A magnificent strike from Kaká ensured that AC Milan returned to winning ways against RSC Anderlecht in Group H despite playing with ten men for almost the entire second half.
Milan enjoyed the better of the first period and might have put the game beyond doubt, but when Daniele Bonera picked up his second yellow card two minutes after the restart, Anderlecht looked primed to claim a major scalp and their first home victory in the competition in nearly three years. It was not to be, however, as the Italian giants kept their nerve and secured the points thanks to Kaká's stunning intervention just before the hour.
The home side had begun the match brighter and Mohamed Tchite and Mbark Boussoufa almost fashioned the opener in the fifth minute. Lucas Biglia's pass found space behind the Milan defence for Boussoufa to advance and pass to Tchite in the middle but in his eagerness the Congolese forward was caught offside. Alessandro Nesta had to be at his sharpest moments later, heading behind as Nicolas Frutos threatened to convert Bart Goor's free-kick.
Seeking their first win in five games in all competitions, Milan made an uncertain start but on nine minutes Filippo Inzaghi nodded Marek Jankulovski's cross into the grateful arms of Daniel Zítka. Rossoneri coach Carlo Ancelotti had opted for Ricardo Oliveira as Inzaghi's strike partner, perhaps mindful of the winning goal he scored for Real Betis Balompié on this ground last season, and the Brazilian was quickly in the action, forcing Zítka to save low after jinking in from the right.
Milan began to dominate, with Inzaghi, Kaká and Gennaro Gattuso taking turns to attack on the right. One raid culminated in Kaká crossing for Inzaghi whose near-post effort flew just wide. Soon the threat was coming from both flanks as an Oliveira effort just before the half-hour resulted in another sharp stop from Zítka. Inzaghi had two golden chances to break the deadlock at the end of the first half but failed to connect with a diving header, then directed Kakha Kaladze's centre tamely wide.
The visitors were ruing those misses when Bonera received his second caution just two minutes after the restart for kicking the ball away. Oliveira was sacrificed, with Ancelotti sending on Cafu, but the initiative was firmly with Anderlecht who started to press with more urgency as spaces opened up for both teams. Milan also showed some menace. Clarence Seedorf fired over on 51 minutes then almost set up Kaká with a cross from the left.
Soon after, another counterattack ended with Seedorf squaring for Kaká whose glorious right-footed shot was deflected slightly away from Zítka and into the top corner on 58 minutes. The strike took the wind out of Anderlecht's sails although they rallied towards the close with Dida saving well when Tchite raced clear and drilled a low attempt goalwards. The Brazilian was helpless when Roland Juhász was denied by the woodwork, but Milan held on to consolidate their position at the top of the section.