HomeChampions LeagueGiroud stars as AC Milan thrash Salzburg to book last-16 spot

Giroud stars as AC Milan thrash Salzburg to book last-16 spot

Soccer Football – Champions League – Group E – AC Milan v FC Salzburg – San Siro, Milan, Italy – November 2, 2022 AC Milan’s Olivier Giroud in action with FC Salzburg’s Oumar Solet REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

MILAN (Reuters) – French forward Olivier Giroud scored two goals and created another as AC Milan crushed Salzburg 4-0 on Wednesday to reach the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since 2013-14.

Needing to avoid defeat in their final Group E match to reach the last 16 against an Austrian side gunning for the win that would take them through, Giroud settled any nerves around the San Siro with an early header into the bottom corner.

The veteran expertly headed across for Rade Krunic to make it two 43 seconds into the second half and Giroud put the game to bed in the 57th minute, drilling home after fine work from Rafael Leao.

A solo goal from Junior Messias in stoppage time capped an excellent night for Milan who secured second spot in Group E behind England’s Chelsea. Salzburg will go into the Europa League after finishing third.

Coach Stefano Pioli, who signed a new three-year contract this week, guided Milan to their first Serie A title in 11 years last term, but saw his side finish bottom of their group on their return to the Champions League.

Back-to-back defeats to Chelsea this time around left the seven-time European Cup winners with plenty to do to avoid another early exit, before a crucial victory at Dinamo Zagreb last week ensured their fate remained in their hands going into the final group match.

Right from the off in their famous San Siro stadium, Milan never looked in danger of missing out again as, moments after Theo Hernandez had rattled the post, Giroud headed home Sandro Tonali’s corner.

Salzburg remained a threat in the first half, but Krunic’s first-ever Champions League goal ended any hopes of a comeback.

With Giroud screaming for it in the middle as he hunted for his hat-trick, Messias stroked the ball into the bottom corner, but the night still belonged to the Frenchman.

Aged 36 years and 33 days, Giroud became the oldest player to score a brace in the Champions League for Milan since Filippo Inzaghi against Real Madrid in November 2010.

(Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)