AC Milan reach the knockout stages for the first since 2013

(Football news) France international Olivier Giroud scored two goals as he helped his side AC Milan crush FC Salzburg 4-0 to reach the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since 2013-14. The Rossenari needed to avoid defeat in their final Group E match to reach the last 16 against the Austrian side who were gunning for a win that would take them through but Giroud settled any nerves in the San Siro with an early header into the bottom corner of the goal

The veteran turned provider as he expertly headed across for Rade Krunic who made it two within 43 seconds into the second half and then Giroud put the game to bed in the 57th minute, as he drilled home a fine finish after fine work from Rafael Leao. Then a brilliant solo goal from Junior Messias in stoppage time capped an excellent night for Milan who secured second spot in Group E. Salzburg will go into the Europa League after finishing third in the league. Pioli, who recently signed a new three-year contract this week, guided Milan to their first Serie A title in 11 years last term, and he created history by guiding the Rossenari to the knockout stage after 9 years.

For Milan, back-to-back defeats to Chelsea left the seven-time UCL winners with plenty to do to avoid an early exit, but they got a crucial victory at Dinamo Zagreb last week which ensured that their fate remained in their hands. Salzburg remained a threat in the first half but once Krunic got his first-ever Champions League goal, all hopes of a comeback ended. The night belonged to the Frenchman who at the age of 36 years and 33 days became the oldest player to score a brace in the UCL for Milan since Filippo Inzaghi against Real Madrid in November 2010.

"These kinds of nights are what we wish for," coach Stefano Pioli told Sky Sport Italia. "We wanted to show we improved compared to last season in the Champions League. We're ambitious now, so let's see what happens next."

"It was fantastic in front of our fans," Giroud told UEFA. "I wanted to score, I hadn't for some time and it was good for my confidence."

Also read: Benfica top the group as they thump Maccabi while PSG get a narrow win


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