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AC Milan topple 10-man Napoli but flatter to deceive

AC Milan claimed a narrow 1-0 home win over runaway Serie A leaders Napoli to take control of their mouth-watering Champions League quarter-final tie on Wednesday.

Stefano Pioli’s side cannot take anything for granted despite taking down the Partenopei for the second time in a fortnight.

With Napoli on the verge of dethroning Milan in Serie A, the Rossoneri came into this match to settle the score, inspired by a thumping 4-0 league win in southern Italy earlier in April.

That victory was Pioli’s only second personal success in 15 managerial clashes against Luciano Spalletti. It still gave the home fans a reason to fill every seat at San Siro tonight.

But unlike that game in Naples, Milan looked up the creek without a paddle in the early exchanges tonight, gifting away numerous chances to Napoli in the opening 20 minutes.

Despite being outplayed by their visitors in the early stages, Milan came close to opening the scoring through in-demand forward Rafael Leao midway through the first half.

The Portuguese winger showed why numerous top clubs are keen to lure him away from San Siro, weaving past the Partenopei backline before narrowly missing the target.

Milan grew into the contest as the first half progressed and found a way to break the deadlock through an unlikely source.

Brahim Diaz stole the show with a moment of inspiration late in the first half to send a sold-out San Siro into raptures.

He eluded his markers with a stunning piece of skill and launched a lightning-fast counter-attack for his side, resulting in Ismael Bennacer burring the ball into the bottom corner in the 40th minute.

The Rossoneri could’ve gone 2-0 up on the stroke of half-time, but the crossbar denied Simon Kjaer’s towering header from the resulting corner-kick.

Napoli started the second half on the front foot but couldn’t find a way past Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who enjoyed a remarkable Champions League evening.

Without their prolific marksman, Victor Osimhen, Spalletti’s side often lacked a much-needed cutting edge to break down the home side’s well-drilled backline.

It’s not like the Partenopei had their hosts on the ropes, but they looked in better shape for most of the second half before Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s lapse in concentration turned the tide of the game.

The ex-Fulham midfielder picked up two bookable offences in only three minutes, leaving his team a man down heading into the final 15 minutes.

Anguissa’s expulsion helped Milan weather the storm, but there’s a feeling the hosts should’ve done more to benefit from the numerical advantage.

With one goal separating the sides ahead of the return leg at the Diego Maradona Stadium, this quarter-final tie could still go either way.

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