Kaká showed the value of doing his homework during AC Milan's UEFA Champions League match against FC Schalke 04 last night, scoring twice to guide the Rossoneri into the last 16 with a 3-2 win.
'More space up front'
"I learned my lesson after the first game against them," said the Brazilian playmaker, who was stifled by the German side's well-executed game plan when the sides met in Gelsenkirchen in September. "This time I was able to come out and find more space up front and also move more when I didn't have the ball."
Having contained the former São Paulo FC man so expertly during the 2-2 draw on Matchday 2 that he was substituted, Schalke's Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen acknowledged there had been no chance of a repeat performance. "He played very well," said Poulsen. "He moved more on the flanks and not in the middle. I think he's one of the best players right now in the world and he showed it out there tonight."
The predominantly defensive Poulsen weighed in with his first UEFA Champions League goal as the German side poured forward in search of the win - or 3-3 draw - that would have taken them through at Milan's expense. Schalke breached Dida's goal four times over two matches, yet fell agonisingly short and must settle for a UEFA Cup place after finishing third in Group E.
"It was a difficult group for us and we had to hang on in the end in order to qualify for the next stage," said Kaká, who also set up the team's first goal of the evening when he was fouled outside the area, allowing dead-ball specialist Andrea Pirlo to bend in a classic free-kick. Kaká's double was the perfect bookend to the group stage, after he opened the competition with two goals against Fenerbahçe SK on Matchday 1, including a brilliant solo effort that elicited comparisons with the great Diego Maradona.
With Andriy Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi among Milan's host of forwards, Kaká says he is perfectly placed to master the art of goalscoring. "I'm learning many things from our strikers. Now I'm shooting harder than I used to do when I'm in front of the goal," he said.
Despite qualifying knockout stages for a fourth successive season, the 23-year-old knows Milan cannot rest on their laurels ahead of the derby against FC Internazionale Milano on Sunday. "This win has given us a lift for the derby, even though we don't need any extra motivation since there is always a massive incentive to play in one. It's a special atmosphere."
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