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Milan made to work hard for victory at Zenit

FC Zenit St Petersburg 2-3 AC Milan
The five-time champions brushed off domestic travails and a spirited Zenit fightback to end the hosts' 16-game unbeaten home run in Europe.

Milan made to work hard for victory at Zenit
Milan made to work hard for victory at Zenit ©UEFA.com

AC Milan bounced back from surrendering a two-goal advantage to condemn Group C rivals FC Zenit St Petersburg to a first home defeat in UEFA competition in four years.

Unbeaten on home soil in Europe in 16 games, Zenit's proud record looked in grave danger when Urby Emanuelson and Stephan El Shaarawy put the Rossoneri two up inside 16 minutes. However, Hulk and Roman Shirokov combined either side of half-time to level the scores – until Tomáš Hubočan unwittingly turned into his own net on 75 minutes.

Luciano Spalletti's team, seventh in the Russian Premier League, seemed to be lacking in confidence from the outset. Their fragile morale was dealt another blow on 13 minutes, Emanuelson's free-kick wrong-footing home keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev via a deflection off Shirokov's shoulder. Things swiftly went from bad to worse when El Shaarawy evaded a couple of Zenit challenges before firing past Malafeev for a fine individual goal – his fifth in four matches.

If Zenit were on the ropes, they refused to throw in the towel. Christian Abbiati, a virtual spectator for half an hour, did brilliantly to parry Hulk's swerving shot and Shirkov's header from the resultant corner. He then produced an even better stop, showing impressive strength of wrist to parry Hulk's venomous free-kick.

He was finally beaten, though, in first-half added time. Shirokov was again at the fore, putting through Hulk who finished with aplomb. The roles were reversed four minutes after the interval when Hulk swung in a corner from the right which left Shirokov with a simple header past the stranded Abbiati.

With the game now thrown wide open, both sides sniffed their first victory of the group stage. The visitors got it, though in hugely fortunate fashion. Riccardo Montolivo's cross appeared to be harmless, yet Hubočan found himself in an awkward tangle and contrived to turn it beyond Malafeev.

There was still time for Abbiati to rescue his team once more with a stunning save to thwart the marauding Aleksandr Anyukov. Zenit therefore remain without a point ahead of the visit of RSC Anderlecht on 24 October, when Milan go to Málaga CF.

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