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goals by Loftus Cheek (double) and Leao-breaking latest news

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goals by Loftus Cheek (double) and Leao-breaking latest news

by Carlos Passerini

Milan were led by Loftus Cheek, the absolute protagonist with a brace. Leao closes the accounts, he returns to France in a week

Milan’s Europa League adventure begins in the best possible way, securing their qualification for the round of 16 with a brilliant 3-0 win over Rennes which will allow them to manage the return match next Thursday in Brittany with a certain amount of serenity. To avoid trouble, it will be enough to play with the same mentality shown yesterday at San Siro, when in less than an hour the Rossoneri closed the game by asserting their technical superiority against an opponent who did what he could, for as long as he could. Two considerations. The first is that, championship or cups, it makes no difference for the new Devil: 5 victories in the last 6 games, confirming an excellent state of form which leads to optimism in view of these last decisive hundred days of the season, after the too many ups and downs of autumn. The second instead concerns Loftus-Cheek, the man of the day, author of an amazing double, with a header, before Leao’s 3-0. Deployed by Pioli almost as a second striker, the Englishman split the match with his overflowing physicality. One thing is certain: he was always well, he would be a regular starter in the Premier League.

The road to the final in Dublin on 22 May and its overall haul of 40 million euros is long, very long. But to start the journey in the right way, Pioli was right to rely on men better than him. The message is clear: now that the 2024/25 Champions League place is almost secure, getting to the bottom of the Europa League is a priority. From the third tier, the almost eight thousand fans who arrived from Brittany for the trip that is worth a lifetime make themselves heard. Stephan’s team is coming off 8 victories, is fired up and dreams of the feat. The first opportunity, however, is for Milan: high school number from Leao and the ball chipped the crossbar.

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On the other hand, Loftus-Cheek made no mistake on the half-hour mark as he headed a cross into the net with Florenzi’s counter. Among the French, the left wing Desiré Doué, 18 years old, stands out: he has flair and running. But it’s not enough on its own. In fact, the second half opens with Loftus-Cheek’s second goal, again with the header, following the development of a corner, before a masterpiece of a trio by Leao, who starts a back-heel action with Hernandez and closes it with a right-footed shot into the top corner.

Europe calls, Rafa responds: he hasn’t scored in the league since September, but the scent of the cup is an elixir. In the finale we see Thiaw again, almost three months after the muscle injury. The 70 thousand at San Siro are smiling, like Pioli. «His future? We are winning them all, we are very happy to have him” made president Scaroni clear, sitting in the stands next to Cardinale. The owner of RedBird can return to America satisfied: his Devil has left again. And he means business.

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February 15, 2024 (modified February 15, 2024 | 11.36pm)

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