Milan booked their place in the group stage of the Champions League as a 3-0 win over PSV Eindhoven at the San Siro gave the Italian side a 4-1 aggregate victory. A goal from Kevin-Prince Boateng in each half sandwiched one by early in the second period by Mario Balotelli to eventually give the Rossoneri a comfortable win in this potentially tricky playoff tie.
The scoreline was perhaps harsh on Phillip Cocu’s young side, though, as they offered much in an engaging two legs. Their first meeting in Eindhoven last week portended much of what was to come in the return meeting, however. PSV again showed plenty of glimpses of their quality but lacked the nous of their opponents, while Milan, with Balotelli, in particular, had the crucial greater quality in the final third.
That difference in quality was shown early on at the San Siro. PSV had created the first chance of the contest, but Tim Matavz couldn’t get strong enough contact on his header from six yards out and Christian Abbiati was able to dive and turn the ball away. Just a minute later PSV were behind.
Boateng was found by Riccardo Montolivo 25 yards from goal and, taking full advantage of the space afforded him, the Ghanaian drove a fierce low shot past the despairing dive of Jeroen Zoet and into the corner.
As in the first leg, PSV had plenty of possession and showed enough to provide encouragement for a bright future, but were being let down by their inability to get the job done in both penalty areas. Adam Maher was arguably the standout player for PSV in the first leg, but like last week just couldn’t find the net. A rasping arced shot from 30 yards was just palmed wide by Milan’s goalkeeper.
But that piece of skill was quickly followed by another PSV defensive lapse as a header back to Zoet so nearly allowed Stephan El Shaarawy in. Indeed, Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri may well have been frustrated that his side went in just a goal to the good.
First Montolivo should have done better with an effort from 16 yards that went wide of the near post. El Shaarawy then went as close as is possible too scoring as he smashed Balotelli’s pull back onto the underside of the crossbar and the officials correctly adjudged that the ball had bounced just in front of the line.
Still, PSV emerged from the half-time interval with real purpose to try and get a goal that would force extra time. Georginio Wijnaldum may well have flashbacks for some time about the chance he had to level the scores just a minute after the break. As a cross fell to him at the back post, the PSV midfielder had time to chest the ball down, but struck his shot too close to Abbiati, who still deserves much credit for getting a block on it.
Once again, PSV would be taught an immediate lesson for their profligacy. Another poor piece of defending had almost led to El Shaarawy finding the net. Moments later PSV would not be so fortunate. Philippe Mexes headed a corner from the right to the edge of the six-yard box where Balotelli was poised and alert to stretch out a leg to divert the ball into the roof of the net.
While 40 minutes remained, the second goal had effectively killed off the tie as a contest. Matavz again failed to provide a clinical finish when he shot over, but the game was now up for the visitors. Still, a third goal for Milan with 13 minutes remaining perhaps gave an unrealistic impression of the balance of play over the tie.
Not that Milan were worried about that as they cheered Boateng’s scuffed effort that bobbled past the dive of Zoet and into the far corner of the net.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.