A Kevin-Prince Boateng brace and a masterful performance from Mario Balotelli sealed AC Milan’s spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage following a 3-0 win over PSV Eindhoven at the San Siro.
Milan, who came away from the first leg in the Netherlands with a 1-1 draw, progress on 4-1 aggregate and will be placed in Pot 2 for Thursday’s draw in Monaco.
From the get-go, Wednesday’s affair bore little resemblance to the hectic, end-to-end football that had fans at Philips Stadion holding their breath.
After both sides cautiously took turns spreading the ball around, Boateng opened the scoring after only nine minutes.
The Ghana international collected a superb ball from Riccardo Montolivo about 25 yards from goal and let loose a vicious drive that beat PSV goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet inside the near post.
PSV collected themselves after falling behind and, knowing they had always needed to score at the San Siro, set themselves out in search of an equalizer.
Adam Maher forced Milan keeper Christian Abbiati into a punching save in the 21st minute, and just four minutes later, Stijn Schaars’ effort from distance sailed over the crossbar. Memphis Depay closed out the opening period with a fierce shot that only narrowly missed the target.
Going into the break, the tie remained very much on a knife’s edge.
But Balotelli pushed it off 10 minutes after the restart, bundling the ball past Zoet after Philippe Mexes had nodded it on to him following a corner.
Only moments before, the former Manchester City forward had played teammate Stephan El Shaarawy into excellent space, although the 20-year-old ran out of room when it came to finishing.
Still, PSV pressed on, dominating both the possession and passing categories and earning nine corners over the course of the match to Milan’s two.
However, it was Boateng who was the next to strike, doubling his haul on the evening against the run of play when, after receiving Balotelli’s pass, he gained just enough space on his marker to slice the ball barely inside the far post with his left foot in the 77th minute.
From there, the Dutch side knew their number was up, and Milan comfortably ran out the clock to secure their victory.
Key Player Grades
Mario Balotelli: A+
He did absolutely everything one could possibly expect from a striker—scoring goals, creating for others and holding up play when in possession.
He also took six shots and turned both El Shaarawy and Boateng into scoring threats through the duration of their performances.
Riccardo Montolivo: A
As he so often is, the Rossoneri captain was the conductor of the orchestra on this night, finding teammates with long, searching passes and making cultured runs into useful space.
Statistically, he completed 85 percent of his passes, won two tackles and earned an assist on the Boateng goal that proved the match-winner.
Tim Matavz: C
His only job on this night was to find the back of the net, and despite recording two shots on target, he could not haul his side back into the tie.
Park Ji-Sung and Depay were each replaced well before the final whistle, so manager Phillip Cocu clearly expected the 24-year-old Slovenia international to get the job done in front of goal.
Milan, who opened their Serie A campaign with a 2-1 loss away to Verona on Saturday, will look to enter the win column when they host Cagliari on Sunday. From there, it’s the international break. They’ll return on September 15 with a visit to Torino.
PSV, meanwhile, will host Cambuur in the Eredivisie on Saturday and visit FC Twente on September 14—six days before a monumental encounter at home to Ajax.
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.