TUESDAY 20TH AUGUST – PLAYOFF – FIRST LEG
PSV 1-1 AC MILAN
Once again the all-new Phillip Cocu PSV team showed great maturity and went onto record a more than well-deserved draw against Serie A giants AC Milan in the first leg of their Champions League play-off.
The Eredivisie side dominated throughout the first-half, hitting the woodwork and forcing Milan ‘keeper Christian Abbiati into several vital stops. Yet against the run of play, the only goal of the half came courtesy of a Stephan El Shaarawy header. Slovenian striker Tim Matavž restored parity on the hour mark to leave the contest wide open ahead of the second-leg battle at the San Siro next Wednesday.
The Eindhoven side nearly went 1-0 up in the opening minutes when Adam Maher touched Matavž’s shot a fraction wide of the Milan goal. Abbiati was kept busy as the Milan keeper saved from Georginio Wijnaldum before Cristián Zapata deflected young left-back Jetro Willems’ strong on-target drive behind.
Unfortunately for Cocu’s men, Milan took the lead with their first attack. Ignazio Abate overpowered Memphis Depay and crossed for the unmarked El Shaarawy to head home leaving goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet helpless. Moments after, Zoet was called into action again as he tipped Mario Balotelli’s effort onto the bar.
However, it was still Abbiati who was the busier between the sticks, the 36-year-old making two great saves from Maher as Phillip Cocu’s side pressed for an equaliser. The lively PSV playmaker then crashed a shot against the crossbar from just inside the area after outmuscling the bigger frame of Zapata.
The midfielder trio of Stijn Schaars, Park Ji-Sung and Wijnaldum held the AC Milan midfield at bay and the latter getting forward at every opportunity and stringing some tremendous passing around. Linking up well with wingers Depay and Maher and later, Florian Jozefzoon.
Milan emerged for the second-half looking stronger and only a superb interception by Willems at the back post prevented El Shaarawy from doubling the score. The young lions of PSV responded by giving the Rossoneri a taste of their own medicine and scoring on the counter attack. Abbiati could not hold central defender Jeffrey Bruma’s 35-yard swerving shot and the previously quiet Matavž happily nodded in the rebound.
Milan almost forced a winner in the closing stages, but Zoet made a fine save from substitute Andrea Poli to keep the level. PSV will be the unhappier of the two sides, as the chances missed inside the first period could have seen them home and dry.
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