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By Graham Hunter at the Giuseppe Meazza
Club Brugge KV recorded one of the finest results in their history by defeating UEFA Champions League holders AC Milan 1-0 at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium.
The remarkable victory came courtesy of an outstanding goal from their 25-year-old striker Andrés Mendoza in the first half and a magnificently ordered display of defending thereafter.
Gattuso was missed
It was to Brugge's advantage that for much of the first period, Milan were content to play with a stretched formation rather than pressing their opponents. The Milan midfield were missing the suspended Gennaro Gattuso to play alongside Andrea Pirlo.
The upshot was that Milan did not enjoy a lot of possession around the Brugge penalty area. Clear openings were sparse and the visiting Belgian side had the chance to find passes to midfield runners in open space and create chances of their own.
Despite that, Filippo Inzaghi did put the ball in the net just after the quarter-hour mark but was flagged for offside at the moment of Clarence Seedorf's pass by the assistant referee.
Dida called upon
Then Brugge took advantage of Milan's uncertainty. In the 19th minute, Ivan Gvozdenovic surged forward and passed to his left across the Italians' penalty area. Sandy Martens stepped over the ball and Olivier De Cock struck a fizzing shot which Dida deflected over the bar.
Moments later Martens provided a knockdown to Brugge striker Mendoza, but the Peruvian scuffed his effort. However, just after the half hour, it was Mendoza's excellent left-footed finish, hit with vicious power, which left the European champions trailing. Gvozdenovic again did the initial damage with a clever forward pass. Mendoza escaped Cafu, sized up an improbable shot and smashed it past Dida.
The lead was merited thanks to the simplicity and discipline of Trond Sollied's side, but the champions rallied before half-time. Pirlo's 34th-minute free-kick brought a brave diving header from Paolo Maldini which went only slightly high and then Seedorf used his right instep to bend a shot centimetres around Dany Verlinden's left-hand post from 23 metres.
Cafu goes close
Most frustrating of all for Milan was Cafu's powerfully struck cross-cum-shot which bisected the goalmouth and the outstretched boots of both Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko.
Verlinden on form
As the home side pushed forward after the break, the second period became a nightmare of squandered opportunities, misfortune and intelligent Belgian defending. De Cock's foul on Maldini just outside the box allowed Pirlo to bring a fine save from Verlinden, who also excelled himself ten minutes later from Seedorf.
Then Inzaghi, Milan's saviour in their last home group game against AFC Ajax, failed to convert from five metres out before nodding a corner inches wide from a free header just after the hour.
Milan were dominating the corner count as they exerted more and more pressure. But the visitors did not lose their discipline and patiently tried to push forward on the break. They kept key men like Gvozdenovic, Mendoza and Martens high up the pitch to prevent Milan moving everyone up to pressure Verlinden's goal.
Brugge put the seal on their victory thanks to two excellent saves from Verlinden in the last two minutes, and a daring break from their own half which saw substitute Bengt Sæternes shoot just past the post from the middle of the area.
Milan drop to third
But the visitors held on for their first victory in Italy since the 1975/76 season. The three points also help Brugge leapfrog Milan into second place in the Group H table behind Ajax.
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