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UEFA Champions League
3 October 2012
• Stadion Petrovskij, Sankt-Peterburg (St. Petersburg)
Referee: F. Brych
• Attendance: 21570
R. Shirokov 49'
U. Emanuelson 13'
S. El Shaarawy 16'
T. Hubočan 75' (own goal)
That's it from me, Keeghann Sinanan, it's been a pleasure!
A valiant comeback from 2-0 down for Zenit falls completely flat as they allow Milan to get back in the game and steal a narrow 3-2 win. Milan were second best for long spells, but thanks largely to the brilliance of Abbiati they preserve their result. They now top the group with four points, while Zenit are in some trouble, having picked up exactly zero.
90' + 5'
And as soon as Abbiati takes it, the ref blows for full time!
90' + 4'
It's now or never for Zenit. They need to start launching it in towards the box, but their endeavor has ground to a halt as a freekick is called, which Abbiati is taking his sweet time over.
90' + 2'
Zenit haven't really shown much initiative since conceding their third goal. Milan are having a relatively easy time closing this one out.
We head into four minutes of added time.
Pazzini cleverly winning a free kick in the Zenit half to burn a few seconds off the clock. Milan are close now, so close to three points that they barely deserve.
Yellow Card Roman Shirokov
Hulk pounces on a slip by El Shaarawy and advances into the area. His shot is sliced horribly wide though, and is sent even further away by the head of Abate.
Yellow Card Mario Yepes
Yepes and Hulk chase down a 50-50 ball near the touchline. The Milan substitute sends the Brazilian flying with a meaty challenge that raked across his thigh. Ouch.
Another Abbiati save! Anyukov catches it sweetly from the edge of the area, but the Milan keeper flies across his goal to tip wide!
A rather unambitious effort from Hulk, who plays it all the way back to the halfway line. It's worked to the left flank, where Abate clears out for a corner.
Zapata looses the ball in a careless area on the corner of his box. Nocerino is forced to come forward and make an ungainly covering challenge. Freekick.
Witsel, who has had one or two unsuccessful pops from range, takes aim once again but Bonera strides forward to block his shot.
Another comeback looming for Zenit. Can they pull it off again? Spaletti is cutting an animated figure on the sidelines as he prepares to make another change.
Allegri looks like the most relieved manager in the world after that. Unfortunate for Hubocan, but ten again, El Shaarawy was lurking at the far post to mop up the cross had he not gotten a touch.
Own Goal Tomás Hubocan
IT'S IN FOR MILAN! A low cross from Montolivo goes towards the near post. Pazzini and Hubocan challenge the ball, and it deflects off the defender and past the despairing arms of Malafeev!
Zenit have some momentum now, with Shirokov sparking them forward on the break once again. The fans have not let up their chanting one bit throughout.
Yellow Card Tomás Hubocan
Milan have never lost a Champions League match after holding a two-goal lead. Will that streak end tonight? Hit me up on twitter @keeghann to comment.
After a decent spell of Milan pressure, Zenit are wresting themselves back in front. Still though, no one looks closer to a winner as things stand.
Montolivo whips in a good delivery towards the far post, and Boateng gets up extremely well to head back across the face of goal. However, a Zenit boot connects first, and its cleared.
Boateng goes running straight at Criscito, who completely takes out the Ghanaian on the edge of the box. Freekick to come in a promising position.
Shirokov breaks at some speed, but with options to his left and right, he cannot make up is mind in time and runs into a red and black wall.
Zenit are really flowing in the last two minutes. Milan are penned back ,as both Hulk and Criscito send some dangerous deliveries into the area.
Bystrov calmly ties a knot to shut the hole in the net, and we can resume play. Common sense.
The game is halted as we have a hole in the Milan net. Of all things.
The swashbuckling, back and fourth search for the advantage hasn't really come for both sides. There is a bit of a lull developing in the game at the moment.
Close from Boateng, who sends a diving header just wide from Abate's cross! Finally some signs of life from the Ghanaian.
Abate simply shoves Hulk to the turf inside the area, but nothing doing! No penalty, a questionable decision from the ref!
We have a game on our hands now. Zenit have drawn deservedly level because Milan, quite frankly, have been awful since their second goal.
Straight away, Bojan attacks from the edge of the area and curls straight into the arms of Malafeev.
Goal Roman Shirokov
EQUALISER! Shirokov is the main man as he nods in at the far post from Hulk's corner! But where was the Milan defence? Horrible marking, and some dodgy goalkeeping from the otherwise excellent Abbiati, who should have judged the flight of that corner better.
Zenit seemed to have picked up where they left off at the end of the first half as they press in the Milan half, and Ayukov wins a corner off Antonini.
Shirokov has the first shot of the second half, but its a harmless one, flying very high and wide.
Here we go again! Reach me with any thoughts on the game @keeghann on Twitter!
We go into half time here with the score at 2-1. Milan stunned the home side with a quickfire double, but Zenit have improved after that and pulled back a deserved goal though Hulk. It's all set up for the second half!
45' + 2'
Assist Roman Shirokov
45' + 2'
45' + 2'
WHACK! Zenit have pulled one back! Faizulin slips in the Brazilian, who swings that left foot of his and beats Abbiati all ends up!
Two minutes of added time to go...
Reach me on Twitter @keeghann for any comments on the game!
Bystrov gets a touch on a pacey cross into the area, but Abbiati is there again to smother with confidence. No prizes for guessing who is man of the match so far!
That last save could have probably taken the arm off of a lesser keeper, such was the power and venom behind Hulk's strike.
Yellow Card Stephan El Shaarawy
In the end, there was only one obvious choice to take it, and Hulk unleashes a low blast towards goal. But Abbiati, with one arm, comes up with a quite brilliant save again! And he manages to smother the loose ball!
