Thursday September 17 2020
EL: Calhanoglu inspires Milan in Dublin

Milan beat Shamrock Rovers 2-0 in the Europa League preliminary round, as Hakan Calhanoglu scored one, assisted Zlatan Ibrahimovic and hit the crossbar to set up a meeting with Bodo/Glimt.

The Rossoneri season began in Dublin against the current Irish Premier League leaders, with the winners going on to face Norwegians Bodo/Glimt in the next round on September 24.

Ante Rebic was suspended, with Lucas Paqueta left out entirely, Rafael Leao isolating due to COVID-19, Alessio Romagnoli, Andrea Conti and Mateo Musacchio injured. Shamrock Rovers had defender Liam Scales sitting out a ban.

Milan, playing in their blue third choice kit, but the first save of the game was by Gianluigi Donnarumma on the Aaron Greene angled drive, the defence caught out by a Jack Byrne through ball.

After a couple of attempts charged down, the Rossoneri took the lead when a poor Roberto Lopes clearance allowed Hakan Calhanoglu to thread through for Ibrahimovic, taking a touch to drill past the goalkeeper into the near bottom corner.

It was almost 2-0 moments later, Samu Castillejo sent clear by Ibra only to be denied by an Aaron McEneff goal-line clearance.

Donnarumma was tested again by Greene, who shrugged off Matteo Gabbia far too easily to get away down the right, followed by Theo Hernandez and Calhanoglu volleys that were either charged down or over the bar.

Theo Hernandez ran on to a splendid Calhanoglu through ball to pull back from the by-line, but Davide Calabria’s tap-in was blocked by a desperate sliding tackle.

Calhanoglu nearly got on the scoresheet on 53 minutes with a spectacular over-head kick that clipped the crossbar, then Calabria’s follow-up was well saved at the near top corner.

Calhanoglu forced a fingertip save with his powerful free kick and finally managed to celebrate his goal with a precise inside of the right foot finish into the top corner from the edge of the box. It was a well-worked team move including Franck Kessie and Castillejo.

It was by no means one-way traffic, as Donnarumma needed a one-handed save on Greene after a rapid counter-attack, while Calabria fired straight at the goalkeeper.

Sandro Tonali and Brahim Diaz made their competitive Milan debuts in the final minutes. Brahim skipped away from defenders to send Castillejo clear, but a last-ditch Lopes tackle was decisive.

Shamrock Rovers 0-2 Milan

Ibrahimovic 23 (M), Calhanoglu 67 (M)

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; O’Brien, Lopes, Grace; Finn, McEneff, O’Neill (Watts 70), Farrugia (Kavanah 83); J Byrne, Greene (Williams 87), Burke

Milan: G Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Gabbia, Theo Hernandez; Kessie, Bennacer (Tonali 84); Castillejo, Calhanoglu (Brahim 84), Saelemaekers (Krunic 73); Ibrahimovic

Ref: Farkas (HUN)