AC Milan 0-1 Benfica: Taarabt's strike enough to earn victory
Image from Getty Images/Gualter Fatia

Benfica leapfrogged Arsenal with their third win from three matches in the International Champions Cup as they saw off AC Milan in Boston on Sunday.

Benfica created an early opening despite a tight start to proceedings as former QPR-man Adel Taarabt saw his curled effort saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Milan then went close twice in quick succession. Firstly, Hakan Calhanoglu saw a fine effort strike the woodwork.

Moments later, Samu Castillejo forced a save out of Odysseas Vlachodimos.

Vlachodimos was kept busy throughout the half and made an exceptional double save after 22 minutes to twice deny Fabio Borini.

The Greek stopper was then on hand to prevent Calhanoglu from opening the scoring five minutes from half-time.

Milan hit the upright once more on the stroke of half-time as January signing Krzysztof Piatek’s effort grazed the post.

Despite this first-half dominance, the Rossoneri would have gone in behind at the break had it not been for Donnarumma.

The 20-year-old goalkeeper denied both Gabriel and Rafa Silva during stoppage time at the end of the opening 45 minutes.

Milan remained on top at the start of the second-half as Vlachodimos blocked Castillejo’s latest attempt on goal.

It was the Portuguese champions that took the lead against the run of play, however, with Taarabt finally getting the better of Donnarumma to open the scoring with just 20 minutes remaining.

However, it was more by luck than judgement as the Moroccan winger’s half-volley took a wicked deflection on its way through, wrong footing the keeper before trickling into the net.

The Italian giants went in search of a quick response but once again Vlachodimos was on hand to keep out Suso’s strike.

Suso beat Vlachodimos with nine minutes remaining, although his curling effort flashed narrowly wide of the post.

Milan then struck the woodwork for a third time as Lucas Biglia’s excellent free-kick came within inches of drawing Marco Giampaolo’s men level.

That was as close as they would come to snatching a draw and forcing a penalty shootout and the game ended 1-0.

Takeaways from the match

Milan lack killer touch

Despite starting with one of Europe's deadliest finishers from last season, Krzysztof Piatek, the Italian giants failed to convert any of the myriad of chances that they created.

Although the Benfica stopper, Odysseas Vlachodimos, had an outstanding game, several of the saves he made were from clear-cut chances that should have been tucked away.

Perhaps, if more of the chances had fallen Piatek's way then the score would have looked different, with the Polish forward grazing the post with his only attempt of note in the game.

Benfica's ability to weather the storm

Whilst the stats suggest that this match was a fairly even contest, it cannot be denied that Milan dominated proceedings and Benfica were lucky to walk away with a victory.

The Eagles' ability to soak up the pressure from their opponents and then punish them at the other end at a crucial point in the match is an ability they will need in this season's Champions League.

Bruno Lage's men will be in either pot two or three for the group stage draw and are therefore likely to face at least one European heavyweight. It is important they can come away from these matches with something despite not enjoying much of the play if they are to progress to the knockout stages.

Man of the match

Odysseas Vlachodimos

25-year-old Greek international Vlachodimos established himself as the first choice between the sticks last term following his move from Panathinaikos and he will have done his chances of retaining that position in 2019/20 no harm after his display on Sunday.

The German-born shot-stopper pulled off a string of excellent saves during the match, especially during the opening 45 minutes, denying both Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu on multiple occasions.

With the club's pursuit of Juventus' Mattia Perin having hit the rocks, this performance looks to have cemented Vlachodimos' place at the top of Benfica's goalkeeping hierachy.

VAVEL Logo