MILAN : Back in the Champions League this season, AC Milan appear to be up against it to reach the knockout stages after a 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid left them without a point in Group B, but it was a case of what might have been for the Serie A side on Tuesday.
Roared on by an enthusiastic San Siro crowd, witnessing their first Champions League home game since 2014, Milan were well on top in the opening half and deservedly led 1-0 through Rafael Leao after 20 minutes.
Even after Franck Kessie's red card nine minutes later, Milan dug in admirably and looked to have frustrated their opponents, who for all their pressure, created few clear-cut chances.
However, Milan hearts were broken by Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez in the final stages as the duo's goals earned Atletico a priceless victory in a match that could so easily have gone the other way.
"We played a great game, for sure," Milan coach Stefano Pioli told reporters. "We created lots of chances, we were a team, we suffered very little, hardly at all. We were masters of the field, so the team's performance had to give us great confidence.
"The referee's decisions ... yes, Franck (Kessie) has made a foul that can be avoided but it is so early in the game and should not be a second yellow card to leave a team in the Champions League 10 men after 30 minutes.
"It is too bad, we deserved to win."
Suarez's penalty for Atletico was timed at 96 minutes and 21 seconds - the latest game-winning goal in the Champions League since the start of the 2003-04 season, when such data was first gathered - and provided Diego Simeone's side with a huge boost.
The result leaves Atletico on four points from their two Group B matches, and puts them in a strong position to reach the knockout stages, sitting three points clear of Porto in third.
"It's true, in the first 30 minutes they put us under so much pressure and we didn't have the tools to get out of that," Simeone said. "Then they were left with one less man and from there the game changed. They were superior to us.
"I'm very happy for Antoine (Griezmann), he needed this goal. I had no doubts in counting on him."
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Toby Davis)