Ibrahimovic 66, 69
Zlatan Ibrahimovic resumed normal service on Wednesday night, scoring two goals in the Champions League. This time it was for Milan with the Swedish international having also scored goals in Europe’s stellar club competition so for Barcelona, Inter, Juventus and Ajax. In the process Ibrahimovic helped his new side Milan, lacklustre on the night, to a 2-0 victory over Auxerre.
Ibra offered Milan an outlet throughout the match and more importantly a guarantee that there would be a presence in the box as Milan enjoyed a lot of possession outside the penalty area. On a night like this his presence was vital once Milan realised their slick passing game would not penetrate an ultra-defensive Auxerre side.
Frustrated throughout the opening stages, Milan actually conceded the first chance of the game, when Adama Coulibaly leapt high above Alessandro Nesta to thump a header against the woodwork. Still, this did not bring Milan to life and it took what seemed a certain goal for the hosts to wake up. Despite enjoying the majority of the possession, Milan could do little with it and were almost punished again when Steeven Langil was set free on the counter, in a 3 vs. 2 situation he selfishly shot high over the bar and refused a cut back to two unmarked team mates right in front of goal.
The stubborn and resilient defence operated by the French side meant that there was little space in between the lines. Milan could only muster a couple of long range testers from Andrea Pirlo that Olivier Sorin dealt with easily before nobody gambled on a fizzing cross from Luca Antonini that ran right across the six yard box. However, on the hour mark, the importance of Ibra materialised. Throughout the night the big striker was a presence in the area and it was an angled cross from the left, by Ronaldinho, that proved to be the undoing for AJA. Robinho managed to divert the ball in to the path of the onrushing Ibrahimovic who applied the finishing touch from six yards as the San Siro erupted in to euphoria for their old enemy and new found hero.
The second goal came just three minutes later and was more evidence of the way Ibrahimovic has changed the possibilities for Milan this season. The big Swede occupied a central role for the majority of the match but when lured out to wide and deeper positions it allowed space for Milan’s ball players to run in to. Shortly after the opener, Ibrahimovic dragged Jean-Pascal Mignot to the left, as Milan counter-attacked leaving acres of space down the middle of the pitch for Ronaldinho to run in to. As the Samba superstar bore down on goal the Auxerre defenders were forced to close the space allowing Ronaldinho to slot in Ibrahimovic on the left, who curled a low finish in to the bottom right corner that signalled the end of the game.
Despite an underwhelming performance from the Diavoli , all the talk post-match was about one man. Sky Sports’ analysis included ex-Milan Coach Leonardo who stated that Ibrahimovic “could make the difference for Milan” and that they had “more possibilities (to win) in the Champions League than in the league.” How the Brazilian might have wished that Ibra could have been at his disposal last year as he now offers Milan that killer instinct in front of goal that is vital in the Champions League. The long road to the final at Wembley, next May, suddenly becomes more of a possibility with the Swede on board under Massimiliano Allegri’s new Milan.
15 Zambrotta – 25 Bonera – 13 Nesta – 77 Antonini
23 Ambrosini – 21 Pirlo – 10 Seedorf
7 Pato – 11 Ibrahimovic – 80 Ronaldinho
15 – 27 Boateng on for 23 Ambrosini
55 – 70 Robinho on for 7 Pato
70 – 20 Abate on for 77 Antonini