Victor Osimhen’s late header earned Napoli a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final at home to Milan but it wasn’t enough to overturn the deficit inflicted at San Siro last week, as the Rossoneri advanced to the final four.
Napoli’s suffocating start was punctured by Milan’s first foray out of their own half after 22 minutes. Mario Rui recklessly crashed into Rafael Leao, giving up a penalty which silenced the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Napoli’s fervent fans had found their voice after peace talks with the club president were brokered by Italy’s minister of the interior last week and erupted again when Alex Meret beat away Olivier Giroud’s tame spot-kick.
Giroud was rebuffed by Meret from similar range in open play moments later but would not be denied a third time. The first half had been almost entirely conducted inside Milan‘s half and that was where Leao picked up the ball in the 43rd minute.
Gobbling up a slack touch from Tanguy Ndombele, Leao slalomed forward, skipping around the blue shirts tumbling in his wake like the waves he surfs in his spare time. Baring down on Meret’s goal, Leao took the goalkeeper out of the equation with a square pass for Giroud to tap in, breaking the deadlock on the night and giving Milan a 2-0 aggregate lead.
Milan’s hand constantly hovered over the handbrake throughout both ties but Stefano Pioli’s side focused almost entirely on bolting the door in the second half of this deciding leg. Napoli had lashings of possession and rattled off a glut of shots but desperately struggled to tease apart the tight stitching of Milan’s rearguard.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo belatedly slipped between the seams, wriggling into a congested penalty area and firing a cutback from the byline. Fikayo Tomori put his arm down to cushion his fall while attempting a slide tackle, inadvertently blocking the ball with his hand. Yet, just as Meret had stood up to Giroud in the first half, Maignan stretched out a meaty paw to palm away Khivcha Kvaratskhelia’s penalty in the final ten minutes.
As Napoli threw caution to the wind – and an increasing volley of crosses into the box – Milan’s resolve finally buckled. Osimhen – shackled in a cage of red and black bars for so much of the contest – fizzed a header past Maignan in the third minute of stoppage time.
Napoli’s leading scorer may have become the first player since Chelsea’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to find the net against the Rossoneri in Europe in six months but it wasn’t enough to earn his side a maiden Champions League semi-final.
While Napoli will have to settle for a first Scudetto since the days of Maradona, Milan can justify their feeble defence of the Serie A title with a Champions League semi-final against one of Benfica or, deliciously, city rivals Inter.