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AC Milan hurt Atletico Madrid's chances of reaching last-16 while Sporting Lisbon advance

Sporting Lisbon beat ten-man Borussia Dortmund 3-1 to qualify for the Champions League’s last-16.

Junior Messias wheels away to celebrate his goal against  Atletico Madrid.
Junior Messias wheels away to celebrate his goal against Atletico Madrid.
Image: Manu Fernandez

ATLETICO MADRID’S CHANCES of reaching the Champions League last-16 were dealt a hammer blow on Wednesday after a 1-0 defeat by AC Milan left them needing to win at Porto in their final game in Group B.

A scrappy contest at the Wanda Metropolitano looked set to end goalless until Milan substitute Junior Messias headed home a dramatic winner in the 87th minute to leave Atletico staring down the barrel of an early exit.

Messias’ goal not only means Atleti will need a victory instead of a draw in Porto on December 7 but it also brings Milan back to life, as they sit just a point behind Porto ahead of their closing match against Liverpool at the San Siro.

Atletico Madrid are level on points with Milan but beneath them on goal difference, with qualification even to the Europa League now far from certain.

All but two of Atleti’s previous 11 Champions League group appearances have seen them reach the last 16 while Milan are participating at this stage for the first time since 2014.

But Milan deserved their late winner, after showing far more ambition in a game that Atleti contributed very little to in any creative sense.

Both teams came in without the assurance of recent victories, with Milan, second in Serie A, losing to Fiorentina last weekend on the back of a draw against Inter.

Atletico sit fourth in La Liga and have endured a mixed start to the season, from which the biggest doubts have arisen around an increasingly leaky defence. Their win over Osasuna on Saturday was only their second in seven matches.

Their best chance of the first half came in the third minute as Yannick Carrasco crossed and Rodrigo de Paul’s attempted finish brushed the outside of the post.

The rest of the opening 45 minutes was short on quality, with both teams let down by a lack of precision in the final third.

Milan, though, were the chief aggressors and while Atletico allowed frustration with the referee to grow, their biggest problem was escaping the Milan press, which for long spells contained them in their own half.

Theo Hernandez, who came through the youth set-up at Atletico only to leave for Real Madrid in 2017, for which he was consistently whistled throughout, perhaps had Milan’s clearest opportunity but he lashed wide at the far post.

Milan were still the more cohesive team early in the second half, with Simon Kjaer heading over from a crossed free-kick.

Diego Simeone brought on Angel Correa and Renan Lodi while Stefano Pioli introduced four substitutes, including the 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Two of them combined to create a golden chance in the 71st minute, Messias freed down the left and pulling back for Tiemoue Bakayoko eight yards out but his finish was blocked by the right knee of Stefan Savic.

Atletico were wilting and Milan sniffed a winner. Ibrahimovic was slipped through but denied by a brilliant left-handed save by Jan Oblak and if that was a warning, Atletico failed to heed it, because moments later Messias headed in.

Franck Kessie hooked a superb left-footed cross into the middle, where Messias found a gap three yards out. The Milan bench sprawled onto the pitch in celebration.

sporting-lisbon-borussia-dortmund Pedro Goncalves sco Source: DPA/PA Images

Meanwhile, Pedro Goncalves netted twice as Sporting Lisbon beat ten-man Borussia Dortmund 3-1 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League’s last-16 and end the Germans’ hopes of advancing to the knock-out stages.

Sporting got the two-goal winning margin they needed to reach the last 16 for the first time since the 2008-2009 season behind Group C winners Ajax.

The away defeat means the best third-placed Dortmund can now hope for is the knock-out stages of the Europa League.

The Germans were weakened by the continuing absence of forward Erling Braut Haaland.

Sporting winger Goncalves, who also scored twice in the 4-0 thrashing of Besiktas, could have finished with a hat-trick but his late penalty was saved only for Pedro Porro to head in the rebound.

Porro had the last laugh having been kicked by Dortmund’s second-half replacement Emre Can, who was sent off for the foul with 16 minutes left after tempers flared.

Dortmund’s Dutch striker Donyell Malen gave the visitors brief hope with a consolation goal in stoppage time.

It was a bitter night for the Germans, who have lost three consecutive Champions League games for the first time.

Already missing Haaland, sidelined by a long-term hip injury, Dortmund were also without key defender Mats Hummels, suspended after being sent off in the 3-1 home defeat to Ajax.

Dortmund lost Raphael Guerreiro to injury in the warm-up and his place at left-back was filled by Nico Schulz, who played an unfortunate part in the opening goal.

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With half an hour gone, Schulz completely misjudged a long-ball which bounced into the path of Goncalves, who drilled his shot past Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel to fire Sporting ahead.

The hosts doubled their lead six minutes from the break when Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji cleared the ball only as far as Goncalves who hit the back of the net from the edge of the area.

Dortmund could have gone into the break level, instead of 2-0 down as Malen hit the post, then had a shot cleared off the line.

Can replaced the hapless Schulz at half-time.

Pressure by the visitors led to Sporting defender Feddal poking the ball into his own goal, only for Dortmund defender Thomas Meunier to be flagged for offside.

Dortmund’s hopes faded after Can was shown a straight red for fouling Porro, while centre-back Dan-Axel Zagadou was also booked for his part in the resulting pushing and shoving.

Zagadou then gave away a penalty when the VAR spotted he had kicked Sporting striker Paulinho.

Although Kobel denied Goncalves a hat-trick by saving the initial spot-kick, Porro was on hand to head the blocked shot into the net to make it 3-0 with nine minutes left.

Malen’s consolation came after Dortmund captain Marco Reus beat the defence, but it was too late.

© – AFP, 2021

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