Shamrock Rovers 0 AC Milan 2.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Hakan Calhanoglu both scored as AC Milan beat Shamrock Rovers on Thursday night in the Europa League tie at Tallaght Stadium.
The Europa League qualifier was AC Milan’s first competitive game of the season.
Rovers, meanwhile, are top of the League of Ireland Premier Division, eight points clear of second-placed Bohemians. They are favourites to capture a first league title since 2011.
The match against Milan was a bittersweet bonus for the Rovers. If supporters had have been allowed to attend, the Tallaght side would have netted a fortune in gate receipts.
Shamrock Rovers v AC Milan, first half.
The opening spell of the tie saw AC Milan dominate possession without creating any clearcut chances.
Rovers were content to sit deep and stay compact, waiting for their chance to catch the Italians on the break, a tactic that worked in their favour after 13 minutes thanks to excellent work by Jack Byrne.
Byrne got the better of Franck Kessié, broke from midfield and played a through-ball beyond Milan’s defence to Aaron Greene.
The Rovers forward hit a shot from 12-yards with his left foot that forced Gigi Donnarumma into a save.
Milan’s main threat came in the opening spell came from set-pieces. Hakan Calhanoglu, the Turkish set-piece specialist, aimed for Ibrahimovic with each dead ball.
The pair eventually combined for the breakthrough goal after 23 minutes, but it came from Rovers losing the ball in their own half.
Theo Hernandez fed the ball to Zlatan on the edge of the penalty area after a poor Rovers clearance.
The big Swede played a give and go with Calhanoglu, took a touch, steadied himself and buried the ball beyond Rovers goalkeeper Alan Mannus.
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) September 17, 2020
Milan then upped the intensity. A few minutes after the goal, Aaron McEneff was forced to make a goalline clearance to prevent a certain goal.
The home side had some half-chances of their own before the break, the best of which fell to Greene.
The forward opted to shoot from an acute angle, however, rather than squaring the ball for Ronan Finn, who was free in the box.
Shamrock Rovers v AC Milan, second half.
The pattern of the second half at Tallaght stadium was the same as the first. Rovers were competitive and willing, but Milan were in control and came to life when playing off Zlatan.
Ibrahimovic brought his teammates into play with some deft touches and passes. He also skimmed the crossbar with an overhead.
Mannus, meanwhile, was kept busy in the Shamrock Rovers goal. The goalkeeper saved Davide Calabria’s in-swinging shot and stopped Calhanoglu powerfully driven free-kick.
The Rovers goalkeeper could do nothing about AC Milan’s second goal, however.
Calhanoglu received a on the edge of the penalty area and hit a wonderful strike beyond Mannus into the right-hand corner.
The Turkish midfielder struck the ball exquistetly with the inside of his boot, settling the tie.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) September 17, 2020
At this point, Rovers were second to most balls and looked to be tiring as Milan monopolised possession and goalscoring chances. Byrne continued to look tidy in midfield and sought to play posititive passes when he did get the ball. While one could not fault the workrate or effort of Stephen Bradley’s side.
AC Milan, however, were a class above and progress to the next round of the Europa League.