FC Bayern München were held to a 1-1 first-leg draw in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie against AC Milan, as the Italian side became the first visiting team to avoid defeat at the German champions' new stadium.
Andriy Shevchenko's second-half penalty cancelled out a fabulous strike from Michael Ballack which had given the hosts a deserved half-time advantage, and for all their pressure, Bayern were unable to find a second goal in this fiercely-contested match.
Ironically, the omens were with Bayern when goalkeeper Oliver Kahn dropped out of contention 30 minutes before kick-off having failed to overcome a thigh injury – they had never been beaten with Kahn's deputy, Germany Under-21 keeper Michael Rensing, between the posts. That, happily for the hosts, remained the case.
It took the home side some time to get used to Milan's wholehearted approach in this meeting of former European champions, but Zé Roberto and Hasan Salihamidžić from the right, and Philipp Lahm – recalled along with Salihamidžić – from the left, soon started to trouble Carlo Ancelotti's men down the wings. Ballack's header from Salihamidžić's cross after 12 minutes, which sailed over the crossbar, was Bayern's brightest moment of the opening stages.
Meanwhile, the visitors suggested that goalkeeper Rensing could be in for a busy night, exploiting the speed of Shevchenko with a series of long passes from the back. However, with Milan playmaker Kaká making a quiet start, it was Bayern's chief creative source, Ballack, who imposed himself. The Germany captain found space outside the area to bring down a loose ball which he subsequently dispatched, with a curling shot, into the left-hand corner of Dida's goal.
Roy Makaay could have added a second from close range but was denied by Milan's Brazilian keeper, who also parried a Lucio free-kick and a Claudio Pizarro effort soon after. The Rossoneri were struggling to get out of their half and, close to half-time, Makaay fired wide from another opening.
Milan improved after the interval, with Shevchenko, who was partnered by Alberto Gilardino rather than Filippo Inzaghi, dropping back into midfield to lend support to Kaká. Just as important, though, was the contribution of Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso in finally getting to grips with Ballack. Yet the visitors still failed to create an opportunity, with Gilardino toiling in attack and Bayern centre-backs Lucio and Valérien Ismaël looking like immovable objects.
Ironically, it was the Frenchman who allowed Milan a way back into the game. Ismaël appeared to have his hands across his chest when a cross from Serginho – recalled with Jaap Stam at the expense of the injured Cafu and Paolo Maldini – was blocked by this area of the defender's body in the Bayern area. Shevchenko made no mistake from the spot.
Gilardino goes close
Things nearly went from bad to worse for Bayern when Lahm lost possession in the Milan half and a quick break initiated by Shevchenko ended with the unmarked Gilardino squandering a fine chance by shooting wide from 14 metres. Milan were in the ascendance.
There was more goalkeeping drama close to the 70-minute mark when Dida went off injured to be replaced by Australian Zeljko Kalac, who became the second UEFA Champions League debutant of the night from the goalkeepers' union. But it was Rensing who came to the fore, producing an excellent stop from Shevchenko – now the game's most influential figure - as the Ukrainian international drove Milan forward.
No way through
Felix Magath's response was to introduce substitutes Ali Karimi and Mehmet Scholl, but while this stemmed the tide of Milan attacks, the visitors had too much know-how at the back to allow Bayern another glimmer of victory. They are likely to make it even more difficult for the German team at the San Siro in two weeks' time.
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