AC Milan‘s 1-1 draw with Porto on Wednesday evening means that their Champions League hopes are not mathematically gone but they will still need a miracle to progress.
It was a fairly abject display from the Rossoneri in front of their own fans, as has been the case for much of the group stage so far. They fell behind after just five minutes when Ismael Bennacer had his pocket picked in his own half by Marco Grujic. Porto breezed into the box and Luis Diaz was able to slot in from close range.
The pressure from Sergio Conceicao’s side continued throughout the half and Milan were lucky to only be one goal down at the break.
There was little change in the game when the teams came out for the second half until Milan found an equaliser on the hour mark. A free-kick led to an Olivier Giroud shot that was well saved, but the ball came to Pierre Kalulu at a tight angle who fired the ball across the face of the goal where Chancel Mbemba managed to turn it into his own net.
Porto were rocked by the equaliser and Milan’s intensity rose rapidly. For a short period of time it seemed inevitable that Milan would find a way to win the game, as they’ve become so accustomed to doing in Serie A.
Both teams tailed off dramatically with around 15 minutes left to play and in the end, it was a draw that will frustrate Porto and leave Milan in the lurch.
A gift and a curse
If Milan had been beaten, they would have been mathematically out of the competition and would have been able to turn all of their attention to the Scudetto race in Serie A. Even their chances of Europa League qualification would have been, whilst not impossible, extremely slim.
It’s likely that Stefano Pioli would rather his team were now out of completion, instead of having an obligation to still play well and apply themselves in the final two games in the name of competition.
Milan are only three points behind Atletico Madrid in third place, and four points behind Porto. This means that if they really applied themselves, Europa League qualification is a real possibility given when they face Liverpool, the Premier League side will already be through as group winners.
That will add a sizeable amount of games to Milan’s calendar after Christmas assuming they have the quality to make it through at least the first two knockout rounds.
The title race in Italy is looking like it could go the distance, and squad depth and freshness is likely to prove decisive. Assuming that Napoli qualify from their Europa League group, it will be a major advantage to Milan if they only have to worry about the league and the Coppa Italia.
One thing does appear certain, though. Milan fans will have to wait at least another year to see their team back in the Champions League knockout stages.
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