AC Milan ease into Europa League last eight in Prague

By Sports Desk March 14, 2024

An electric first-half display from Rafael Leao steered AC Milan into the Europa League quarter-finals as 10-man Slavia Prague succumbed 3-1 on the night and 7-3 on aggregate.

Just as they had in the first leg, the Czechs paid the price for a red card, Tomas Holes dismissed after just 17 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Davide Calabria.

The Rossoneri cashed in three times before the break, Leao lending a helping hand as Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek netted before bending in a spectacular strike of his own from distance.

Slavia had not lost at the Fortuna Arena all season but were unable to summon a serious battle for their Serie A opponents until Matej Jurasek grabbed a late consolation.

They did manage one attempt before the tie slipped irretrievably out of their grasp, Mojmir Chytil denied by the outstretched boot of Mike Maignan – the goalkeeper’s last real contribution before coming off injured.

Within a couple of minutes, Holes went studs first into a challenge with Calabria and saw red after a VAR check, leaving his side to face the majority of the match at a numerical disadvantage.

Jindrich Stanek kept the hosts in it with a pair of sharp saves but could not hold back the tide when Leao played in Pulisic, who rifled home after turning inside with a smart touch.

With the resistance broken, Milan wasted no time getting another, Loftus-Cheek providing the final touch after Theo Hernandez’s silky one-two with Leao put it on a plate for the Englishman.

With the pressure off, Fikayo Tomori will regret picking up a booking that will rule him out of the first leg of the quarter-finals but the celebrations resumed in added time before the break, the electric Leao letting fly with a beautiful curling effort from 30 yards.

The second half unfolded at a gentler pace, the home side focused on containment and the Italians emptying their bench in acknowledgement that they had wrapped things up.

Chances did occasionally appear, Lofus-Cheek slotting wide and Olivier Giroud aggrieved when he was unable to add his name to the scoresheet just after the hour mark.

To their credit, the Czech side did not lie down, firing a warning shot via Michal Tomic’s breakaway and then getting one back through Jurasek. He had only just come on when he picked up Christos Zafeiris’ pass and picked out the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the area.

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