AC Milan kept their Europa League hopes alive on Thursday with a hard fought victory against Norwegian league leaders FK Bodo/Glimt. In so doing, Milan’n extended their unbeaten run to 16 games with Stefano Pioli equaling the legendary Carlo Ancelotti’s record from 2008.
The Rossoneri fielded a lineup similar to the one fielded against Bologna on Monday, with the only differences being Alexis Saelemaekers in for the suspended Ante Rebic and youngster Lorenzo Colombo replacing Zlatan Ibrahimovic who had been recently ‘challenged’ by COVID 19.
I tested negative to Covid yesterday and positive today. No symptoms what so ever. Covid had the courage to challenge me. Bad idea— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) September 24, 2020
Milan started was tepid out the gate with the first real chance coming from the visitors in the 7th minute.
Not long after, following a counter attack, Kasper Junker opened the scoring in the 15th minute after slotting home a great cross by Norwegian wonderkid Jens Petter Hauge, who left Franck Kessie in his dust on the left flank after a beautiful step over.
The hosts spared no time and responded in resounding fashion as Milan’s protagonist on the evening, Hakan Calhanoglu, scored a left footed belter just one minute later, after receiving the assist from teammate Ismael Bennacer.
The turk continued his impressive play after his audacious back heel of Theo Hernandez’s cross, rolled right into the path of the aforementioned Colombo, who made no mistake, ‘punching’ the ball into the back of the net, as Milan took the lead in the 32nd minute.
24th September 2020 |— III (@Semprista) September 24, 2020
Lorenzo Colombo (18) scores his first official goal for AC Milan! pic.twitter.com/9Z7gKO2hZH
The second half began contrastingly compared to the first half for the host as they pressed to put the game out of reach.
They were rewarded for their persistence, as their improved set-piece coordination would bear fruit in the 50th minute.
Samu Castillejo’s perfectly weighted cross from a corner kick was met ever so gently with Hakan who guided the ball into the bottom of the net. This took Hakan’s contribution on the night to 2 goals and 1 assist.
Milan’s night was far from over however as in the 55th minute, Hauge would again show his immense talent, unleashing a powerful shot from outside the box that Gianluigi Donnarumma has no chance of saving.
This cut the lead to 3-2. The Norwegian outfit would press hard for the equalizer in the latter 30 minutes of the match but it ultimately ended in a narrow 3-2 victory for the Rossoneri.
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Pioli acknowledged that Milan struggled at times throughout the game as he praised the pace of the attackers. He also commented on the importance of Calhanoglu to the team stating “He is an exceptional guy, he has the qualities to become a point of reference”.
Praise was also handed out to Milan’s 18 year old striker, who had to deputize for the Zlatan, calling Colombo “a great guy with his head on his shoulders with the will to work”.
This victory means the Rossoneri now advance to the playoff round, where they will face Portugese club, Rio Ave, in hopes of making it through to the group stage on Thursday October 1st, 2020. Before that however, Milan will face newly promoted Serie A outfit Crotone on Sunday as they look to keep their unbeaten streak alive and well.