AC Milan beat Napoli for the second time in the space of less than two weeks — and this time with more at stake — as the Rossoneri won 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Ismael Bennacer scored shortly before the end of a first half that Napoli had dominated for long stretches. Both teams also hit the crossbar before Napoli midfielder André-Frank Zambo Anguissa was sent off 16 minutes from time, following two yellow cards in quick succession.
The teams will meet again in Naples next Tuesday with the winner to play either Inter Milan or Benfica in the semifinals.
Milan routed Napoli 4-0 when the two teams met in the Italian league on April 2. But Napoli has a 16-point lead at the top of Serie A.
It was Napoli’s first ever appearance in the quarterfinals and it was without a recognized striker as leading Serie A goalscorer Victor Osimhen and Giovanni Simeone were out injured and coach Luciano Spalletti opted to start Giacomo Raspadori on the bench and play Eljif Elmas in the false nine position.
Nevertheless, the visitors got off to an aggressive start and had four clearcut opportunities in as many minutes.
The best of those was after only 50 seconds as Milan failed to deal with a cross and a horrible Rade Krunić clearance fell straight to Napoli dangerman Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. But Krunić atoned for his error by clearing the shot off the line and Mário Rui ballooned the follow-up over.
Milan broke the deadlock five minutes from halftime as Brahim Díaz sped forward from midfield and laid the ball off to the right of the area to Rafael Leão. His attempt at a one-two didn’t quite come off but it came through to Bennacer to fire into the top near corner.
Napoli’s chances of getting back into the match diminished when Anguissa was shown a second yellow card for a high tackle on Theo Hernández four minutes after being booked for a foul on the same Milan defender.