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Milan leave it late to sink Celtic

Published: Wednesday 18 September 2013, 23.07CET
AC Milan 2-0 Celtic FC
Two goals in the final eight minutes broke the Bhoys' resistance and secured an opening Group H win for Massimiliano Allegri's men.
by Paolo Menicucci
from San Siro

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Published: Wednesday 18 September 2013, 23.07CET

Milan leave it late to sink Celtic

AC Milan 2-0 Celtic FC
Two goals in the final eight minutes broke the Bhoys' resistance and secured an opening Group H win for Massimiliano Allegri's men.

Two late goals allowed AC Milan to overcome an unfortunate Celtic FC side in their UEFA Champions League Group H curtain-raiser, with an Emilio Izaguirre own goal and Sulley Muntari's strike settling an absorbing contest.

The hosts enjoyed a promising opening to matchday one but found Neil Lennon's men in resolute mood, before the visitors came close to taking the points themselves after the break. However, as time ticked down a shot by Cristián Zapata was deflected into his own net by Izaguirre and Muntari forced in a second to give the Rossoneri a winning start.

Mario Balotelli had the first effort of the game after five minutes for Massimiliano Allegri's team, controlling a precise lofted pass from Valter Birsa but then failing to angle his powerful volley past Fraser Forster. With Alessandro Matri playing in the centre of Milan's attack, Balotelli had the freedom to move deeper, creating problems for the Celtic defence with his clever positioning.

Making his first start since joining Milan from Juventus, Matri forced Forster into another difficult save after 21 minutes when he connected powerfully with a Cristian Zaccardo cross from the right, while Antonio Nocerino also went close as he sent a dipping shot just over the bar.

Celtic slowly dragged themselves into contention as the half progressed and threatened on the right flank where Mikael Lustig and Adam Matthews linked up fluidly. Just before the interval, however, Forster was again called into action to palm wide Balotelli's strike which deflected dangerously off Efe Ambrose.

The Scottish champions were more audacious after the restart and had the Rossoneri worried when Giorgos Samaras flashed a right-footed effort from 20 metres centimetres wide of Christian Abbiati's left post. Milan, however, had a glorious opportunity of their own on 63 minutes when Muntari headed over from close range from a perfect Kévin Constant cross to the back post.

Only a timely tackle by Nigel de Jong prevented Scott Brown from testing Abbiati while Anthony Stokes hit the bar with a wonderful free-kick with ten minutes left. Celtic appeared to be the side ending the stronger but two minutes later Izaguirre deflected a low shot by Zapata beyond Forster, before the keeper kept out Balotelli's free-kick only to see Muntari leap to meet the rebound and force it over the line.

Last updated: 14/04/14 16.35CET

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