Rafael Leão shines as Milan overcome PSG [video]

AC Milan 2-1 Paris Saint-Germain

Portuguese forward Rafael Leão was the star of the show as AC Milan came from behind to defeat Paris Saint-Germain at San Siro and reignite their hopes of Champions League progress

Leão enjoyed a particularly blistering first half for the Rossoneri, who avenged defeat in the French capital on the last matchday and closed the gap on their opponents with their first victory in Group F.

PSG had won the first meeting between these sides at the Parc des Princes last month, meaning Milan were an ominous four points adrift of the Parisians as well as three points off Borussia Dortmund. The German side also won on Tuesday against bottom-placed Newcastle, meaning Milan could not afford another slip-up.

Fears of a costly loss grew when the visitors took the lead on just 9 minutes through Milan Skriniar, who found himself unmarked to head home and punish his former enemies, having turned out for Milan’s city rivals Inter up until the summer. The scoreline would have left Milan on the brink of elimination, but a pulsating first half saw the Italians take the game to the 2020 finalists.

Leão had already issued a warning of his threat in the first five minutes, breezing past PSG right-back Achraf Hakimi to provide a chance squandered by Ruben Loftus-Cheek. However, Milan were soon level and it was largely the work of the former Sporting man: Leão skipped away from two markers inside his half and released Olivier Giroud, whose shot was parried into the six-yard box where Leao was on-hand to convert with an overhead kick.

Both sides had chances to win the match, but Giroud proved decisive with a thunderous header early in the second period to give Milan the points. The Serie A side now sit in 3rd place in the group, just one point behind PSG in what is regarded as one of the toughest sections to call in this year’s competition.

Leão was duly named by UEFA as the Player of the Match, after which he told the media: “The award should go to the whole team tonight. We showed everyone what Milan are in our house. I am speechless, so proud of my team, we worked incredibly hard and I am really happy.

“This match was the one that could change everything in our group and victory was the most important thing. We won, now it must give us the confidence to keep going and reach the top of the group.

“Criticism pushes me on, so keep talking all you like, I do my talking on the pitch. I help my team, we showed today that all together, we can do it. We believe in qualification, always.”

Milan boss Stefano Pioli was asked about the performance of his Seleção star, and appeared to leave words of encouragement for Leão to add a layer of consistency to his game. The criticism Leao referred to during his post-match interview has tended to come in the form of calls for his performances to achieve greater regularity if he is to fulfil his true potential.

“Rafa has to reach that standard all the time,” Pioli said. “He can be a champion, but it depends on him having the obsession to play at that level in every single game.”

By @SeanGillen9