Dangerous free-kick given away by El Shaarawy just on the edge of the area, as he barges down Faizulin who was bearing down on goal. No less then three Zenit players standing over it.
More action for Abbiati! Hulk sends in a free kick from 40 yards out that is flicked on by Lombaerts, forcing the stopper, through a crowd of bodies, to palm away from danger!
Yellow Card Daniele Bonera
Double save from Abbiati! The Milan keeper first has to jump at full stretch to tip over a vicious, swerving piledriver from Hulk! From the resulting corner, Shirokov sends a header low towards the corner, but Abbiati dives low to save on the line. Excellent keeping!
Yellow Card Alexander Anyukov
Boateng squares up to his marker on the right, and sends in a seemingly harmless ball towards Malafeev, who bundles a routine catch and had to scramble to recover!
Good stuff from Hulk! He overpowers Abate on the left and whips in a good ball towards the centre of the box. It gets a slight touch off a Zenit head, but Abbiati dives forward to snare!
Bystrov again takes aim from distance and again fails to steady himself as he sends one into orbit.
A real sloppy passage of play from both sides, as possession is coughed up twice in quick succession.
Much better play from Zenit in the last few minutes. Milan have been forced to defend, as the hosts finally wake up and force some consistent attacking pressure.
We have a Hulk sighting! The Brazilian embarks on one of his typical motoring runs, leaving four Milan defenders struggling to contain him. He does not raise his head for one second though, which is why he blasts off target instead of picking out one of his better placed teammates.
Another testing delivery for Milan to deal with. This time, Montolivo does the dirty work, getting a crucial touch at the far post to deny two Zenit players who were queuing up for the tap in.
Close call there for Milan, as a teasing cross from Lombaerts is lofted towards the far post. Antonini, however, adjusts his body well to put off Kerzhakov, who was lurking. Corner to come.
Hubocan and Anyukov combine well on the right flank, and the former slips in Kerzhakov on the run. He blasts towards goal, but the angle was always against him and he hits the side netting.
Bojan breaks at pace on the counter and advances all the way into the box. He tries to cut inside Hubocan, and goes flying theatrically under the defender's challenge. There was some contact, but Bojan's emphasis on the fall did not help his cause for a penalty.
Well if there was some doubt about the first, there was none whatsoever about the second. Sublime from El Shaarawy, and Milan are flying here. Zenit are just sitting back and allowing Milan to probe inside their half. Probably still stunned.
Assist Kevin-Prince Boateng
Goal Stephan El Shaarawy
BRILLIANT FROM EL SHAARAWY! The teenage striker continues his red-hot form with an absolutely stunning individual effort. Collecting the ball outside the box, he ghosts instantly past three defenders and slots into the back of the net! Five goals in his last four games for the striker!
Real enterprise being shown on the left by Antonini. He motors clear and whips in an inch-perfect cross towards Emanuelson at the far post. The goalscorer had a chance to add another, but can only send it into the side netting!
Goal Urby Emanuelson
AND IT'S IN STRAIGHT FROM THE FREE KICK! Emanuelson sends in a poor set-piece that takes a wicked deflection off the shoulder of Shirokov, completely wrong-footing Malafeev and nestling home!
Yellow Card Viktor Faizulin
Milan break through Emanuelson, after Witsel had lost the ball just in front of the box. The Dutchman carries the ball all the way to the edge of the opposite box and is felled, leading to a free-kick.
Bystrov attacks a loose ball on the edge of the area and skies high over the bar. More composure required.
El Shaaraw seems to have drifted onto the left flank to start the match. He is a speedy character which will bode well on the flanks, but it's a bit strange not having him closer to goal, especially given his early-season scoring return.
As expected, the crowd inside the Petrovsky stadium is united in full voice. There may be a lot of disgruntled voices in the Zenit locker room after all the money thrown at Hulk and Witsel, but there's absolute harmony in the stands.
Swift feet from Bojan, turning quickly away from his marker and firing towards goal. Malafeev parries the shot, but an offside call halts the action in its tracks.
A smooth advance forward from Milan. Bojan and Antonini link up on the left, and feed Boateng in the area. He's crowded out early though, and his shot is rushed and skied over the bar.
Any thoughts, comments and wisecracks throughout the game? Hit me up on Twitter @keeghann.
Here we go!
The players are on the pitch, we're about to kick off...
Zenit are currently riding a 16 match unbeaten streak at home in the Champions league, stretching all the way back to 2008. This does not bode well for Milan, who were winless in their five away matches in the competition last season.
Tonight's game has been sold out for about a month. The home fans are in full voice, though there is a tiny corner of about 350 Rossoneri who have made the trip to Russia.
Meanwhile, Milan field Bojan in attack, despite another game without a goal in his last outing against Parma on Saturday. He begins alongside in-form El Shaarawy, who scored over the weekend and has gone some way to help ease the pain of Ibrahimovic's and SIiva's departures.
Alex Witsel, he of the glorious afro and €40 million transfer fee, will make his first competitive start as a Zenit player tonight. We also get another glimpse of the Russan outfit's other high-profile signing, as the strapping Brazilian Hulk lines up on the left side of a front three.
Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Abate, Bonera, Zapata, Antonini; Montolivo, De Jong, Emanuelson; Boateng; El Shaarawy, Bojan.
Zenit (4-3-3): Malafeev; Anyukov, Criscito, Lombaerts, Hubocan; Shirokov, Fayzulin, Witsel; Bystrov, Kerzhakov, Hulk.
First, your teams for tonight...
Greetings one and all, and glad you could join me, Keeghann Sinanan, for another fantastic day of football. Champions League is on the agenda, where AC Milan square off against Zenit in Russia, and I've got the play-by-play coming up, so stay tuned!
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