AC Milan resisted some strong pressure from AFC Ajax to earn a 0-0 draw in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg in the Amsterdam ArenA. The result gives the Italian side the edge ahead of the second leg in two week's time, although having controlled the majority of the game, Ajax will still be confident of progressing.
Ajax coach Ronald Koeman brought Abubakari Yakubu into midfield in place of suspended striker Andy van der Meyde, while his Milan counterpart Carlo Ancelotti opted for a more attacking approach, replacing Andrea Pirlo, who suffered an ankle injury in training with Portuguese playmaker Rui Costa, while Filippo Inzaghi had recovered from 'flu to partner Andriy Shevchenko up front.
Shevchenko shot saved
Milan began brightly and enjoyed most of the possession in the opening exchanges. They created the first chance after five minutes, as Inzaghi's pass freed Shevchenko down the Milan right and the Ukrainian striker cut in towards goal before striking a powerful shot, but his effort was straight at Bogdan Lobont.
Urged on by a noisy crowd, the home side settled and came more into the game. Koeman's young side visibly grew in confidence as the half wore on, and the combination on the right-hand side of Hatem Trabelsi and Steven Pienaar proved particularly effective. Right-back Trabelsi pushed forward at every opportunity, and caused Milan a number of problems throughout the match.
Ajax began to see more of the ball, but for all their possession, they were unable to create any clear chances. Both sides defended resolutely, each restricting their opponents to long-range efforts which failed to trouble Lobont or his opposite number Dida.
For much of the first period the sides were camped in midfield, with Ajax passing the ball around, probing for weaknesses in the Milan defence. The second half began more positively, as Shevchenko burst into the penalty area, only to be denied by a well-timed tackle from Petri Pasanen.
Ibrahimovic just wide
Ajax rapidly recovered their poise, and regained the upper hand. After 57 minutes, Zlatan Ibrahimovic cut in from the left wing and played the ball across the Milan penalty area to Pienaar. The South African midfield player played the ball back into Ibrahimovic's path, but the Swedish striker could only drag his shot wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Ajax created another presentable chance three minutes later, as Ibrahimovic's deep cross from the left found Pienaar with time and space inside the Milan penalty area. Again, Pienaar was unable to find the target, although Rafael van der Vaart, sliding in, got a touch to his effort but could only direct the ball narrowly wide.
Lobont saves again
Milan's best opportunity of the second period came 18 minutes from time, but Lobont again did well to stop Massimo Ambrosini's shot. That proved to be the last real chance of the night, with both sides looking extremely tired by the final whistle.