A stoppage-time header by substitute Milan Pavkov earned 10-man Red Star Belgrade a 2-2 home draw with AC Milan in a pulsating Europa League round of 32 first-leg clash on Thursday.
Milan led 1-0 and 2-1 thanks to a Radovan Pankov own goal and a Theo Hernandez penalty but Red Star, who had Milan Rodic sent off in the 76th minute, hit back through a Guelor Kanga penalty and Pavkov’s last-gasp header.
With one eye on Sunday’s Serie A derby against Inter (stream live at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN+ in U.S.), Milan coach Stefan Pioli played a makeshift side as he left striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and several other first-choice players on the bench.
“I fielded the best team available and we had high hopes of winning, but it’s still a result that works for us ahead of the return leg [next Thursday],” Pioli told a news conference.
“We should have managed possession better in the closing stages but our passes went astray and we got punished.”
Milan had two goals ruled out after VAR checks in the opening 12 minutes and missed several chances before Pankov stabbed the ball past his goalkeeper Milan Borjan in the 42nd minute as he tried to cut out a cross.
Red Star equalised against the run of play in the 51st minute when Alessio Romagnoli handled the ball in his area and Kanga drilled the spot kick into the bottom right corner.
The visitors restored their lead on the hour when Pankov fouled Hernandez as Milan broke forward and the left-back sent Borjan the wrong way with a clinical penalty.
Borjan saved a Samu Castillejo shot midway through the second half and tipped Soualiho Melte’s header over the bar after Rodic was dismissed for two bookable fouls.
But the hosts won a corner in the dying seconds and Pavkov, who scored twice in Red Star’s 2-0 win over Liverpool in a 2018-19 Champions League group stage match at the same venue, rose above a cluster of players to head home the equaliser.
Red Star manager Dejan Stankovic, who won the 2010 Champions League with Inter as a player, was pleased.
“The lads did a great job and I can only congratulate them for a fearless performance,” he said.
“We faced a strong team with a lot of individual quality and managed to hold our own against them.”