Milan clung to a 0-0 against Ajax to qualify after Riccardo Montolivo left them with 10 men for over an hour.



Milan clung to a 0-0 against Ajax to qualify after Riccardo Montolivo left them with 10 men for over an hour.

The Rossoneri needed a point to join Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16, but were without Robinho, Ignazio Abate, Matias Silvestre, Marco Amelia, Valter Birsa and Giampaolo Pazzini. Stephan El Shaarawy had his first start since suffering a micro-fracture, partnering Kaka and Mario Balotelli. Sulley Muntari, Daniele Bonera and Kevin Constant were picked ahead of Andrea Poli, Philippe Mexes and the not 100 per cent fit Urby Emanuelson. Bojan Krkic returned to face Milan after his disappointing loan spell, but Nicolai Boilesen, Lerin Duarte, Siem De Jong and the suspended Joel Veltman missed out.

There was immediately a huge scare after five minutes, as Christian Poulsen got his head to a corner, the ball bouncing off the inside of the far post and into the grateful arms of Christian Abbiati.

Muntari’s cross-shot was charged down before it could reach Balotelli, but Abbiati had to get down quickly with a one-handed save on Davy Klaassen’s diving header.

The situation was transformed after 22 minutes when Riccardo Montolivo was shown a straight red card for a mistimed tackle on Poulsen, stamping on his ankle. Poli replaced El Shaarawy to reinforce the midfield as Milan were forced to play with 10 men for over an hour and Kaka took the captain’s armband.

Abbiati again did well to deny Lasse Schone’s shot deflected by Viktor Fischer, though it wouldn’t have counted as the latter was offside.

The Italian goalkeeper was suffering from a recurrence of his old muscular problems before the break. As Marco Amelia is injured and Gabriel not on the Champions League list, fourth choice Ferdinando Coppola warmed up.

Ajax made an attacking substitution for the second half and Abbiati smothered a Klaassen snapshot as the visitors dominated possession.

Abbiati used his leg to parry a Klaassen angled drive at the near post and Danny Hoesen nodded the resulting corner over the bar.

Kolbeinn Sigthorsson knocked down a cross for Fischer, whose first time shot dribbled inches past the far post.

Milan didn’t have a single shot in the second half, threatening only with a couple of wayward Constant attempts, and made their position clear when introducing Philippe Mexes for Kaka.

It was a siege mentality and Balotelli continued to earn important free kicks to lessen the pressure. In the fifth minute of stoppages Sigthorsson went very close to a winner for Ajax, his overhead kick whistling inches past the far post.

Milan 0-0 Ajax

Milan: Abbiati; De Sciglio, Bonera, Zapata, Constant; Montolivo, De Jong, Muntari; Kaka (Mexes 81), El Shaarawy (Poli 23); Balotelli

Ajax: Cillessen; Van Rhijn, Moisander, Denswil, Blind; Klaassen, C Poulsen (Hoesen 46), Serero (Van Der Hoorn 80); Schone, Bojan (Sigthorsson 72), Fischer

Ref: Webb (ENG)

Sent off: Montolivo 22 (M)

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