AC Milan ensured that they finished the Europa League group stage on a positive note as they ran out 1-0 winners against Sparta Prague at the Generali Ceska Pojistovna Arena on Thursday evening.
A fantastic solo effort from Jens Petter Hauge midway through the first half was the only goal of the evening as the Rossoneri dominated proceedings from start to finish.
Milan strolled to all three points and top spot in Group H after Lille’s shock 3-2 defeat to Celtic in Scotland which allowed the Rossoneri to leapfrog the French side.
Milan will now turn their attentions back to domestic action as they look to make it eleven games unbeaten since the start of the new Serie A campaign when they host Parma on Sunday evening.
Stefano Pioli picked a starting XI that consisted of seven players under the age of 25 for the contest and the young guns didn’t disappoint their coach as they opened the scoring inside the opening 25 minutes. Hauge was the man on target as he produced an inch perfect strike to finish off his own wonderful winding run.
The Rossoneri were in total control of the game as Sandro Tonali provided a masterclass in midfield, but the hosts’ back line was holding up to the constant pressure, much to their credit. Samu Castillejo was next to get the opportunity to find the target when he found himself with a clear sight of goal, but he would be denied by Milan Heca in the Sparta net.
Despite their dominance Milan couldn’t double their advantage before the half time whistle, but they went into the dressing room as the happier of the two teams having limited their hosts to only two shots on target in the opening 45 minutes.
The break did little to quell the Rossoneri’s enthusiasm and they started the second stanza in much the same manner as they had finished the first, with Hauge almost doubling his goal tally for the evening inside the opening five minutes.
However, it would be the hosts that had the next opportunity to find the target as they showed a rare sign of life in a contest that had largely passed them by, Ladislav Krejci finding himself with a rare sight at goal, but he couldn’t beat Ciprian Tatarusanu.
With the early second half excitement behind them both teams slipped into a non eventful half hour period which offered very little in the way of entertainment, with a straight red card for Dominik Plechaty, for a heavy challenge on Rafael Leao, the only noteworthy moment.
Plechaty’s dismissal ended Sparta’s hopes of a comeback, although David Moberg Karlsson came close to equalising deep into stoppage time but was denied by a Tatarusanu save.