AC Milan can start planning for the UEFA Champions League knockout stage after Zlatan Ibrahimović's fourth goal in Group G and a late Ronaldinho strike earned the Serie A leaders a 2-0 victory at AJ Auxerre that snuffed out the home side's hopes of progress.
Victory for Real Madrid CF at AFC Ajax means the Rossoneri can no longer be caught in second spot, and they owed their decisive push over the line to a controlled display at Stade Abbé-Deschamps. Preferring caution to adventure, they went ahead courtesy of an alert finish from the previously quiet Ibrahimović on 64 minutes, before finally making sure of the win via a curled effort from substitute Ronaldinho in added time.
A guarded start to the encounter only began to brighten up once Robinho had arced an audacious half-volley over the crossbar on eight minutes, but it was Auxerre who took the initiative from there with a view to testing Christian Abbiati. First, the visiting goalkeeper claimed a wayward header from Roy Contout and soon afterwards he dived superbly to his left as Dariusz Dudka's fizzing free-kick looked destined to swerve into the net via a deflection.
With much of their approach play too wasteful, set pieces continued to prove Auxerre's primary source of danger, while at the back they kept things tight until Clarence Seedorf was allowed to run on to Ibrahimović's headed pass and hook marginally too high. That signalled a brief spell of pressure from the visitors, although they did not pursue it with much conviction.
Instead, genuine chances remained rare notwithstanding a low Frédéric Sammaritano drive stopped by Abbiati and Gennaro Gattuso's failure to find the target following Adama Coulibaly's loose touch. The same blend of inaccurate passing and caution then took hold again after the break, when it took Coulibaly's 58th-minute block from Robinho to draw the first gasps from the crowd in the half.
Jean Fernandez introduced midfielder Kamel Chafni for right-back Cédric Hengbart in a bid to shake things up, but his charges were soon left reeling by Ibrahimović's finishing prowess. Scorer of both goals when the teams met on Matchday 1, the Swedish international created panic in the Auxerre defence with a deft flick towards Seedorf and then finished emphatically as Dudka's sliding interception rolled across the edge of the area.
Auxerre's hopes of even salvaging a draw were then finished by Ronaldinho, and they must now attempt to leapfrog Ajax in third when they visit Madrid on 8 December.