Champions League: Giroud stars as AC Milan thrash Salzburg to book last-16 spot

Needing to avoid defeat in its final Group E match to reach the last 16 against an Austrian side gunning for the win that would take it through, AC Milan pulled off a commanding performance.

AC Milan's French forward Olivier Giroud celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between AC Milan and RB Salzburg on November 2, 2022 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

AC Milan's French forward Olivier Giroud celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between AC Milan and RB Salzburg on November 2, 2022 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) | Photo Credit: MIGUEL MEDINA

Needing to avoid defeat in its final Group E match to reach the last 16 against an Austrian side gunning for the win that would take it through, AC Milan pulled off a commanding performance.

French forward Olivier Giroud scored two goals and created another as AC Milan crushed Salzburg 4-0 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since 2013-14.

Needing to avoid defeat in its final Group E match to reach the last 16 against an Austrian side gunning for the win that would take them through, Giroud settled any nerves around the San Siro with an early header into the bottom corner.

The veteran expertly headed across for Rade Krunic to make it two 43 seconds into the second half and Giroud put the game to bed in the 57th minute, drilling home after fine work from Rafael Leao.

A solo goal from Junior Messias in stoppage time capped an excellent night for Milan who secured second spot in Group E behind England’s Chelsea. Salzburg will go into the Europa League after finishing third.

Coach Stefano Pioli, who signed a new three-year contract this week, guided Milan to its first Serie A title in 11 years last term, but saw his side finish bottom of its group on its return to the Champions League.

Back-to-back defeats to Chelsea this time around left the seven-time European Cup winners with plenty to do to avoid another early exit, before a crucial victory at Dinamo Zagreb last week ensured its fate remained in its hands going into the final group match.

Right from the off in its famous San Siro stadium, Milan never looked in danger of missing out again as, moments after Theo Hernandez had rattled the post, Giroud headed home Sandro Tonali’s corner.

Salzburg remained a threat in the first half, but Krunic’s first-ever Champions League goal ended any hopes of a comeback.

With Giroud screaming for it in the middle as he hunted for his hat-trick, Messias stroked the ball into the bottom corner, but the night still belonged to the Frenchman.

Aged 36 years and 33 days, Giroud became the oldest player to score a brace in the Champions League for Milan since Filippo Inzaghi against Real Madrid in November 2010.

Zakaria grabs debut goal as Chelsea beat Dinamo Zagreb 2-1

Chelsea midfielder Denis Zakaria scored on his debut as his side finished its Champions League Group E campaign with a 2-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, topping the group and ending the European campaign for the Croatians.

Chelsea, who had secured group victory with a game to spare, finished on 13 points, three ahead of runners-up AC Milan, who beat third-placed Red Bull Salzburg 4-0. Dinamo finished bottom on four points, two behind Salzburg.

Making his first start under Graham Potter, keeper Edouard Mendy got off to a dreadful start when he had to pick the ball out of the Chelsea net in the seventh minute after Bruno Petkovic gave the visitors the lead with a header.

Chelsea were soon level, Raheem Sterling making the most of a slip by Dino Peric 11 minutes later to cut inside and fire home with his left foot.

Playing his first game since joining on loan from Juventus on Sept. 1, Switzerland international Zakaria put the Blues ahead on the half-hour mark with a perfectly-placed shot after good work by Mason Mount to create the chance.

In a worrying moment for England boss Gareth Southgate, Chelsea fullback Ben Chillwell pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury in second-half injury time, hopping towards the dressing room helped by medical staff as the game finished 2-1.

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