Stubborn Sassuolo deny AC Milan a birthday present

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AC Milan did many positive things aimed at scoring but still failed to score in an extraordinary 0-0 draw at home to Sassuolo in Serie A on Sunday.

They had a goal chalked off by the video assistant referee (VAR), missed an open goal, were foiled by the goalkeeper and twice hit the woodwork.

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The draw left the seven-time European champions 10th on 21 points.

It also put a dampener on their 120th-anniversary celebrations which saw a host of past AC Milan players gather on the pitch at half-time.

“In the second half, we had nine or 10 shots on goal, we tried everything but the ball just would not go in,” said AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli.

“We made some technical mistakes that can prove very costly at this level. With a bit more precision and sharpness in front of goal, we could have brought home all three points.”

AC Milan thought they had taken the lead on the half-hour when Theo Hernandez’s shot took a huge deflection and looped into the net.

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The stadium announcer went through his celebration ritual and Sassuolo were waiting to restart when referee Gianluca Manganiello indicated a VAR review.

This was delayed as the official ushered players away from the pitchside monitor before the goal was disallowed for handball by Franck Kessie in the build-up.

Minutes later, Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer missed a glorious chance to score his first goal for the club.

Francesco Magnanelli lost the ball to the Algerian who burst forward and evaded a challenge from the onrushing goalkeeper Gianluca Pegolo.

But he dallied long enough in front of an open goal for a Sassuolo player to get back and block his shot.

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Pegolo atoned for his mistake with excellent second-half performance.

It included an outstanding double save to stop a shot from Hakan Calhanoglu and then block Giacomo Bonaventura’s effort from the rebound.

Substitute Rafael Leao thumped a shot against the underside of the crossbar in the 84th minute and the Portuguese then saw another shot hit the post three minutes later.

It could have been worse for Milan as Sassuolo were always menacing on the break.

Gianluigi Donnarumma had to be at full stretch to turn away Hamed Traore’s long-range shot near the end.

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