Ibra double gives AC victory
Zlatan Ibrahimovic kick-started AC Milan's European campaign with two goals in two minutes.
By Mike Barton
Last Updated: 15/09/10 10:28pm
Zlatan Ibrahimovic kick-started AC Milan's European campaign with two goals in two minutes to give them a 2-0 win over Auxerre at the San Siro on Tuesday.
The Swede, who arrived on loan from Barcelona at the end of August, made his mark for his new club when they needed it most after a sloppy first 65 minutes in what is likely to be their easiest encounter of the group.
Auxerre at times made life difficult for their opponents, creating the two best chances of the first half including Steeven Langil's wasted shot over the bar when a cross to two unmarked players would have meant an almost certain goal.
It was a vintage second half performance from Brazilian maestro Ronaldinho, who had a hand in both goals and showed the tricks that made him twice World Player of the Year to give his side what was in the end, a deserved three points.
Milan, looking to bounce back from a shock defeat in Serie A on Sunday by Cagliari, fielded their all-star strike force of Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato and Ronaldinho on the pitch, with fellow Brazilian Robinho warming the bench for the Rossoneri as well as former Portsmouth star Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Auxerre opted against fielding former Liverpool midfielder Anthony Le Tallec, with Langil taking his place on the left of midfield.
The French side started much the better of the two, with Slovenian international Valter Birsa hitting a low drive from over 20 yards to test Christian Abbiati, which the goalkeeper gathered easily.
Langil then took advantage of some awful defending by the Italian side with a low shot from inside the box to test Abbiati again, with Milan, for all their experience at the back, in sixes and sevens in their own area.
Milan began to stamp a mark on the game by retaining possession; however their more experienced campaigners in Massimo Ambrosini, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluca Zambrotta looked sluggish, with a midfield trio including Clarence Seedorf at a combined age of 98-years-old.
However skipper Ambrosini was forced off with a leg injury in the 15th minute, giving Boateng his first taste of Champions League football as his replacement.
Massimiliano Allegri's side were looking to the wide areas through Zambrotta, however his crosses lacked conviction and were easy meat for French keeper Olivier Sorin.
The first booking of the game came with Seedorf's excellent lofted pass for Pato to run on to before he was hauled down by Swiss full-back Stefan Grichting.
What followed was Milan's first effort; a free-kick from Pirlo straight at Sorin who opted to punch away rather than catch.
But Auxerre had a chance just minutes later as Adama Coulibaly beat Alessandro Nesta easily in the air from Birsa's corner to strike the crossbar.
Suddenly the game was open, and Milan pounced on the counter with Ronaldinho's clever backheel opening space for Luca Antonini to cross low for Boateng, whose shot was blocked by Grichting and Pato failed to capitalise on the follow-up.
Auxerre had their big chance with five minutes of the half remaining, with a four-on-two break away from a Milan corner, however Langil opted to shoot wastefully over from an acute angle rather than cut back for Cedric Hengbart or Ireneusz Jelen for a simple pass into the net.
The home side livened up more towards the end of the half, however they lacked the final pass and a spark of creativity in the final third to cause their opponents any significant danger as the whistle arrived with the game still goalless.
Almost immediately after the restart Ronaldinho created space to send in a dangerous cross for Pato to run on to, but he failed to touch the ball and it landed kindly into the arms of Sorin.
Seven minutes later Ibrahimovic did well to create space and beat two players before providing Pirlo with a chance to shoot low but his effort was deflected wide.
Milan's second change came ten minutes into the restart with Robinho coming on to replace the ineffectual Pato.
But it was their fellow new boy who broke the deadlock, with Ibrahimovic prodding home a fine Boateng flick-on from Ronaldinho's in-swinging cross.
It was far from deserved from the home side, who had lacked significant bite all night to break down the defence; but it was the touch of class so desperately lacking before that in their performance.
And it was two just minutes later as Auxerre broke forward, that Ronaldinho hit them on the counter with a fine run down the centre to provide the Swede with an expertly taken finish into Sorin's bottom corner.
The Brazilian was getting more and more into the game and began to dictate the play, almost providing Boateng with the chance to open his Milan account, but the Ghanaian could not convert with his back to goal from close range.
Oliech had a great chance to make the game interesting after being put through well by Birsa, but he dragged his shot to the near post and Abbiati was able to save.
Le Tallec, who arrived on as a substitute, had the ball in the net from the resulting corner but he was adjudged to be offside as he headed home.
But that was as good as it got for the away side in the end, with Ronaldinho and Robinho finishing the game with a flurry or tricks and flicks to see out the game in Samba style.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||3|
|4||Shots off Target||5|