MILAN - An excellent performance from
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a harsh penalty gave AC Milan a 2-0 win
over Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday after the rank outsiders had
threatened to pull off an upset.
Plzen, taking part in the Champions League for the first
time, had the first chance of the match and created plenty of
other openings as they refused to be overawed at the San Siro.
But they were undone in the 53rd minute when Ibrahimovic
flicked the ball up in the area and it hit Marian Cisovsky's
Although there was clearly no way Cisovsky could get his
hand out of the way in time, referee Florian Meyer pointed to
the spot and Ibrahimovic fired home the penalty.
Thirteen minutes later, the Swede, returning from a two-week
injury lay-off, slipped a ball between two defenders for Antonio
Cassano to chip over Plzen goalkeeper Marek Cech for the second.
"It was a very severe penalty and it was a turning point in
the game," said Plzen coach Pavel Vrba, who last season stunned
Czech football by taking his team of unrated journeymen to their
first league title.
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, whose team have four
points from two games in Group H alongside holders Barcelona,
had other ideas in his news conference: "The match was balanced
until the penalty but it was a clear penalty."
With a team built around 36-year-old playmaker Pavel Horvath
and unable to use their own stadium because it is not up to
competition standards, Plzen seemed the unlikeliest of teams to
cause an upset.
But the team from the town famous for producing Pilsener
beer nearly went ahead when Marek Bakos saw his close-range
header turned away by Christian Abbiati in the third minute.
Plzen, who began their campaign away to Armenia side Pyunik
in July and won all six qualifying games, went on to produce 13
shots to Milan's 14 and four corners to the hosts' five.
Although Milan were missing Robinho, Alexandre Pato,
Kevin-Prince Boateng and Philippe Mexes, none of that mattered
as Ibrahimovic recovered from the thigh injury which kept him
out of the 2-2 draw at Barca two weeks ago.
His first contribution was to burst down the right and
produce a low cross for Cassano whose strike was brilliantly
saved by Cech's legs.
Cassano had another shot tipped around the post by the
goalkeeper and then it was Ibrahimovic's turn as Cech pushed his
close-range shot over the bar and then dived to smother another
Plzen put together plenty of good moves of their own, the
best ending with Horvath somehow shooting wide from near the
Ibrahimovic's goal put paid to their hopes and the Swede
then put on a party piece as he played keepy-uppy down the left,
flicked the ball to Clarence Seedorf and he found Cassano, who
Cassano made no mistake from the next chance, however, as he
sealed only Milan's second home win in the Champions League in
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