Mario Balotelli converted a last-gasp penalty to give Milan a point with Ajax after a chaotic finale in Amsterdam.
Balotelli was available, as his three-match ban for insulting the referee applies only to Serie A, while Riccardo Montolivo returned from injury. Still sidelined were Stephan El Shaarawy, Kaka, Daniele Bonera, Riccardo Saponara, Matias Silvestre, Giampaolo Pazzini, Mattia De Sciglio and Daniele Bonera. Ajax were without ex-Rossoneri striker Bojan Krkic due to a hamstring injury and wanted a result after their 4-0 defeat to Barcelona.
There was a last-minute change when Valter Birsa pulled out in the warm-up, so Andrea Poli came in and pushed Riccardo Montolivo to a more advanced role.
Ajax had a strong start as Lerin Duarte skipped past Cristian Zapata and set up Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, but Christian Abbiati got down to parry the left-foot shot.
The hosts pegged Milan back in the opening stages by dominating possession and Viktor Fischer’s long-range snapshot skimmed the woodwork, while Montolivo blocked a Siem De Jong effort from the edge of the box.
A poor Zapata pass was intercepted by Fischer, but Sigthorsson just failed to get on the end of the assist.
Abbiati was again called into action, forced into a tough save on Duarte’s powerful free kick. From the resulting corner, it fell to Niklas Moisander for a half-volley over the bar.
Balotelli was fortunate not to be booked just before the break for a thoroughly unconvincing dive when he probably should’ve stayed on his feet to have a shot on target. Milan had an incredible 30 per cent possession in the first half.
The Rossoneri finally had their first shot on goal after the restart with Montolivo, his left-foot strike forcing a save out of Jasper Cillessen. Moments later Balotelli’s free kick went off the wall for a corner, as the half-time team talk evidently did its job.
Abbiati was fortunate Sigthorsson turned the header straight at him after good work from Fischer, but Balotelli was in the thick of the action on 63 minutes. SuperMario was booked for a foul, then moments later forced the goalkeeper to fingertip his fantastic curling strike on to the crossbar. He also set up Poli for an effort charged down in the box.
Milan protested on 68 minutes, as they had penalty appeals for a suspected Stefano Denswil handling offence on Robinho’s cross. Balotelli went down again in the area, but there was only a small tug from substitute Van Der Hoorn.
The lack of options available to Massimiliano Allegri was evident by the fact he only made his first substitution after 80 minutes, introducing Alessandro Matri for Robinho, then Urby Emanuelson came on against his former club.
Cillessen was again called into action with a desperate reaction save to palm away a fierce Balotelli strike that was heading under the bar from a tight angle.
Despite the pressure, it was Ajax who thought they had scored in the final minutes. Abbiati didn’t deal with a shot at all well, but play had been halted for a handling offence.
However, moments later the Dutch side did break through with a Denswil header from a corner, the classic situation Milan have difficulty defending against.
The Rossoneri sprinted straight down the other end and Ignazio Abate was denied by a crucial goalline clearance from Kevin Constant’s pull-back.
Deep into stoppages the referee pointed to the spot for a very dubious penalty, as Van Der Hoorn and Balotelli appeared to be tussling with each other rather than one dragging down the other. Balotelli failed to convert the first penalty of his senior career last week against Napoli, but he kept his cool to score low at the near bottom corner.
Ajax 1-1 Milan
Scorers: Denswil 90 (A), Balotelli pen 94 (M)
Ajax: Cillessen; Van Rhijn, Moisander (Van Der Hoorn 78), Denswil, Blind; S De Jong, C Poulsen, Duarte (Schone 59); De Sa (Andersen 64), Sigthorsson, Fischer
Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Mexes, Zapata, Constant; Poli (Emanuelson 84), De Jong, Muntari; Montolivo; Robinho (Matri 80), Balotelli
Ref: Eriksson (SWE)
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