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Two second-half goals by Zlatan Ibrahimović ensured AC Milan got their UEFA Champions League campaign off to a strong start with victory against AJ Auxerre.
After a subdued first half during which the visitors struck the woodwork, the hosts' summer signing opened his Rossoneri account with two strikes in the space of four minutes, both of which were set up by the dazzling Ronaldinho.
Milan had struggled to find their feet in the early exchanges, marked by misplaced passes which twice could have resulted in Massimiliano Allegri's side falling behind inside five minutes. Fortunately for the Serie A team, Christian Abbiati smothered strikes from Valter Brsa and Steeven Langil, who had been presented with possession in the penalty area after a mix-up between Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Nesta.
As Auxerre took the initiative, Abbiati could only watch Adama Coulibaly's header from a Benoît Pedretti corner cannon off the bar midway through the half. Milan had so far only mustered a Pirlo free-kick, punched clear by Olivier Sorin, but the introduction of Kevin-Prince Boateng for the injured Massimo Ambrosini sparked the locals into life.
The Ghanaian international almost scored his first goal for the Italian club following a flowing move down the left, instigated by Ronaldinho's clever back-heel into the path of Luca Antonini. The defender picked out Boateng, whose drive was blocked by Stéphane Grichting; the rebound fell to Pato, via Pirlo, but the Brazilian too was thwarted by the impressive Dennis Oliech.
Although Milan won a flurry of corners, Auxerre looked the more dangerous side on the counterattack, never more so than when they stole the ball from a Milan corner on 39 minutes. Oliech broke the length of the pitch and Langil fired over from a tight angle with two players in blue shirts unmarked in the home area.
Whatever was said to Il Diavolo at half-time, Milan showed more hunger after the recess. Pato narrowly failed to connect with an inviting Ronaldinho cross and Pirlo sent an angled shot wide following fine approach work by Ibrahimović, who, like the Brazilian, was beginning to get into the game.
Indeed, it was no surprise that when they came, both goals stemmed from the artistry of Ronaldinho. Boateng flicked on his curling cross for the Swedish international to poke in the first from close range on 66 minutes. The second came after the Milan winger cut a swathe through Les Ajaïstes' rearguard to enable Ibrahimović to make his European debut as a Rossonero a memorable one.
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