Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid reached the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 2-2 draw against AC Milan.
'Special One' offered reason to smile after San Siro return
Jose Mourinho reminded AC Milan fans why they loved to hate him during his time in Italy as Real Madrid qualified for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League courtesy of a late 2-2 draw at the San Siro.
The ex-Inter Milan boss and self-acclaimed 'Special One' was facing formerly bitter rivals Milan on their own patch for the first time since leaving for Spain in the summer and the verbal disapproval on his comeback was tangible in this Group G fixture.
However, Mourinho revels in the 'us against them' mindset and before kick-off he could be seen seemingly showing three fingers to the catcalling and booing stands to apparently represent Inter's 2009/10 Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia Treble.
The Portuguese will not be able to swagger away from Milan with characteristic confidence after a slightly disjointed display, but he will be able to afford a slight grin after substitute Pedro Leon struck in injury-time to ensure progress.
Milan had looked set to take the points after overcoming Gonzalo Higuain's opener as substitute Filippo Inzaghi capitalised on an error by Iker Casillas and a debatable offside decision, however, Pedro gave Mourinho, unbeaten at Real, the final word.
In an excellent first half, it was difficult not to think of the Premier League. End-to-end football, crunching tackles, Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Ricardo Carvalho and even South Yorkshire referee Howard Webb.
It was a cracking opening 45 minutes, which reminded more of England's top flight than a clash between two continental heavyweights, who were expected to take a cautious approach.
Real, who defeated Milan 2-0 in Spain in October, should have been at least two goals in front inside the opening 20 minutes. Higuain forced Christian Abbiati to push a shot around the far post before Alonso sent the Milan goalkeeper scrambling with a 30-yard volley.
Di Maria could have done better when he turned Gianluca Zambrotta, however, he elected to check onto his left and inexcusably dragged his shot horribly wide of the near post from close range.
Andrea Pirlo was expected to be Milan's key man, pulling the strings, but the Italy midfielder's greatest contribution was a double-header while under his own crossbar when clearing from Higuain and Di Maria's follow-up.
Ex-Manchester United star Ronaldo, who went into the match having scored 13 times in 13 appearances in 2010/11, was doing his best to find a way through and was a constant source of kinetic menace to Milan.
The Portuguese's hallmarks were on full display, but so was his frustrating side in the 24th minute when he attempted to earn a red card for Ignazio Abate after a theatrical, delayed fall following an accidental tap to the throat.
Milan were under the cosh and four minutes later former Portsmouth man Boateng, who had been chasing shadows, earned a booking from Webb when attempting a slide tackle on the livewire Higuain.
It was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, though, who wasted the game's best chance as half-time approached, with the Swede lofting a lobbed volley wide of the target after Real captain Casillas had unnecessarily raced from his goalline.
Milan were promptly punished on the stroke of half-time as Di Maria cleverly disguised a pass to Higuain and the Argentina international was unerring in his finish to leave Abbiati helpless.
Massimiliano Allegri clearly had a few choice words for his home players during the interval and the Italian club emerged with a renewed determination, which was demonstrated as skipper Gennaro Gattuso clattered Alonso.
Abate and Ibrahimovic both went into Webb's book as frustrations became evident among the Milan ranks and substitute Inzaghi, who replaced the ineffective Ronaldinho, received a ticking off for a shove on Alonso.
Amid the tempers and lunges, Serie A outfit Milan had upped their game, and an equaliser was deserved, although it owed to the mistakes of their visitors in the 68th minute.
Pepe failed to cut out a pass to Ibrahimovic and Casillas' attempt to predict the Milan striker's thoughts proved fatal as the hugely-experienced shot-stopper fumbled a cross-shot to allow 37-year-old Inzaghi a trademark poacher's finish.
Real were ruing missed chances, lost their momentum and, with Milan replacing Alexandre Pato with Massimo Ambrosini, Mourinho decided to introduce Karim Benzema in place of Higuain.
The changes made little immediate impact, but in the 78th minute Inzaghi broke clear of the Real defence from a seemingly offside position to finish and score his 125th Milan goal, overtaking Marco van Basten in sixth place in the club's list of top scorers.
Mourinho was fuming, but the defensive errors of his side told the story of Real's struggles in the Champions League over recent years. Sergio Ramos mirrored his manager's emotions with a booking for unsporting behaviour.
Milan were revelling to the soundtrack of an olé-ing crowd, however, there was to be a late twist to allow Mourinho the last laugh as substitute Pedro struck in injury-time after latching onto Benzema's clever pass.
||1st Half Goals
||Shots on Target
||Shots off Target