AC Milan blows Serie A top-four chance with Cagliari draw

Milan toiled to a disappointing draw that leaves it third on 76 points going into the final round, level with Napoli in fourth and one point ahead of Juventus.

Victory over the 16th-placed Sardinians would have assured Milan of a top-four finish and its first appearance in European football's top club competition since 2013-14 next season.   -  GETTY IMAGES

AC Milan squandered the chance to secure a long-awaited return to the Champions League as goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma came to its rescue in a 0-0 Serie A draw at home to Cagliari on Sunday.

Victory over the 16th-placed Sardinians would have assured Milan of a top-four finish and its first appearance in European football's top club competition since 2013-14 next season.

But Stefano Pioli's side toiled to a disappointing draw that leaves it third on 76 points going into the final round, level with Napoli in fourth but above it on head-to-head record, and one point ahead of fifth-placed Juventus.

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The host was limited to speculative long-range efforts in the first half and risked going behind after the break, but Donnarumma produced top saves to deny Leonardo Pavoletti and Diego Godin headers.

Cagliari, on 37 points, celebrated the security of its Serie A status before kick-off after 18th-placed Benevento drew with Crotone.

Milan travels to second-placed Atalanta for its final game of the season next Sunday, while Napoli hosts 10th-placed Hellas Verona and Juventus goes to Bologna, who are 11th.

The hosts was without injured top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic but came into the game in good form after comfortably beating Torino and Juventus over the last week.

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Pioli turned to his bench to try and find a spark and Samu Castillejo was the liveliest of the replacements. However, the Spaniard, like his team mates, struggled for accuracy as he was off target with two efforts before a stoppage-time volley was deflected over off Godin's head.

Pioli: Losing top-four would be disappointment, not failure

AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli insisted that losing a top-four place on the final day of the Serie A season would not be a failure for his side.

"For the season we have had, not finishing in the top-four would definitely be a disappointment, but not a failure. This year we have laid the foundations for a successful future for Milan," Pioli told Sky Italia.

"It was not our best night, the tempo and quality was not at the level of recent performances," Pioli said.

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"Against Juventus we had to play the match of a lifetime, we showed our qualities and can do well again on Sunday.

"We knew that winning would finish it off, so there was a bit of pressure and tension, maybe also a bit of conviction that we could win it no matter what.

"We start again from tomorrow. Atalanta is the only top team that we have not managed to beat in my year-and-a-half in charge, they are very strong. We will be prepared."

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