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AC Milan 3-0 Rennes: Pioli and co. start off their Europa League campaign with a bang

Milan secured a commanding first-leg advantage in the Europa League play-off, clinching a 3-0 victory over Rennes with Ruben Loftus-Cheek netting twice and Rafael Leao adding a spectacular goal.

Despite dropping down from the Champions League, Milan faced some setbacks with Davide Calabria, Fikayo Tomori, Pierre Kalulu, Tommaso Pobega, and Samuel Chukwueze unavailable. Rennes, on the other hand, missed Fabian Rieder and Enzo Le Fée.

Rafael Leao came close to breaking the deadlock in the sixth minute, driving down the left and unleashing a shot that was deflected onto the crossbar by Warmed Omari.

Yunus Musah squandered an opportunity following a Loftus-Cheek run and pull-back from the by-line, while Benjamin Bourigeaud narrowly missed the target with a snapshot from the edge of the box after a quick free-kick.

Milan surged ahead as Alessandro Florenzi delivered a cross from the right, finding Loftus-Cheek unmarked for a glancing header from 12 yards. It marked his fourth goal in five competitive matches.

Olivier Giroud and Leao missed opportunities in promising positions, while Desire Doue tested Mike Maignan on the counter-attack.

Milan extended their lead early in the second half when Steve Mandanda made an extraordinary save on Simon Kjaer’s header from Theo Hernandez’s corner, but was unable to stop Loftus-Cheek’s diving follow-up from close range.

Milan vs Rennes: Rossoneri make a statement win

Leao, who hadn’t scored since January 10, ended his drought in impressive fashion. His back-heel flick set up Theo Hernandez down the left, and Leao continued his run into the middle to redirect the pass back with the inside of his right boot.

It could have been 4-0 shortly after, as Christian Pulisic completed a give-and-go with Leao, forcing a save from Mandanda at the near post.

Malick Thiaw returned to action three months after a hamstring strain and immediately made an important defensive header to prevent Martin Terrier from breaking clear. Amine Gouiri then drilled a shot just wide.

Mike Maignan had to make a double save, first denying Gouiri and then Baptiste Santamaria, as Milan began to ease off the gas.

Milan also threatened, with Mandanda parrying Pulisic’s solo effort and Azor Matusiwa clearing Noah Okafor’s follow-up off the line. Theo Hernandez then blasted over from the edge of the box.

Ismael Bennacer’s free kick skimmed the crossbar after Reijnders was brought down just outside the box.

Milan now has a comfortable advantage going into the second leg of the fixture as they look to capitalise on their Europa League ambitions.

Ethan Dempsey
Ethan Dempsey
Ethan is a lifelong football fan. When he is not obsessing over the Premier League games, Ethan likes to read fantasy tomes, watch football documentaries and waste hours upon hours on video games.
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