Milan AC 1-0 FC Slovan Liberec
Filippo Inzaghi scored the only goal as Milan AC earned a hard-fought 1-0 home victory against Czech side FC Slovan Liberec in their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first-leg encounter at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium.
Brimming with confidence
The five-times European champions, who chose not to give a debut to Brazilian FIFA World Cup-winner Rivaldo, were forced to work hard for their win by a Liberec side still brimming with confidence after clinching the 2001/02 Czech 1. liga title.
Chances for Nezmar
Liberec had two great chances in the first half and were unlucky not to take the lead after eleven minutes when striker Jan Nezmar lashed his effort against the post from 16 metres after excellent work down the right by Miroslav Slepicka. Nezmar again went close ten minutes later, but fired over the crossbar when well placed after Milan defender Cosmin Contra mis-hit an attempted clearance.
Seedorf the key
Milan looked a different team after the interval, as coach Carlo Ancelotti replaced the disappointing Serginho with Clarence Seedorf. The Dutch midfield player effectively turned the game in the Rosonneri's favour, as his deep cross from the left evaded the Slovan defenders and Inzaghi was left unmarked at the far post to touch the ball in from close range.
Shevchenko goes close
The goal hit the visitors hard and it was Milan who looked the more likely to extend their advantage in the closing stages. Ukrainian international Andriy Shevchenko came closest of all, drilling a shot against the Slovan crossbar with goalkeeper Zbynek Hauzr well beaten. Despite the defeat, Slovan will take heart from their impressive first-half display as they bid to plot Milan's downfall in the return leg on 28 August.
'Found our measure'
Ancelotti was pleased with the result but was full of praise for Milan's valiant opponents. "This is a good result for us," he said. "Slovan Liberec are a very difficult team to play and they played very defensively during the first half. However, in the second half we found our measure and it was very important for us not to concede a goal."
'We can overcome'
Slovan coach Ladislav Škorpil was left to rue his side's missed chances, but believes Slovan fans have reason to be hopeful ahead of the second leg. "We played against a great team tonight and we created a series of good chances, but we were unable to take advantage of them," he said. "I am quite satisfied with the result and it is a scoreline we can overcome in the return match."