Kjaer’s late United leveller gives Milan Europa last 16 advantage, Rangers and Ajax in good shape


Paris (AFP) – Simon Kjaer’s last-gasp equaliser gave AC Milan a dramatic 1-1 draw at Manchester United on Thursday, handing the Italian giants a great chance of reaching the Europa League quarter-finals. 

Kjaer netted with a bullet header in the final seconds of stoppage time of the last 16, first leg encounter at Old Trafford, levelling the scores after Amad Diallo had opened in the 50th minute with his first United goal.

“This is a great result, we played really well, showed personality and I think we dominated,” the defender told Sky Sport Italia.

In a sign of the drop in standards at Old Trafford and the San Siro, the first meeting between two of the world’s most historic teams since 2010 was their first outside the Champions League knockout stages.

Milan called the shots early on and had two goals disallowed, Rafael Leao’s effort ruled offside and Franck Kessie’s powerful 11th-minute finish chalked off after a VAR review showed the ball had glanced off the midfielder’s arm before his shot.

“I think it was a mistake to disallow that goal. It’s a shame as it could have changed the game,” Kjaer added.

Diallo’s introduction at half-time proved an inspired move from United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the 18-year-old Ivorian, recently bought by United from Milan’s Serie A rivals Atalanta, soon broke the deadlock.

Bruno Fernandes unfurled a delightful long pass towards Diallo, who made an incisive run behind the Milan defence and looped a clever backwards header over Gianluigi Donnarumma.

But United failed to build on that lead and Milan’s intelligent play was rewarded with just seconds remaining when Kjaer powered his header past Dean Henderson from a corner.

– Rangers, Ajax well placed –

Rangers are well placed to make the quarter-finals after a 1-1 draw away to Slavia Prague.

Filip Helander’s close-range finish in the first half left Steve Gerrard’s Rangers still in the hunt for a European trophy with the draw in Prague, days after winning their first Scottish League title in 10 years.

The Swede’s strike came after Nicolae Stanciu had rewarded the hosts for their stronger start with the opening strike in the seventh minute that fizzed passed Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor before the Scotsman even knew it had been hit.

The hightlight of the match however was Allan McGregor’s stunning save near the end, the Scot somehow stopping and holding on to Lukas Masopust’s thumping header, which looked destined for the bottom corner.

“I saw it a wee bit late. It’s just one of these things,” McGregor told BT Sport.

“You react to it, you stick your hand out and hope it doesn’t go in, and it never, so happy days!”

Four-time European champions Ajax are almost guaranteed a place in the last eight after thumping Young Boys 3-0 in Amsterdam through goals from Davy Klaassen, Dusan Tadic and Brian Brobbey.

Villarreal also look good to make the quarters thanks to a 2-0 win at Dynamo Kiev.

A Pau Torres tap-in on the half-hour mark and Raul Albiol’s strike six minutes after the break gave La Liga outfit Villarreal a comfortable lead going into next week’s second leg in Spain.

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