Andriy Shevchenko returned to the San Siro but it was not exactly easy for him to qualify for Milan, the team where he achieved glory as a player and whose fans continue to idolize him. Genoa, led by the questionable Ukrainian coach, advanced on the scoreboard and, after 1-1 in regulation time, the Coppa round of 16 tie was not decided until extra time (3-1).
Genoa, penultimate classified, have not won in Serie A since Shevchenko, whose continuity hangs in the balance, took over his bench at the end of November (3 draws and 6 losses), but in football there is no logic and the Milan, second in the table, took more than 100 minutes to impose their theoretical superiority.
Krunic heads the crossbar but Genoa advances
Milan, despite the fact that Stefano Pioli was without the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic and played with Daniel Maldini as a starter by introducing rotations, started well and had a great chance when Rade Krunic headed a corner against the crossbar in minute 4.
Milan’s initial dominance lost steam as the minutes went by and Genoa began to appear in attack. Mike Maignan prevented the 0-1 goal with a shot close to the post by Caleb Ekuban (16′), but in the ensuing corner center back Leo Östigard opened the scoring with an accurate header (17′).
Milan had no power to react in the first half and even Genoa had a 0-2 lead in a clear chance after Ekuban’s cross from the by-line that Manolo Portanova, from near goal, finished off wide (40′).
Giroud equalizes after the break
After the break, Milan gradually closed in on a Genoa team that had fewer and fewer starts. Olivier Giroud gave the warning in the 49th minute after taking a free kick with a header from Adrian Semper.
Pioli brought in Brahim Díaz, Rafael Leao and Tiemoué Bakayoko in the 62nd minute and Milan’s attack intensified until Giroud equalized after finishing off a Theo Hernandez cross with an unappealable header into the top corner (74′).
Leao, hopefully, and Saelemaekers sentence
There was a quarter of an hour left for regulation time but Genoa took a breath and did not suffer to reach extra time. Milan returned to the charge and finally imposed logic in the 102nd minute with a goal as lucky as it was beautifully made by Rafael Leao. The Brazilian clipped a defender down the left and his cross attempt turned into a goal as he overshot goalkeeper Semper and entered the goal after hitting the post.
Another trademark run by Theo Hernandez down the left culminated in a delayed pass that allowed Alexis Saelemaekers, at his pleasure, to definitively sentence the tie in the 112th minute. In the quarterfinals, the ‘rossoneri’ will face the winner of Lazio-Udinese which will be played on January 18.