Ismaël Bennacer earns hard-fought win for Milan over 10-man Napoli


Ismaël Bennacer’s first-half goal helped Milan win 1-0 against 10-man Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Although the visitors had plenty of chances in the opening stages, Bennacer put Milan in front just before the break and a frustrating night for Napoli – who were without the injured striker Victor Osimhen – was capped when André-Frank Zambo Anguissa was sent off in the second half.

Milan now take the goal advantage into the second leg at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona next week. Both sides had met recently in Serie A where Milan secured a huge 4-0 win, but leaders Napoli looked a different side as Khvicha Kvaratskhelia had an effort cleared off the line within the first minute.

That set the tone for Napoli, who started the better of the two teams with a wide header from Giovanni di Lorenzo before Piotr Zielinski smashed the ball from distance, forcing Mike Maignan to tip over the bar.

The hosts then suddenly sparked into life when Rafael Leão ran from the halfway line and came close to putting Milan in front, but his low shot just whistled past the far bottom corner.

Milan broke the deadlock in the 40th minute when Brahim Díaz broke forward with an excellent run, playing out to Leão on the right and his cross found Bennacer who smashed the ball home, despite goalkeeper Alex Meret getting a foot to it. They could have easily doubled their lead minutes before half-time as Simon Kjær’s header from a corner rattled the crossbar.

Eljif Elmas’s flicked header was palmed away by Maignan early in the second half, but Napoli were unable to break down the Milan defence with Di Lorenzo having a couple of half chances and Anguissa firing a long-range effort wide.

A difficult evening for the visitors soured further in the 74th minute when Anguissa was sent off after being shown a second yellow card, four minutes after his first.

Napoli kept testing Milan as Maignan was called into action to make another fine save in the final stages of the game, denying Di Lorenzo at the near post before Mathías Olivera’s header sailed over the bar.