AC Milan 2-0 CSU Craiova: Montella's Men Cruise to Comfortable Victory in Europa League Qualifier
AC Milan assured their place in the Europa League play-off on Thursday evening, winning their second-leg tie against Romania side top-tier side CSU Craiova 2-0 (3-0 agg).
While new signing Leonardo Bonucci was unable to play due to the lack of time to register him in the squad, the 65,000 fans who attended were treated to a solid performance from their revamped side.
The hosts took an early lead, with Giacomo Bonaventura pouncing on a mix-up between Craiova's keeper Nicolae Calancea and the side's defenders following a corner. 19-year-old Patrick Cutrone's close-range finish effectively put the tie beyond Craiova's reach early in the second half, and Vincenzo Montella's men proceeded to slip into cruise control, winning comfortably.
Getting his side off to a flying start, Giacomo Bonaventura capitalised from a Craiova defensive miscommunication at a corner in the ninth minute, and scuffed home from the middle of the penalty box. Milan proceeded to pepper the Craiova goal with efforts: Ricardo Rodriguez, Suso and M'Baye Niang all testing the Moldovan goalkeeper in the opening quarter of the match.
The Romanian's almost managed a shock equaliser, but wonderkid keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made a crucial save, with his face, in a one-on-one showdown with Craiova forward Alexandru Mitriță. New signing Andrea Conti should have put the tie to bed just before half-time, but somehow missed an open goal after rebounding Suso's powerful effort.
AC started the second half with a real intent to finish off their opponents, and in the 52nd minute 19-year-old striker Patrick Curtone scored his side's second goal, in only his second appearance in a red-and-black shirt. Rodriguez whipped in a vicious free-kick from 25 yards into the box, where Cutrone flicked the ball passed the helpless keeper with an incisive finish.
With the game all but over, Portuguese striker André Silva was brought on to make his debut, alongside midfield maestro Hakan Çalhanoğlu. Milan continued to enjoy much of the possession, with 19-year-old prodigy Manuel Locatelli bossing the play. Niang almost made it 3-0, but Calancea made a superb reflex save to deny the Frenchman from close-range.
Manager Vincenzo Montella's host of new signings appeared to show early signs of gelling well, with Franck Kessié in particular immediately looking comfortable in the heart of midfield. However, despite Cutrone's goal, the side did seem to lack a real attacking threat upfront, and will certainly look to bring in a new striker before the 2017/18 Serie A campaign begins.
Milan will have a great weight of expectation on their shoulders this season, after spending more than €200m in the summer transfer window thus far.
This season's Serie A looks set to be one of the most competitive in years, with Juventus beginning to show signs that their dominance is weakening. AC will be in the Europa League play-off draw, taking place at 12pm tomorrow.