AC Milan moved to within a point of the UEFA Champions League knockout stages as a masterful hat-trick by Kaká helped them to a 4-1 victory against RSC Anderlecht.
AEK Athens FC's win against LOSC Lille Métropole elsewhere on Matchday 4 leaves the Rossoneri just short of qualification but they are nevertheless in control of Group H after overcoming Anderlecht in Milan. A sixth-minute penalty and a fine run and shot midway through the first half preceded a fantastic long-range effort after the break by Kaká as Carlo Ancelotti's side left the visitors standing. Anderlecht did rally, and pulled one back through Roland Juhász, but it was Milan who had the last word, Alberto Gilardino completing the scoring late on.
Ancelotti had said before the match that starting well was one area his team could improve in, and they did just that when Kaká put them ahead from the penalty spot. The hosts had already threatened a few times before Gilardino, racing into the area, was felled by Juhász. As on Matchday 1 against AEK, Kaká converted the spot-kick with a firm strike past goalkeeper Daniel Zítka.
Aware that victory would almost guarantee qualification, Milan continued to press and would have doubled the lead in the 14th minute but for the acrobatics of Zítka, keeping out Dario Šimic's half-volley, after Paolo Maldini headed a corner into his path. Five minutes later the injured Alessandro Nesta was replaced by Cafu and the Brazilian made an immediate impact, exchanging passes with Kaká, who turned his marker before racing forward and dispatching the substitute's low cross beyond Zítka to make it 2-0.
Anderlecht coach Frank Vercauteren brought on forward Serhat Akın for Yves Vanderhaeghe but, except for a low drive from Mbark Boussoufa which was well held by Dida, the visitors were largely chasing shadows. The irrepressible Kaká creating the biggest one, and the playmaker's lay-off for Maldini almost led to a third goal nine minutes before half-time, as Clarence Seedorf nodded his captain's left-wing cross just wide from six metres.
Les Mauves began the second half with renewed vigour and had their first decent opening within two minutes of the restart when Mohamed Tchite and Serhat combined to produce an opportunity but then got in each other's way, Tchite blazing over from eight metres. Three minutes later the Congolese striker contrived to repeat the feat from a similar position but Kaká was far more clinical at the other end, scoring a sensational third goal on 56 minutes, cutting in from the left and letting fly a right-foot shot that left Zítka with no chance.
It stirred the Belgian champions into action and they replied just after the hour when Juhász headed in Serhat's corner. It was almost 3-2 moments later when Marek Jankulovski directed a cross against Dida's right-hand post and further attempts from Bart Goor and Tchite brought fantastic saves out of the Brazilian goalkeeper. But there was to be no comeback and Gilardino rubbed salt into the wounds late on with up his first UEFA Champions League goal.