Borussia Dortmund were too good for AC Milan as they defeated the Serie A club 3-1 at the Stadio San Siro on Matchday 5 of the 2023/24 Champions League group stages, and secured their place in the knockout stages.
Samuel Chukwueze had cancelled out a Marco Reus penalty just before half-time, but goals from Bynoe Gittens and Karim Adeyemi goals condemned the Rossoneri to defeat, and left them having to win their final fixture with Newcastle United to stand any chance of following the Bundesliga club out of Group F.
The Diavolo had only lost once in their last 16 home matches against German opposition, when Dortmund left Milan with a 1-0 win back in the second Champions League group stage of the 2002/03 campaign.
Goal scoring struggles hold AC Milan back once more
Ahead of the game, only Benfica had scored fewer goals than the Rossoneri’s two strikes in their opening four Champions League group games, and when Olivier Giroud missed a fifth minute penalty must have feared the worst once again. Particularly as Dortmund had not conceded in any of their last three continental fixtures, including a goalless stalemate with Milan.
Regardless of his immense talent, the Diavolo channel too much of their attacking efforts through Rafael Leao, who has eight chances from open play, scoring once himself, and his absence through injury was apparent through the lack of creativity from teammates. Which must be a major concern with the need to secure three points on the final matchday vital.
AC Milan muscle misery continues to mount up
Watching on from the San Siro stands were Leao, Simon Kjaer and Noah Okafor, each of which were absent while nursing muscle injuries suffered in previous weeks. Therefore, when Malick Thiaw hobbled towards the touchline clutching his hamstring, a despondent sigh from all bar the travelling supporters filled the stadium.
With the Rossoneri having had over 20 muscle-related injuries this season, the defence is becoming particularly depleted as the most congested parts of the season is in full flow.
The only defensive reinforcements on the bench against Dortmund were teenagers Davide Bartesaghi and Chaka Traore. Converted full-back Alessandro Florenzi, potentially allows Theo Hernandez to move inside when Milan face Frosinone in Serie A at the weekend.
Regardless of the loss of Thiaw and inappropriate replacements, the Rossoneri collapse immediately after that allowed Gittens and Adeyemi to fire past Mike Maignan, virtually unchallenged, suggests their struggles have only just begun.
The talent of Samuel Chukwueze finally on show at San Siro
The performances of Chukwueze in European competition with Villarreal – winning the 2020/21 Europa League – played a major role in Milan bringing the Nigerian to the club, but the attacker has struggled to hold down a first-team place with the Rossoneri.
Against the Dortmund, though, the 24-year-old showed no sign of a lack of confidence, as he immediately attacked the Bundesliga side with his pace and trickery, and won the penalty missed by Olivier Giroud within five minutes.
With Leao absent through injury, his Rossoneri teammates started looking for Chukwueze whenever possible as they chased the equaliser, and an excellent solo goal just before half-time was much deserved. And should now kick-start his career with the Milanese.