Stephan El Shaarawy broke his goal drought and both sides rattled the crossbar, but Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by PSV Eindhoven. The second leg at San Siro is on August 28.
Mario Balotelli and Park Ji-Sung shook off injuries to start the first leg of this Champions League play-off, but Robinho, Mattia De Sciglio, Jherson Vergara, Luca Antonini, Gabriel, Zakaria Bakkali and Luciano Narsingh were ruled out. The last time these sides met, the Rossoneri won the 2005 quarter-final on away goals despite current PSV Coach Phillip Cocu bagging a brace.
Eindhoven’s season had already begun, winning all five of their competitive matches, but it was the first ‘real’ game for Milan. This also represented Balotelli’s Champions League debut in a Rossoneri jersey, as he was cup-tied last season from his time at Manchester City.
There was a huge scare in the opening minute, as Tim Matavz’s shot took a huge deflection off Adam Maher to leave Christian Abbiati stranded and skimmed the upright.
Balotelli put Jeroen Zoet under pressure and forced a collision, but the goalkeeper scrambled back up to parry at El Shaarawy’s feet. PSV were immediately sharper and Park’s backheel set up Georginio Wijnaldum’s low strike that Abbiati did well to beat away.
However, it was Milan who took the lead. Ignazio Abate ran on to a Kevin-Prince Boateng through ball and rode the Jetro Willems tackle to curl a great cross on to the head of El Shaarawy. It was the Little Pharaoh’s first competitive goal since February 24.
Moments later Balotelli’s screamer from distance was fingertipped on to the crossbar by Zoet’s flying save. Abbiati also needed an acrobatic clearance on Maher’s long-range strike and had his palms stung by the midfielder’s fierce volley at the near post.
PSV also rattled the crossbar with Maher after an Abate howler, but the defender got back in time for a crucial goalline clearance on the rebound.
After the restart El Shaarawy ran on to a Balotelli chipped pass, but under pressure from Zoet his finish flashed across an open goal. Super Mario created another great chance for his teammate, but Willem crucially intercepted to stop El Shaarawy volleying in from three yards.
PSV drew level just as Milan seemed to be taking more control of the match. Bruma’s rocket from midfield bounced off Abbiati’s chest and Matavz was first to nod in the rebound.
Sulley Muntari acrobatically charged down a Florian Jozefzoon strike and from that corner Karim Rekik’s free header from six yards was surprisingly wide of the target.
Andrea Poli’s give-and-go with fellow substitute M’Baye Niang sent him clear and the finish was fingertipped over the bar by a desperate Zoet.
A corner in the final minute was worked to set up Philippe Mexes, but the defender effectively kicked it on to his standing leg and the great opportunity went begging.
Moments later El Shaarawy did something similar, volleying an Abate cross on to his own arm.
PSV 1-1 Milan
Scorers: El Shaarawy 15 (M), Matavz 60 (P)
PSV: Zoet; Brenet, Bruma, Rekik, Willems; Schaars (Hiljemark 88), Maher; Park (Jozefzoon 68), Wijnaldum, Depay; Matavz (Locadia 75)
Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Mexes, Zapata, Emanuelson; Montolivo, De Jong (Poli 77), Muntari; Boateng (Niang 84), Balotelli, El Shaarawy
Ref: Cakir (TUR)