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Celta reach last 16 at first attempt

AC Milan 1-2 RC Celta de Vigo José Ignacio Sáenz's sends Celta into the last 16.

By Graham Hunter at the Giuseppe Meazza

RC Celta de Vigo qualified for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in their first outing in the competition on Tuesday evening.

Ignacio instinct
Exactly as striker Savo Milosevic had predicted, the Spanish side came to Italy and defeated AC Milan 2-1. After Brazilian Kaka and Celta's Jesuli had exchanged first-half goals, it was José Ignacio Sáenz who sealed the game with an instinctive strike.

Goal at the second attempt
With the match finely balanced, the 30-year-old received Peter Luccin's right-wing cross and attempted a volley. He mis-hit his effort but as Martin Laursen and Dario Šimic watched in horror, the ball fell back into his path and Sáenz volleyed it into the net at the second attempt.

Milan bombardment
Having already qualified for the next round and with several players in Japan preparing for the European/South American Cup against CA Boca Juniors, the European champions would have been forgiven for taking it easy, but instead they spent the entire first half bombarding the Celta goal.

Borriello chance
The main beneficiary from the changes coach Carlo Ancelotti made was centre forward Marco Borriello, who came close to celebrating his inclusion with a goal as he produced a diving header from Serginho's cross after 15 minutes. It was saved by Pablo Cavallero just as Milan's previous efforts had been as the Spanish side's goalmouth became increasingly busy.

Second save
Celta's tactical formation perpetually left Milosevic alone up front, fighting to retain possession while Milan's Clarence Seedorf and Fernando Redondo picked up loose balls at will. As waves of Milan attacks came forward, a Borriello shot was punched away by Cavallero, who then made a second save from Kaka's header.

Brazilian genius
It was the prelude of several moments of Brazilian genius. First Serginho took an 18th-minute free-kick and bent it around the wall but on to the bar. Then a surging run from the winger ended with Kaka drilling the ball into the net - only for the referee to rule that the ball had just gone out of play prior to the cross.

Exquisite cross
The best move of the half, involving six Milan players, ended with Borriello heading a Serginho cross over from five metres. When the opening goal came it stemmed from some clever dribbling by Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati, whose long pass found Kaka and, after a one-two with Redondo, the Brazilian scored with a right-foot drive.

Jesuli leveller
Just over 60 seconds later, Celta hit back when Jesuli - urged to push forward along with Gustavo López to support Milosevic - turned on the edge of the box and matched the earlier goal with a fierce shot.

Milan take control
Milan used the second half as a chance to let squad players get some game time, with Rui Costa coming on for Seedorf and Jon Dahl Tomasson replacing Kaka. However, their will to win was undiminished and after Juanfran missed a 50th-minute chance with a left-footed shot from inside the penalty box the European champions seemed to have taken control once more.

Celta opportunities
The pattern of the game then shifted again though as Celta's three strikers held possession up and began to create opportunities. A neat interchange between Jesuli, Milosevic and López ended with Abbiati saving with his knees and moments later Eduardo Berizzo curled a left-footed free-kick just past Abbiati's post.

Historic night
Before the end, Milan brought on Ignazio Abate, the youngest player to appear for the club since Paolo Maldini's debut in 1985. However, the moment everyone will remember from tonight's game was the intervention of his near namesake in a Celta shirt, Ignacio Sáenz.