Depleted Milan Hold Juve To Close In On Champions League

Turin, (APP – UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 28th Apr, 2024) AC Milan took another step towards Champions League qualification after Saturday’s goalless draw at Serie A rivals Juventus.

Stefano Pioli is close to guaranteeing Milan, in second, a spot in Europe‘s top club competition in what will almost certainly be his final season at the club.

Pioli is reportedly set to be replaced by Julen Lopetegui after a campaign which has ended in disaster, with a Europa League exit at the hands of Roma and a humiliating city derby defeat which gave the league title to Inter Milan.

However, with a top-five finish guaranteeing Champions League football Milan are 16 points ahead of sixth-placed Atalanta, who have six games left to play starting with Sunday‘s home clash with struggling Empoli.

“I’m pleased with what the players showed today… they kept fighting to the end,” said Pioli to DAZN after his team failed to register a single shot on target.

“I’m happy with the spirit. They carried out our plan with a great attitude in a difficult period in the season for us.”

A place in the Champions League basically assured before kick-off, Milan had little to play for and a host of absences following a stormy end to their painful loss in Monday’s derby with Inter.

Pioli had a threadbare defence with Theo Hernandez, Davide Calabria — both sent off late on in the derby — and Fikayo Tomori all suspended, while Simon Kjaer and Pierre Kalulu were also unavailable.

To make matters worse Milan then lost France goalkeeper Mike Maignan to a hamstring problem suffered during the pre-match warm-up.

“A lot of the noise has been caused by Inter winning the league. If it had been Juve or Napoli there wouldn’t have been so much chaos,” said replacement goalkeeper Marco Sportiello, who ended up being crucial to Milan getting a point.

“The Europa League was the biggest disappointment, but we’ve had a good league season.

We’ve had so many injuries… but we go again and now we’re going to try and secure second place.”

– Under-fire Allegri –

Juve meanwhile are in dismal form, winning two league matches since the end of January, and even with Milan severely depleted Massimiliano Allegri’s team struggled to create clear chances.

The best opportunities of the game nonetheless came for the hosts.

Five minutes after the break Sportiello kept out Filip Kostic’s snap shot and then pounced to stop Danilo scoring on the rebound.

And as Juve pushed in the final minutes Adrien Rabiot looked on in horror as he was denied a certain goal by Malick Thiaw’s goalline block after another important Sportiello stop.

However the draw means Bologna can move level on 65 points with third-placed Juve with a home win over Udinese which would put more pressure on under-fire Allegri.

“Right now all I’m thinking about is how we end the season,” said Allegri of his future at Juve.

“In my experience nothing is guaranteed. All I can say is that I’m happy with the effort that the boys have put in.

“We had two objectives at the start of the season (a trophy and Champions League qualification) and we’re close to both of them.”

Earlier Matteo Pessina’s 96th minute penalty earned mid-table Monza a 1-1 draw at Lecce, who were denied a potentially huge win for their survival bid in a incident-packed finale.

A packed Stadio Via del Mare erupted when Nikola Krstovic smashed home what delirious fans thought was the winner in the second minute of stoppage time.

But the celebrations were still bubbling in the stands when Lorenzo Venuti was penalised for handball and Pessina casually slotted home the leveller.

Lecce should still be safe from the drop as they sit eight points above the relegation zone in 13th position.


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