Atletico Madrid came back from 1-0 down to beat former UEFA Champions League winners AC Milan 2-1, leaving Milan fans angry about the refereeing decisions made during the match.
The defending La Liga champions visited Milan’s home of San Siro and conceded a 20th-minute goal through Portuguese winger Rafael Leao. The home fans, however, were shocked when midfielder Franck Kessie was sent off after picking up two yellow cards in quick succession. His first card came in 15th minute after clipping Marcos Llorente’s leg, and the second came in the 20th minute after stepping on Llorente’s foot from behind, causing him to get a red card.
Many Milan fans thought this was harsh, and it ruined Milan’s chance of getting its first victory in the Champions League in seven years. Coincidentally, Milan’s last Champions League match seven years ago was against Atletico Madrid, which also ended in a 2-1 defeat.
“The referee was wrong from the beginning,” said avid AC Milan fan Omar Adlan, when asked what went wrong during the match. “It’s so unfair, It’s so unfair.”
Milan asserted its dominance in the first 20 minutes of the game with the Italian side peppering Atletico’s goal. The Spanish club’s first shot on goal came deep into the second half of the match.
“From the very beginning of the match, we showed our dominance, Atletico stood no chance whatsoever to score,” Adlan says. “We scored one goal, everyone is happy. And then, one of our player gets a red card for absolutely nothing, sure it’s a foul, but nobody would give a red card for such a foul.”
Antoine Griezmann, who came back to Atletico from Barcelona on a season-long loan, brought the game level after scoring in the 84th minute. Another former Barcelona man Luis Suarez put the game to bed after scoring a late penalty to bring three points back to Spain.
The penalty was won thanks to an alleged handball by Milan defender Pierre Kalulu in the 97th minute.
“The Atletico penalty definitely should not have been given, I do not understand how it was given,” Adlan says. “There are multiple reasons as to why the penalty should not have been given, which was very obvious before they even checked with the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). From the point of rebound, to the point that it touched our defenders hand, it was a very small distance, it was a very small chance for him to react.”
AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli also voiced his frustration about how things unfolded at San Siro in an interview with ESPN.
“I don’t think it was the best evening for the referee,” Pioli told ESPN. “The numerical inferiority forced us to play another type of match, after the sending off there were many difficulties.”
Milan’s first Champions League group stage match was against six-time winners Liverpool at Anfield on Sept. 15. Though Milan were getting dominated for the majority of the game, they were leading 2-1 at half-time, only for Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson to smash in the winner from the edge of the box to make it 3-2 after Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah brought the scores level at 2-2.
“Nobody, and I mean nobody expected Milan to win that match,” Adlan says about the Liverpool matchup. “I was just hoping to show that we could compete. Coming up against them, I didn’t expect us to win or even draw, I knew a loss was coming. We showed that we can compete and I am more than happy, and I’m sure all of the fans are more than happy.”
Milan’s third group stage match will be against Portuguese side FC Porto, on Oct. 19, and it will be a must-win for the Italians who sit at the bottom of Group B with 0 points, while Atletico are second with four, trailing Liverpool by two points who sit comfortably at the top.