Ricardo Rodriguez’s free kick has given Milan a 1-0 first leg away victory over Craiova in the Europa League preliminary round.
The Rossoneri were back in European football for the first time since March 2014, a gap of 1,234 days, with the first leg of this Europa League preliminary round tie in Romania. Ex-Italy Under-21 Coach Devis Mangia and former Juventus midfielder Fausto Rossi brought an Italian air to Craiova, while Leonardo Bonucci, Lucas Biglia, Suso, Alessio Romagnoli, Carlos Bacca, Jose Sosa and Gabriel Paletta were unavailable. The second leg is on August 3.
M'Baye Niang had the first shot on target, but a 22nd-minute defensive error sent ex-Pescara forward Ionut Mitrita clear on goal, Gianluigi Donnarumma at full stretch forced into a fingertip save at the near bottom corner on his European club football debut.
Milan should’ve taken the lead moments later with 19-year-old Patrick Cutrone, but his finish bounced off the inside of the near post and rolled along the line to skim the other upright.
Cutrone’s header also looped over from a corner, while Ricardo Rodriguez’s first touch let him down on a Franck Kessie assist.
The full-back made up for it by opening the scoring just before half-time. Fabio Borini earned a free kick on the outside edge of the area and Ricardo Rodriguez curled it straight into the far bottom corner, as the crowd of players distracted the goalkeeper.
Niang had a couple of attempts at the dawn of the second half, while Jack Bonaventura blasted over under pressure, but Donnarumma flapped at a set-piece, allowing Mitrita to fire just wide of an open goal, and Baluta was off target after skipping away from Mateo Musacchio.
Zlatinski flicked on a Baluta cross at the near post and couldn’t quite steer it on target, but neither could Cutrone on a corner, while Niang’s assist was just beyond substitute Andre Silva.
Renato Kelic nodded a corner over the bar and late on Riccardo Montolivo had to charge down a Bancu effort inside the box.
Craiova 0-1 Milan
Rodriguez 43 (M)
Craiova: Calancea; Dimitrov (Roman 80), Spahija, Kelic, Briceag; Zlatinski; Vagenin, Mitrita (Barbut 67), Rossi (Mateiu 74), Bancu; Baluta
Milan: G Donnarumma; Abate (Conti 72), Zapata, Musacchio, Rodriguez; Kessie, Montolivo, Bonaventura; Borini (Andre Silva 65), Cutrone (Antonelli 80), Niang
Ref: Ozkahya (TUR)
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