AC Milan 0 AEK Athens 0: Frustration mounts for Montella in dour draw

AC Milan were denied a welcome escape from their poor Serie A form as AEK Athens secured a well-earned draw at San Siro.

AC Milan's domestic struggles carried over to the Europa League as they battled to a frustrating 0-0 home draw with AEK Athens on Thursday.

The Rossoneri failed to create a clear-cut opportunity and can consider themselves fortunate to have maintained their two-point advantage at the top of Group D.

Vincenzo Montella's men, whose rollercoaster defeat to rivals Inter on Sunday was their third straight Serie A loss, had been expected to recapture form against the Greek side.

But it was AEK who came closest to a first half opener as Mateo Musacchio gifted an opportunity to Andre Simoes, who was unable to hit the target from a narrow angle.

Milan showed more life after the restart and could have broken the deadlock through Patrick Cutrone, but three points would have been undeserved reward for a limp display.

Instead, the draw will only serve to heighten the pressure on manager Montella, whose side still have work to do to advance to the knockout stages.

Cutrone came in as one of four changes to the side which lost 3-2 in the Derby della Madonnina and the young striker had the ball in the back of the net inside seven minutes, only to be flagged for straying marginally offside.

Despite a lack of possession, AEK had few problems to contend with over the opening 25 minutes as the hosts searched for the kind of cutting edge that has seen them score eight goals in their first two group stage games.

And Milan were almost made to pay for their lethargy when Musacchio was robbed of possession in his own penalty area by Simoes.

From an almost impossible angle, the Portuguese midfielder fired right across the face of goal as Gianluigi Donnarumma left a gap at his near post in anticipation of a cut-back.

The scare was not enough to shock the Rossoneri into life, though, with Petros Mantalos dallying over another promising opening for AEK, before Adam Tzanetopoulos drew a sharp diving save from Donnarumma.

Montella's men did force the visitors into a pair of scrambling blocks late in the half, but the deadlock remained intact at the interval.

Both sides showed more attacking endeavour soon after the restart with Helder Lopes heading over at one end and Andre Silva doing likewise from a Suso corner.

Giannis Anestis was then called on to parry Hakan Calhanoglu's low drive in encouraging signs from a more fluent Milan.

Montella turned to Nikola Kalinic after the hour and the former Italy striker might have wished the next chance had fallen to his Croatian substitute as Cutrone failed to squeeze a finish past Anestis when the ball broke kindly in the area.

Anestis did superbly to smother and stop Suso finding the decisive goal after he had raced unchecked into the penalty area, and the goalkeeper rose to the occasion yet again in stoppage time when he blocked a dangerous Calhanoglu free-kick, marking the final frustration for Milan and Montella from a performance that only raises more questions.