Thursday November 8 2018
EL: Suso keeps Betis at bay

Suso’s free kick gave Milan a valuable draw away to Real Betis, but Mateo Musacchio and Hakan Calhanoglu went off injured and the Europa League group has tightened up.

Olympiacos crushed Dudelange 5-1, so are now on seven points alongside Milan, while Betis are on top with eight.

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Real Betis Balompie’ had already won 2-1 at San Siro, putting them top of the Europa League group, so this was a crunch match for the Rossoneri. Gennaro Gattuso changed to 3-5-2 amid an injury crisis, missing Gonzalo Higuain, Lucas Biglia, Jack Bonaventura, Mattia Caldara and Davide Calabria, while Alessio Romagnoli was rested ahead of the Serie A showdown with Juventus on Sunday. Betis relied on veteran ex-Fiorentina forward Joaquin and Roma-owned Tonny Sanabria.

It took 12 minutes for Betis to break through. Diego Laxalt’s misplaced ball sparked a long passing move, Joaquin spreading it down the left for Junior Firpo, whose pull-back was fired in first time by Giovani Lo Celso from nine yards.

They nearly made it 2-0 soon after, as the offside trap failed and the roll across was just in front of Sanabria, allowing Zapata to intercept with his heel.

A similar move down the left was rolled across for Sanabria to prod just wide from six yards, while Suso fired a free kick into the wall from a promising position and Hakan Calhanoglu’s angled drive tested Pau Lopez.

On the stroke of half-time, Patrick Cutrone couldn’t keep his header down from a volleyed Fabio Borini cross. It was only 1-0, but Betis had 66 per cent possession and more than double the number of Milan passes in the first half.

Suso’s cross from the by-line was put out for a corner by Mandi, then the winger’s stunning left-foot curler was arrowing its way into the far top corner until Pau Lopez flew to fingertip it over.

Suso was warming up to the game and he equalised when his left-foot free kick from the edge of the box floated past everyone, only skimming the head of Tiemoue Bakayoko to surprise Pau Lopez at the far post. It was only Milan’s second goal from a direct free kick in all competition this season and the other was also scored by Suso.

Borini’s powerful strike off the outside of the right boot was too close to the goalkeeper and Pepe Reina got away with a horrible back-pass.

There were very worrying scenes when Musacchio collided with teammate Franck Kessie and the Argentine came off far worse, appearing to briefly lose consciousness. He was stretchered off in a neck brace.

Borini had the chance to put Milan in front, but volleyed over, while Junior Firpo couldn’t keep his finish on target from a tight angle.

Reina rushed off his line and made himself big for a decisive block as Cristian Tello had gone clear, then the follow-up was charged down by Borini.

However, Milan lost Hakan Calhanoglu to an ankle injury and he hobbled off with help from the medical staff.

Betis 1-1 Milan

Lo Celso 12 (B), Suso 62 (M)

Betis: Pau Lopez; Mandi, Bartra, Feddal; Tello, Lo Celso, William Carvalho, Canales, Junior Firpo; Joaquin (Guardado 67), Sanabria (Loren Moron 74)

Milan: Reina; Musacchio (Romagnoli 82), Zapata, Rodriguez; Borini, Kessie, Bakayoko, Calhanoglu (Bertolacci 89), Laxalt; Suso, Cutrone

Ref: Pawson (ENG)

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