AEK Athens 0 AC Milan 0: Montella's men play an uninspiring stalemate

Progression to the knockout phase of the Europa League has been put on hold for AC Milan after a dour 0-0 draw at AEK Athens.

AC Milan's Andre Silva (right) challenges for the ball with Athens' Michalis Bakakis during the Europa League Group D encounter.   -  AP

AC Milan failed to secure passage to the knockout phase of the Europa League as it was held to an uninspiring 0-0 draw at AEK Athens, doing little to relieve pressure on coach Vincenzo Montella.

The Serie A side would have clinched progression had it emerged victorious at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday but, although it threatened occasionally in the second period, its generally lacklustre display was hardly deserving of all three points.

AEK shaded a dour first half, creating a couple of half-chances to worry a Milan side which itself looked utterly toothless in the final third.

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Montella managed to get a little more out of his team after the break, though, with Riccardo Montolivo going close twice in quick succession – his second chance striking the post.

Milan improved considerably in the second half, moving the ball quicker and putting AEK's defence under pressure, yet it failed to enjoy a sustained period of dominance.

The latter stages became somewhat more frantic, but neither side looked to play with any more conviction than before and it remained goalless, leaving Group D leaders Milan — which has just a single win in its last seven matches across all competitions — on eight points, two clear of second-placed AEK.

 

Milan showed little sign of putting its domestic woes behind it during the early exchanges, with AEK looking significantly more purposeful.

Rodrigo Galo was the first to go close for the host 11 minutes in, seeing his dipping 25-yard volley go agonisingly wide of the bottom-left corner.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was then called into action a few moments later, denying the tricky Sergio Araujo at the near post after a Fabio Borini error invited pressure and the host finished the half on top as Galo went close again, his curling left-footed effort from the right flank flying just past the top-left corner.

Milan went into the half-time break having failed to touch the ball in AEK's penalty area, highlighting its poor showing.

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Montella introduced Suso for the disappointing Patrick Cutrone for the second half and Milan suddenly appeared more urgent and calculated in possession.

The Spaniard almost set Montolivo up for the opener nine minutes after the break, with Giannis Anestis blocking the Italian's close-range effort following Suso's clever ball in from the right.

Montolivo then went even closer a couple of minutes later, shooting against the left-hand post after being released into the area by Hakan Calhanoglu.

Milan enjoyed some late pressure, though the closest it  went to a goal was Ognjen Vranjes' awkward clearance over his own goal from close range after a Suso cross, with the match ultimately petering out into the kind of drab encounter that will do little for Montella's job prospects.

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