Job done for Milan
Milan secured a point in Lisbon to book their place in the knock-out stages.
By Carla Hilton
Last Updated: 28/11/07 10:47pm
A point was enough for Milan to qualify for the knock-out stages at the expense of Benfica who exit the competition despite their solid efforts in Lisbon on Wednesday.
In a game full of chances Milan secured the point they required to progress through to the last 16 with one more game to come.
Milan had been somewhat struggling to find their league form in Serie A but have been more than impressive in their Champions League performances so far. Bidding for their second successive European title the Italians were top of group D going into the game in Lisbon. Benfica however had been quite the opposite - coming into the match unbeaten in the Portuguese league but in poor form in their European exploits this term.
Milan had a good chance to take the lead early on in the game when Clarence Seedorf broke on the right but, trying to beat the keeper at the near post, the ball was palmed away.
The Italians deservedly went ahead just 14 minutes into the game through Andrea Pirlo whose shot 25 yards out cruised past the keeper into the bottom right of the net.
Not without making mistakes Milan almost gifted Benfica an instant equaliser. Cristian Rodriguez picked up on some sloppy defending and seemed certain to score but for Kakha Kaladze making up quick ground to deny Rodriguez the equaliser.
Benfica - feeling more confident - continued to press the Milan defence and soon got the equaliser they sought. Uruguayan Maxi Pereira in his first season for Benfica made his mark in Europe with an unstoppable shot off the inside of the left post, giving keeper Dida no chance and bringing the game level inside 20 minutes.
Cristian Brocchi came close to putting Milan in front again from long range. Slow to be closed down Brocchi's shot from 25 yards out was on target and struck well but saved by Quim who seemed to make a meal out of the clearance.
Benfica came out much livelier in the second half than Milan who seemed content with the draw. Sitting back against an attacking Benfica side who have to win to stay in the competition though was proving dangerous as Benfica continued to press the Milan defence.
The Portuguese side almost took the lead when Armando Petit's rocket of a shot 30 yards out was cleared rather poorly by Dida straight to the feet of Nuno Gomes.
Luckily for Milan, Gomes was flagged offside, but spurred on by that rather close effort, the 31-year-old again found space in the area minutes later when picking up a ball in by Pereira from the right. He shot this time straight in to the hands of Dida who held it well.
Then, almost paying the price for pushing so many players forward Benfica fans were left gasping as Kaka broke on the right. His shot went just wide of the right post with just minutes remaining and Benfica still needing another goal to stay in the competition.
But despite their efforts the Portuguese side could not break down the Milan defence and they exit the competition after a very impressive performance against the defending champions who are now through to the first knock-out phase.