, and Olympiacos were awarded a spot kick, which they of course converted, giving the hosts another two goal advantage and a trip to the Europa League knockout rounds.
The rest of the match would feature some shameful time-wasting from the hosts, and some rather poor play from the Olympiacos ball boys, who were throwing extra balls onto the pitch during Milan attacks to stop the action.
However, in the end, Milan lost 3-1 on the night and crashed out of the Europa League in embarrassing fashion, no matter the circumstances. Dodgy penalties and wacky own-goals aside, this was a performance to forget. Gattuso will have his hands full getting this team back into the right mindset for the rest of the season, and a spot in the Champions League places has to be a priority for the club.