AC Milan is relieved after it reached the group stage of the Europa League. The Italians needed a nerve-racking penalty series on Thursday to deal with Rio Ave.
After a 1-1 score after ninety minutes, Rio Ave quickly took the lead in extra time. A stunt seemed in the making, but AC Milan made it 2-2 in the 122nd minute via a utilized penalty kick by Hakan Çalhanoglu.
In the penalty series that followed, Milan’s Lorenzo Colombo missed first at 7-7, but Rio Ave was unable to finish the job. Later, goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and Ismael Bennacer also failed to score for Milan, but the Portuguese club also failed to cash in on these ‘match points’. After Simon Kjaer scored 8-9 from the twelfth penalty for Milan, Aderlan Santos missed on Rio Ave’s behalf.
“This is really the first time that I have experienced something like this,” a happy AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli told Milan TV. “Was I scared? I’ve always held hope, but it’s a magical night anyway.”
“Penalties remain a lottery”, Pioli continued. “This is a great result, but we absolutely have to improve things. We don’t think we are the best in Italy, but this gives the group a boost.”
Attacker Brahim Díaz had every confidence in the penalty series that AC Milan would end well. “It’s a unique and unforgettable night. Donnarumma is a great goalkeeper and I knew that would lead us to victory, but we really need to do better from now on.”
For the users of the app: tap the tweet to view the penalty series.
View the results in the Europa League