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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Champions League, Milan 1-0 Celtic

Brave Celtic edged out by AC Milan
AC Milan advanced to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the sixth consecutive season but they needed extra time to secure a 1-0 victory over Celtic FC at San Siro.

AC Milan's starting line-up included seven of the team that played in the 2003 Champions League final in which they beat Italian rivals Juventus on penalties. Milan came close to taking the lead in the fourth minute when Clarence Seedorf fed Kaka in space, but KAKA's curling right-footed shot was clawed away by Boruc's fingertips.

Undeterred, Celtic came forward and had a penalty appeal turned down when Jiří Jarošík's angled strike came off Maldini in the area. Kaká was the key figure, though, and he put Marek Jankulovski through with a perfectly-timed pass which the midfielder cut back for Filippo Inzaghi at the near post, only for McManus to make a vital block. Milan's next move required another such intervention, as Inzaghi shaped to despatch Seedorf's cross but was denied by Lee Naylor.
Celtic advanced in search of an away goal yet were almost made to pay when Shunsuke Nakamura lost possession outside the Rossoneri box. The hosts broke in a flash, Jankulovski releasing Kaká down the left though the latter drove wide. Kaká was relishing his supporting role behind Inzaghi and was at the hub of everything Milan created, even conjuring a shot on goal from a prone position which was foiled by another goalline clearance on 37 minutes.

AC Milan still dominated possession with Andrea Pirlo, Seedorf and Kaká weaving numerous intricate exchanges, although Celtic continued to hold firm with Boruc making comfortable stops from Pirlo and Massimo Oddo. Carlo Ancelotti's men spurned a great chance when Maldini's header was saved and he slipped at the crucial moment as the ball fell into his path with the goalkeeper prostrate. In a frenetic finale, Boruc brilliantly clawed a Seedorf free-kick away from the top corner, before Kaká's long-range strike rebounded off the bar.

AC Milan, who had 25 goal attempts in the 90 minutes, finally found a way through when Kaka drove at a backpedalling Celtic defence and coolly finished.

Carlo Ancelotti, Milan coach
We won playing with simplicity and maturity but also by taking a few risks as our defenders, especially the full-backs, were pushing forward for most of the game. In the latter stages of the match we attacked with eleven players, probably risking too much. But the chances we created during that period gave us more confidence for extra time. Kaká is a great player and I don't take it as a bad thing when people say we are dependent on his performances. Milan always play their own way, no matter who the opponents are. Our philosophy is always the same - try to win every game. I don't think we are favourites to win the Champions League, but a few teams who were considered favourites are out of the tournament. If I had to choose one team I would like to face in the quarter-finals, I would say Liverpool.

Gordon Strachan, Celtic manager
Milan had more technique, but we had more determination. We have to improve the technical aspects of our game but I'm really proud with what my team has done. We gave our very best and only the goal was missing. We were fantastic from both an attacking and a defensive point of view. We have a lot of young players and this is a fantastic experience for us that will be extremely useful for the future. If we improve technically we can become tough opponents for anybody. I feared Milan would score in the latter stages of the 90 minutes when they pushed forward, forcing us to defend in the box. However, we believed until the end we could have scored.

AC Milan: Dida, Oddo (Simic 116), Bonera, Maldini, Jankulovski, Gattuso (Brocchi 79), Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Kaka, Inzaghi (Gilardino 73). Subs Not Used: Kalac, Favalli, Gourcuff, Oliveira.

Booked: Ambrosini.

Goal: Kaka 93.

Celtic: Boruc, Telfer, McManus, O'Dea, Naylor, Nakamura (Miller 106), Lennon, Sno (Beattie 97), McGeady, Jarosik (Gravesen 62), Vennegoor of Hesselink. Subs Not Used: Brown, Wilson, Kennedy, Riordan.

Booked: McManus, Naylor, McGeady, Lennon.

Champions league Ac Milan 1-0 Celtic, highlights and goals video: