Two goals apiece from Alberto Gilardino and Clarence Seedorf steered AC Milan back on course in UEFA Champions League Group D as they defeated an attack-minded FC Shakhtar Donetsk 4-1 in a thrilling game at San Siro.
The Rossoneri appeared to be cruising when Gilardino scored twice in the first 14 minutes but the holders squandered a host of chances to kill the contest. In a remarkably open encounter, Shakhtar threatened a stirring comeback as Cristiano Lucarelli struck early in the second period. Seedorf had other ideas, though, capping a superb individual display with two magnificent goals to ensure Milan moved top of the section, above Shakhtar courtesy of a favourable head-to-head record.
Buoyed by victories in their opening two matches, Shakhtar made an accomplished start and almost silenced the home fans immediately, Răzvan Raţ fizzing a shot narrowly wide of Zeljko Kalac's post. But the Ukrainian club's neat passing was undermined by a porous defence, and Milan seized a stranglehold. Gilardino showed impressive strength to head Andrea Pirlo's corner beyond goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov on six minutes, and the Italian international repeated the trick eight minutes later. This time, when Seedorf supplied a perfect cross from the left, the forward stooped to nod into the top corner.
Lucarelli might have levelled matters between Gilardino's strikes, the former AS Livorno Calcio favourite heading Darijo Srna's centre back across goal only for Kalac to intervene. The best chances were at the other end, though, and Pyatov twice denied Kaká with his feet after the Brazilian had been sent clear.
Alarmed by the ease at which Milan were breaking through, Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu sent Tomáš Hübschman on for Olexandr Kucher and slowly his team recovered composure. Indeed, they finished the opening period with a flourish as Mariusz Lewandowski and then Brandão stung Kalac's hands with ferocious efforts, although it was the home side who came closest on 41 minutes as Seedorf teed up Massimo Oddo, only for the full-back to shoot wide.
Milan's profligacy returned after the break when Kaká burst through purposefully before failing to tee up Gennaro Gattuso, and Shakhtar punished them by pulling a goal back on 51 minutes. The ever-willing Brandão pounced on Oddo's loose pass and when Kalac saved his low shot, Lucarelli was on hand to volley home. The goal sparked a spell of Shakhtar pressure yet after Kalac had made two fine stops from Fernandinho and Ilsinho, Milan surged back.
Amazingly Kaká was foiled in another one-on-one with Pyatov, then rattled the inside of the post after a powerful run. It mattered little, though, as the outstanding Seedorf took the game beyond Shakhtar with two magnificent goals. The first, on 62 minutes, was a pinpoint left-footed volley after Pirlo's corner had reached him on the edge of the box; next he showed his class by volleying in right-footed from 25 metres following a weak Pyatov punch. Milan subsequently took their foot off the gas and though Lucarelli was close to scoring a second late on, the hosts resisted to seal a deserved success.