FC Slovan Liberec 2-1 Milan AC (2-2 on aggregate, Milan win on away goals)
Milan AC squeezed into the first group stage of the UEFA Champions League on away goals, despite falling to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of plucky FC Slovan Liberec tonight.
Rivaldo on the bench
Leading 1-0 from the first leg at the San Siro, Milan opted to leave Brazilian FIFA World Cup winner Rivaldo on the substitutes' bench. However, Filippo Inzaghi, Milan's hero a fortnight ago, struck once more to give his side what proved to be an invaluable away goal.
Czech defender Bohuslav Pilny cleared Jon Dahl Tomasson's goalbound effort in the 17th minute, but the hosts were less fortunate two minutes later when Rui Costa's fine pass found an unmarked Inzaghi, and the Italian international forward scored with ease.
Slepicka on target
Slovan withstood Milan's pressure for the remainder of the half and equalised shortly after the interval, when the 20-year-old Miroslav Slepicka made the most of a slip by Paolo Maldini to give the home fans renewed hope. Milan then brought on Rivaldo for his competitive debut but they fell behind on the night as David Langer headed in with three minutes remaining.
Just when the visitors seemed rattled, Langer was sent off for his second yellow card and Milan were able to hang on until the final whistle. The Serie A club's coach, Carlo Ancelotti, admitted that his side must improve their level of performance and also explained Rivaldo's late arrival. "We really suffered in the closing minutes," he said. "I hope we will play better in the group stages. Rivaldo lacks practice and that is the reason he did not start."
'Nothing to regret'
His opposite number, Ladislav Škorpil, was delighted with Slovan's display. "We don't have anything to regret," he said. "We don't have to be ashamed of our performance today. We have too little time to score a third goal."