NEWS
Wednesday September 18 2013
Milan squeeze past Celtic

Milan left it late, but pushed past Celtic 2-0 thanks to Cristian Zapata’s deflected shot and Sulley Ali Muntari.

The Rossoneri hoped to put their Serie A problems aside for this Champions League opener, although the injury crisis left Max Allegri with precious few options. Absentees included Stephan El Shaarawy, Kaka, Giampaolo Pazzini, Riccardo Montolivo, Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio and Matias Silvestre, while M’Baye Niang and Riccardo Saponara are ineligible. Valter Birsa was given his full Milan debut. Celtic missed James Forrest and Joe Ledley.

Early doors Fraser Forster did well to beat away a Mario Balotelli volley from Birsa’s cross, then rushed off his line to close down Birsa for a corner.

Christian Abbiati ran a huge risk when he picked up what the referee considered to be a Cristian Zaccardo backpass, but Charlie Mulgrew’s indirect free kick from inside the penalty area was blocked.

Forster was called into action again by an Alessandro Matri header on Zaccardo’s cross, knocking it over with his wrist. Antonio Nocerino’s half-volley dipped just inches over the bar and Philippe Mexes charged down a Stokes effort after Birsa’s poor backpass surprised Zapata.

Celtic had their best chance of the game so far at the dawn of the second half, as Georgos Samaras went on a solo run and unleashed a shot that skimmed the upright.

Zapata couldn’t keep his header on target from a corner and Mexes deflected a long-range Kris Commons strike just past the post with Abbiati beaten.

Sulley Ali Muntari should’ve broken the deadlock on 63 minutes when he was found unmarked at the back post by a Zapata cross, but somehow nodded over the bar.

Abbiati haphazardly punched away a Commons cross and Antonio Nocerino had to charge down the Samaras follow-up. Commons then went on the counter from a Balotelli free kick and Nigel De Jong was decisive in taking the edge off Brown’s finish, allowing Abbiati to smother.

Anthony Stokes thought he had scored with a free kick that curled over the wall, but it smacked against the crossbar.

Zapata finally broke through with a bit of luck, as his snapshot looked to be going wide before it hit Emilio Izaguirre’s shins and was redirected into the near bottom corner. It would've been the Colombian defender’s first goal in a Milan jersey, but UEFA credited it as an own goal.

Muntari made it 2-0 soon after, as Balotelli’s free kick was flapped on to the woodwork and the Ghanaian was there to tap in the rebound from point-blank range.

Milan 2-0 Celtic

Scorers: Izaguirre og 82 (M), Muntari 86 (M)

Milan: Abbiati; Zaccardo, Zapata, Mexes, Constant (Robinho 75); Nocerino, De Jong, Muntari; Birsa (Emanuelson 64); Balotelli, Matri (Poli 86)

Celtic: Forster; Lustig, Van Dijk, Ambrose, Izaguirre; Matthews (Boerrigter 74), Brown, Mulgrew (Biton 89); Samaras; Commons (Pukki 77), Stokes

Ref: Stark (GER)

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