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Milan end Celtic hopes to stay on track

Celtic FC 0-3 AC Milan
The Rossoneri remain on course for the knockout phase after ending the qualification hopes of the hosts with a comfortable victory.

Milan end Celtic hopes to stay on track
Milan end Celtic hopes to stay on track ©UEFA.com

AC Milan put themselves in prime position to book a place in the knockout stage with a comprehensive 3-0 win against Celtic FC which ends the Bhoys' European dreams for the season.

Kaká gave the Rossoneri a 13th-minute lead before second-half strikes from Cristián Zapata and Mario Balotelli ensured a first away victory of the campaign for Massimiliano Allegri's team. The three points set up a showdown with AFC Ajax at the San Siro on matchday six, and if Milan avoid defeat it will be they who progress alongside FC Barcelona from UEFA Champions League Group H.

Knowing that only a win would keep alive their hopes, home manager Neil Lennon picked an attacking lineup with Derk Boerrigter and James Forrest given licence down the flanks. The Dutch winger passed up a presentable chance from a corner as early as the second minute when he miscued Charlie Mulgrew's set piece at the back post. However, the Scottish champions were stunned ten minutes later as Milan scored with their first effort on target. Mikael Lustig could only divert Valter Birsa's corner over his own crossbar and when the Slovenian's next delivery came in from the opposite side Kaká rose unmarked to nod past Fraser Forster from close range.

The Brazilian had netted the goal that broke Celtic hearts in the last 16 of the competition in 2007 and now he was running the show in midfield. In the 25th minute he skipped past two challenges before setting up Balotelli who flashed a shot wide. Moments later he tried his luck from outside the area, curling in a drive which Forster was relieved to see slip outside the post. Celtic were dealt a blow on the half-hour when Beram Kayal was forced off with injury to be replaced by Joe Ledley, but apart from a tame Mulgrew attempt the pattern of the game remained the same, with Milan looking the likelier to add a second.

With Ajax ahead against Barcelona in Amsterdam, Celtic needed an early second-half goal and Virgil van Dijk should have equalised two minutes after the restart. Mulgrew's free-kick came back off the wall and when he lifted the ball back into the box, Van Dijk volleyed powerfully straight at Christian Abbiati. It would prove a costly miss as the visitors went up the other end and struck again. Once more it came from a corner, Birsa finding Antonio Nocerino unmarked and his low centre was squeezed in at the back post by Zapata. Celtic's misery was complete on the hour when Balotelli held off Efe Ambrose to drill in a third and put second-placed Milan within touching distance of the last 16.