AC Milan beat Napoli in the Champions League quarter-finals

Marc OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC8 minute read

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Olivier Giroud sent AC Milan to the semi-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday by scoring the decisive goal in a 2-1 quarter-final win over Napoli.

After Milan won the first leg 1-0 at the San Siro last week, Giroud’s first-half goal in the second leg – after registering an earlier penalty – was decisive due to Victor Osimhen’s goal from Napoli in stoppage time for the Serie A leaders.

Ahead of Osimhen’s header three minutes into stoppage time, Napoli’s best chance came late in the second half when Milan keeper Mike Maignan saved Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s penalty. If that kick had gone in, Napoli might have been able to salvage the draw, but Milan held on to advance to the last four.

Quick reaction

1. AC Milan’s smart performances (and possible Milan Derby) puts pressure on Inter

Olivier Giroud’s first-half goal against Napoli and a defensive masterclass led by Fikayo Tomori and Simon Kjaer secured AC Milan’s first Champions League semi-final since 2006-07 and ratcheted up the pressure over city rivals Internazionale to confirm an all-Milan derby for a place in the final.

Inter Milan, beaten 2-0 by Benfica after last week’s first leg in Lisbon, are heavy favorites to finish the job at the San Siro on Wednesday and secure a first Milan derby semi-final since the 2002-03 season. , when AC Milan progressed. on away goals before beating Juventus in the final in Manchester.

Rafael Leão and Olivier Giroud celebrate after scoring what would be AC ​​Milan’s decisive goal against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final.Franco Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But AC Milan won Milan’s top spot in the semi-finals by upsetting the odds of beating runaway Serie A leaders Napoli over two legs. A narrow 1-0 first leg victory gave AC Milan something to remember at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona and they did so with a defensive display that evoked memories of the club’s great defenders of the past, notably Franco Baresi, Alessandro Nesta and Paolo. Maldini.

Tomori and Kjaer combined to cancel out Napoli’s Victor Osimhen, who looked out of form in his first game for nearly a month after picking up a groin injury before scoring deep in free time. save, while Milan keeper Mike Maignan was rock solid long before saving Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s 81st. penalty minute.

Milan simply had a game plan and they stuck to it, while a tired Napoli struggled to convert their many chances, although none were a clear scoring opportunity. But after Giroud had Napoli keeper Alex Meret save the penalty in the first half, he put Milan in control by scoring from Rafael Leão’s cross shortly before half-time.

Napoli lacked the energy to recover from the tie, so it’s Milan who qualify for the last four and what’s likely to be a box office Madonna derby against Inter.

2. Kvaratskhelia’s struggles sum up the fading magic in Naples

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia will be given a place on any ‘Team of the Season’ list following his incredible performances for Napoli during his debut campaign at the club – but he’s faded a lot in recent weeks and his loss of form coincided with that of his team.

Napoli will win Serie A this season – their first Shield since 1990 – but they never looked close to beating Milan in both legs of this quarter-final, despite being 22 points clear of the Rossoneri in the Italian league table.

Injuries and suspensions have derailed their Champions League hopes, with Victor Osimhen, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Kim Min-jae and Giovanni Simeone all missing one or both legs in this encounter. Napoli also lost Mario Rui and Matteo Politano to injury in the first half of that second leg, so manager Luciano Spalletti faced major personnel issues that would have weakened any team in the world.

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Georgian winger Kvaratskhelia was fit and selected for both matches in this encounter, but although he had plenty of the ball, there was neither the explosive pace nor the goal threat of the start of the season.

In 35 games in all competitions for Napoli, he registered 14 goals and 16 assists, world-class stats.

But having seen his 81st-minute penalty saved by Maignan, it was the sixth game in a row in which he failed to score or create a goal, so it’s clear Kvaratskhelia hit a wall.

He’s always been a star of the season, but the final weeks of the season seem like a step too far for him and Napoli.

3. Milan very close to taking over the Champions League in Istanbul

The 2005 Champions League final has since become known as the Miracle of Istanbul due to Liverpool’s incredible fight back from a 3-0 half-time deficit to beat AC Milan on penalties. goal at Ataturk Stadium. As this match is celebrated in Liverpool, there remains a scar on Milan’s psyche.

But the Rossoneri are now within reach for a return to Istanbul for this year’s final and the chance to claim redemption for what happened 18 years ago at the same stadium.

At the start of this season, few people would have tipped Milan to get to the final. Even the team’s most ardent supporters would have struggled to mount a convincing argument to suggest that Stefano Pioli’s side would travel to Istanbul.

But Milan now have the feel of a team that believes they can go all the way. They are a club steeped in Champions League history – only Real Madrid have won the competition more times – and they are now desperate to return to Istanbul to avenge 2005.

Former captain Paolo Maldini, who has five Champions Leagues with Milan, is now back at the San Siro as technical director and, after playing in the 2005 final against Liverpool, will be determined to return to Istanbul to bury his own memories of that night.

Don’t write off this Milan team. If they reach the final, the weight of the club’s history will work in their favour.

Best and Worst Performers

Best: Rafael Leao, AC Milan

All eyes were on Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s wing play but it was Milan striker Leão who made all the difference with his powerful runs down the left, including one that led to Giroud’s goal .

Best: Fikayo Tomori, AC Milan

The AC Milan and England defender was given the task of scoring Victor Osimhen and he kept the star Napoli striker quiet all night. Osimhen may have lacked fitness, but Tomori, alongside the impressive Simon Kjaer, gave him nothing.

Best: Alex Meret, Napoli

Napoli would have been dead and buried in this half-time tie had it not been for Giroud’s crucial goalkeeper saves, the first from the penalty spot and the second from the Milan striker’s powerful close-range shot.

Worst: Amir Rrahmani, Napoli

Allowed Rafael Leão to pass him easily in the build-up to Giroud’s first-half goal. We had to be stronger and more decisive.

Worst: Mario Rui, Napoli

A very bad evening for the left-back of Naples. Gave away an unnecessary penalty for a foul on Rafael Leão, then had to be taken out of the game a few minutes later due to injury.

Worst: Tanguy Ndombele, Napoli

A big request to step into the shoes of the suspended André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, and he struggled to make an impact. He didn’t look fit enough to worry Milan.

Highlights and Moments

Shortly before half-time, Milan doubled their combined lead. Olivier Giroud finished the goal, but let’s be clear: the architect of the goal was Rafael Leão, and only Rafael Leão with his incredible run to get around just about the entire Napoli defence.

Napoli kept pushing and it looked like they had found their lifeline in the 80th minute, when they were awarded a penalty due to a handling violation.

But that was not to be the case. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s kick was saved by Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan.

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

  • Milan are through to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since winning in 2006-07.

  • Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has missed two of his last three penalty attempts this season (scored the previous two).

  • Milan have the most counter-attacking goals in the UCL this season (3). Two of them were against Napoli in the quarter-finals.

  • Olivier Giroud scored his fifth Champions League goal this season, tied for his second-most in a single Champions League campaign (six in 2020-21, fifth in 2015-16).

  • Giroud is the first Milan player to score five Champions League goals in a single season since Zlatan Ibrahimovic also scored five in 2011-12.

  • Giroud had converted each of his last 17 shots on goal for club and country (excluding penalty shootouts). It is his first failed attempt since September 26, 2012 as a member of Arsenal.

  • Rafael Leão’s assist was his 20th goal contribution of the season (most by any Milan player in all competitions).


Napoli: The Blues focus on Serie A in Italy again, and they travel to Juventus on Sunday, April 23 at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Milano: The Rossoneri will host Lecce in Serie A on Sunday, April 23 at 12 p.m. ET.

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