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Ibrahimovic double sinks Auxerre
Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced vintage second-half displays to sink Auxerre in the opening game of Champions League Group G.

The Swede scored both AC Milan goals in four second-half minutes as the experienced Brazil playmaker pulled the strings.

The visitors, though, will look back with regret at a four-on-two break in the first half which went to waste due to Steven Langil's rash shot.

Auxerre, indeed, had the better chances of the first period as a whole, with Valter Birsa's low drive comfortable held by Christian Abbiati in the early stages.

Langil had a penalty appeal waved away after going down under Gianluca Zambrotta's challenge and, as the attack continued, saw a shot saved by Abbiati.

A brief Milan salvo saw keeper Olivier Sorin eccentrically punch away Andrea Pirlo's free-kick when it was curled straight at his chest.

But Auxerre resumed their attack and defender Adama Coulibaly headed against the angle of post and bar from Dennis Oliech's corner.

Milan's Kevin-Prince Boateng was denied by Stephane Grichting's block before Langil's moment of madness. Oliech broke at pace and the forward shot wildly high and wide of the near post, with Ireneusz Jelen and Cedric Hengbart wide open across the penalty area.

Alexandre Pato was denied a penalty at the other end after Jean-Pascal Mignot's challenge, with the Brazilian possibly caught by a stray elbow, and half-time arrived goalless.

Sorin kept out Pato's effort from a dangerous position early in the second half before Mignot header Benoit Pedretti's corner over at the other end. Sorin then tipped Pirlo's drive around the post as Milan's dominance began.

Luca Antonini flashed a dangerous ball across the six-yard box, with Ibrahimovic narrowly unable to make contact and Boateng's drive at the far post blocked by Hengbart.

Ibrahimovic then jinked through four players only to cross behind Robinho and Delvin Ndinga mopped up - but the Sweden striker broke the deadlock in the 66th minute.

Ronaldinho's teasing cross was flicked on by Boateng and Ibrahimovic stretched out a leg to beat Sorin to the ball and find the net.

Three minutes later, he struck again. Ronaldinho drove at the defence and unselfishly teed up the striker, who placed a precise finish past the lunging Coulibaly and the diving Sorin.

Boateng failed to make a proper contact with Ronaldinho's superb cross before Auxerre had a brief late flurry.

Oliech saw a shot well saved by Abbiati and Anthony Le Tallec had a 'goal' disallowed by one of the more obvious offside decisions in recent history.

Milan closed the game out though, with Ronaldinho's sumptuous display summed up when he put Robinho clear with a backheeled pass against his line of sight while on one knee. His fellow Brazilian, sadly, was flagged offside.

# Allegri: "We learned from mistakes"

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri was happy with the win over Auxerre but admitted there is much room for improvement.

"I liked the patience the team showed during this game," he told Sky Italia. "Auxerre worked very hard in the first half and we had a few chances to take the lead, also risking on the counter to go behind. It was identical to Cesena, but fortunately they got the final ball wrong.

"After we took the lead, the team played very well, even if in the last five minutes we should've kept the ball better."

"It's a mistake we made against Cesena too, as against sides that clam up we tend to all crowd together into the box and block the spaces. Robinho needs to work in order to find his fitness, but he is an excellent alternative to Pato.

"We're still working hard on finding the balance of the side, especially as two new players arrived at the end. It's very important that we had a great spirit of sacrifice from the wide men. With the technique we have at our disposal, with the right movement we can hurt anyone.

"The first half was not what we wanted, but it's also true that against a side that presses high up the field like Auxerre it is going to be tough. We went behind against Cesena, but learned from those mistakes and this time had the patience to find a way through."

He praised Kevin-Prince Boateng after the midfielder was introduced early in the game.

"Boateng is a dynamic, strong player with great technique and he settled straight into the match. He's young and therefore an important buy for Milan."

Boateng himself said: "It was difficult for me, as I came in and couldn't warm up properly. This is football, it happens, and I think I did well. I just tried to do my best and help the team, as we lost at the weekend and had to show the fans we could get results and play good football.

"There's a lot of competition for places in midfield, so all I can do is keep working and hope for the weekend."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic said: "We suffered under the aggression of our opponents, but it was a perfect second half. It was a wonderful evening. After the break our focus changed and we played so much better. This was my first game at San Siro for Milan and I really wanted to do well. I always want to win, every time."

Auxerre Jean Fernandez told Al-Jazzeera Sport: "We delivered a big first half. In the second, we declined physically and it made the difference. Technically with all the players they had, they made the difference. We had to survive 90 minutes, but it was too difficult.

"We are a small team and for us it is good to be here already. We will be the best we can in this competition."
 
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