"The only thing to do was give it a go," said Philippe Mexès after his overhead kick helped AC Milan reach the last 16 against RSC Anderlecht, who now want third spot in Group C.
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Philippe Mexès was the talk of both teams after helping AC Milan secure their passage to the last 16 with a breathtaking overhead kick in his side's 3-1 win at RSC Anderlecht. "The only thing to do was give it a go," explained the player himself, while Anderlecht midfielder Sacha Kljestan suggested the French international will struggle to score another goal as good. The hosts also turned their attention to their 4 December trip to Group C winners Málaga CF, when they will be looking to pip FC Zenit St Petersburg to third place and a UEFA Europa League spot.
Philippe Mexès, Milan defender
I didn't know what was going to happen before [I scored], but after controlling the ball with my chest, the only thing to do was to give it a go. Happily, it worked out for me. I scored some beautiful goals with Roma, but they are nothing in comparison. You only score a goal like that once in your career, especially as a defender. It's something to savour, but I have to keep my feet on the ground because we have a big game against Juventus on Sunday.
We were playing to qualify. A win was enough to take us through, so we had to get ourselves going [after half-time] to qualify. That meant we had to play better, because in the first half we had trouble putting them under pressure.
I hope [this results helps us]. Everyone's satisfied, but we haven't done anything yet. We still have a long road ahead of us, and that's the attitude we need to be able to achieve anything. We've lost some great players and it's tough, but we're going to try to perform as well as we can.
Mario Yepes, Milan defender
It was a difficult game, especially in the first half as Anderlecht had a really good first period. They created chances in the first half and managed to close us down, but in the second half we opened it up a bit and managed to score three goals. The goals were important because what we were aiming to do here was qualify for the next round.
At half-time, the coach told us to take our time with the final pass, because we did get some chances in the first half and didn't really take them. In the second half, we made fewer errors and we scored the goals. Mexès's was a really fantastic goal and we're all really happy about it. It was just a goal of the highest quality. In this competition all the teams are good, but whoever it is we face next, we'll just do the best we can.
Sacha Kljestan, Anderlecht midfielder
There was miscommunication for the first goal – I think one of our defenders thought the goalie was going to take the ball, and [Stephan] El Shaarawy was alone. It was a pity because we came out of the dressing room a little bit flat, when we should have been coming out 100% focused and ready to defend from the first minute. That deflated us, but we still continued to play, showed some quality and got some chances. It's a pity we didn't score more than one tonight.
I don't think Mexès will score another goal like that in his life, but things happen like that in football. It was difficult, but I think we did a good job of making ourselves part of the game, even after being down 2-0. So that showed some character and I think we'll be all right if we carry on like that.
It's important for us to finish third. At the beginning of the Champions League, we said to ourselves if we finished third we'd be happy, so we still have a chance going into the last game. It's not going to be easy as Málaga are a top team. Fortunately for us, they're already through in first place and don't have much to play for, [whereas] we have everything to play for. It's going to be an important game for us and we'll give it our all.
Massimo Bruno, Anderlecht forward
We played a good game. As in the last few weeks, we played some good football, especially in the first half. But then we went out and conceded that goal in the second half that did us so much damage and made things difficult afterwards. We weren't focused and they got the goal all of a sudden.
That made it tough, even though we continued attacking and created some chances. We didn't give in. It was difficult, especially after the red card, but even with ten men we showed we were in the game and could do something. The slightest mistake costs you dearly, though.
It won't be easy in Spain. We've seen that they're a quality team and play high-quality football. Now they're through and we'll try to do something over there to stay in Europe. For us young players, it's been a learning experience. You can't help but learn in games like this.