Milan are through to the Champions League knock-outs after a 3-1 win away to Anderlecht, which saw Philippe Mexes score a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-style overhead kick!
The 2-2 draw in Russia earlier this evening meant Malaga were mathematically sure of top spot and Zenit joined Anderlecht on four points, but a win would send the Rossoneri through. Luca Antonini, Daniele Bonera, Ignazio Abate and Massimo Ambrosini were injured, but Bojan Krkic and Kevin-Prince Boateng joined Stephan El Shaarawy in attack. The Belgians welcomed back Olivier Deschacht and Milan Jovanovic, while Guillame Gillet shook off a knock to start.
These sides drew 0-0 at San Siro in September for what Massimiliano Allegri said was Milan’s “worst performance of the season.”
Silvio Proto smothered at Bojan’s feet after 35 seconds, but Anderlecht took control of the tempo and on 13 minutes Jovanovic went clear down the left from a Dieudonne’ Mbokani pass and Christian Abbiati parried with his foot.
The move continued and Dennis Praet drilled wide from outside the box. Anderlecht dominated possession in the first half, though chances were few and far between.
Kevin Constant managed to deflect a flicked-on long free kick off the feet of Mbokani at the back post. Boateng wasted a chance when he completely mistimed his header to commit a foul on his marker in the box, then the Ghanaian’s effort was charged down from a corner.
A long Mattia De Sciglio pass was allowed to bounce and Proto bravely rushed out to pluck it off El Shaarawy’s feet.
On 43 minutes El Shaarawy’s inspired through pass sent Bojan clear, but the ex-Barcelona striker lost his footing after riding a tackle and the chance went begging.
Milan took the lead straight after the restart and with their first actual shot on goal. De Sciglio’s long cross was taken by El Shaarawy at the back post with his left foot and he curled across the goalkeeper to the far top corner on the volley with his right. It was the Little Pharaoh’s 16th goal of the season in all competition, including internationals.
El Shaarawy had another attempt charged down soon after, while Proto intercepted a Boateng roll across the face of goal.
Anderlecht had two penalty appeals in the space of five seconds, but the referee waved play on for both as normal collisions in the box. Philippe Mexes’ challenge on Jovanovic was a concern.
Massimo Bruno hit the side-netting from a promising position and Mbokani’s header was wayward. Mario Yepes had forced Proto to parry with his foot from a diving header, but the defender was offside anyway on Antonio Nocerino’s free kick.
Alexandre Pato had been expected to start, but only came on as a substitute for Bojan. The Duck immediately went on the counter-attack and in a two-against-one situation was clearly tripped by Nuytinck. At first the referee had only awarded a free kick, but under advice from his assistants flashed the straight red for wrecking a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
From the resulting free kick, Mexes scored the craziest goal of his career! He chested down the loose ball outside the box and went into an overhead kick that looped over a stunned Proto into the far top corner! It was very similar to the goal Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored against England in a recent friendly.
However, 10-man Anderlecht got one back when the Milan defence was caught napping and a long cross was nodded on twice until substitute Tom De Sutter prodded in from four yards unmarked.
Mexes sprained his knee and limped off to make way for Cristian Zapata, but the Belgians were pouring forward now and Deschacht ran on to a through ball only to fire wide from a great position.
This left huge gaps at the back and El Shaarawy took advantage. He sprung the offside trap on a cross-field pass and sprinted into the box, drawing out the goalkeeper to roll across for Pato’s tap-in from a couple of yards.
Anderlecht 1-3 Milan
Scorers: El Shaarawy 47 (M), Mexes 71 (M), De Sutter 78 (A), Pato 91 (M)
Anderlecht: Proto; Nuytinck, Gillet, Kouyatè, Deschacht; Kljestan, Biglia; Praet (De Sutter 75), Bruno (Yakovenko 66), Jovanovic (Fernando Canesin 77); Mbokani
Milan: Abbiati; De Sciglio, Mexes (Zapata 79), Yepes, Constant (Emanuelson 75); Montolivo, De Jong, Nocerino; Boateng, Bojan (Pato 67), El Shaarawy
Ref: Skomina (SVN)
Sent off: Nuytinck 70 (A)