Wednesday, October 3, 2007

UEFA Champions League: Celtic FC 2 - AC Milan 1

UEFA Champions League
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Celtic Park, Glasgow


(McManus 62, McDonald 90)

(Kaka 68)

MAN OF THE MATCH: Scott McDonald

CELTIC (4-5-1) Boruc; Doumbe (Kennedy 79), Caldwell, McManus, Naylor; S Brown, Donati, Hartley, McGeady (Nakamura 85), Jarosik (Killen 85); McDonald.
Subs: M Brown, Riordan, Sno, O’Dea.

AC MILAN (4-5-1)
Dida (Kalac 90); Oddo, Nesta, Bonera, Jankulovski; Gattuso, Seedorf (Gourcuff 55), Kaka, Ambrosini, Pirlo; Inzaghi (Gilardino 77).
Subs: Emerson, Simic, Favalli, Brocchi.

IT took a late strike from Scott McDonald to seal all three points against AC Milan in one of the most dramatic UEFA Champions League encounters at Celtic Park.

The game was heading for a 1-1 draw when the Australian pounced inside the six-yard box to steer the ball beyond Dida.

Celtic had taken a 62nd minute lead through Stephen McManus, which was cancelled out by a controversial Kaka penalty just six minutes later, but McDonald's goal sealed all three points.

It was a remarkable end to a game in which Celtic had more than held their own against the Italian giants, with the goal earning Celtic’s first points in the group stages this season and their first ever win over AC Milan.

The two sides are becoming fairly familiar foes in the UEFA Champions League, with this their fifth meeting since 2004. This was arguably the strongest Milan side to make the trip to Celtic Park, however, arriving in Glasgow as reigning European champions and with a starting XI bristling with world-class talents.

There were also a number of World Cup winners on display, while this young Celtic squad are, in contrast, lacking in top level experience.

With this in mind some had feared a lesson in this first home match in the group stages, but once the game began the wildest fears had all but dissipated.

In the opening half Celtic produced the kind of performance that the supporters had hoped for, with Milan spending most of their time on the back foot, trying to contain hardworking lone frontman, Scott McDonald and the bursting midfield runs of Aiden McGeady, Jiri Jarosik and Scott Brown in particular.

In the full-back positions, Lee Naylor and Jean-Joel Perrier-Doumbe also looked strong and positive, with the latter looking unshakeable under the occasional burst of pressure from the Rossoneri.

Chances on goal had been few and far between, though, and when the half-time whistle sounded, neither Artur Boruc nor his Brazilian counterpart Dida had been genuinely tested by a shot on target.

As the teams emerged from the tunnel into the heavy rain which had fallen relentlessly throughout the evening, there was but one nagging doubt still remaining in the background, that that the Italians had still to step up a gear and push for the opener.

But still the pattern continued, with Celtic posing problems with their sudden forays forward and Filippo Inzaghi and Kaka well-shackled by Stephen McManus and Gary Caldwell.

Then, when the moment arrived to join the attack, McManus stepped to the fore, turning Celtic’s opener over the line in the 62nd minute.

The goal stemmed from a Paul Hartley that was swung into the near post and helped on by the faintest of headers from Massimo Donati. The stadium then erupted as the ball arrived at the Celtic captain and he bundled it home from a yard out.

Spurred into action, Milan responded immediately with a Andrea Pirlo free-kick hammered through the Celtic wall from 30 yards out and batted up and over the crossbar by Artur Boruc. But it would take the intervention of referee Markus Merk to draw the Italians level in the 68th minute.

The German official appeared to be the only man inside Celtic Park who believed that it was a penalty when Massimo Ambrosini went down in the box under a challenge from Lee Naylor.

There had been no claims from the visitors , but there were obvious no complaints either as Kaka stepped up and drilled the ball home.

In the immediate wake of the goal, tempers became fraught and it looked as though the match was at one point going to boil over, with Kaka going down theatrically on a couple of occasions and Alessandro Nesta booked for a kick at Brown.

The match looked to have calmed down, though, and as the full-time whistle approached, the manager threw on Chris Killen and Shunsuke Nakamura in a late push for the win.

And it was the Japanese midfielder who cut the ball back into the path of Gary Caldwell who then thumped his shot at goal. The shot was parried at his near post by Dida, falling perfectly for the opportunistic McDonald, who rammed the ball home from a couple of yards out to give Celtic an incredible victory.



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