Real Madrid 2-3 AC Milan: Pato Double Helps Sink Blancos

There was more than a hint of a goalkeeping nightmare for both glovesmen during an exciting tie at the Bernabeu, which lived up to its pre-match billing...

Real Madrid went down to AC Milan in the Champions League group stage at the Bernabeu to leave the two clubs level on 6 points in Group C; a brace from Alexandre Pato and a stunning Andrea Pirlo strike were enough to sink the hosts, who registered goals through Raul and Royston Drenthe.

Dida's interventions on 19 minutes gifted the Blancos' captain a 66th goal in the competition before Milan restored parity though Pirlo's wonderful effort just after the hour.

A defensive calamity, a combination of awfulness between Pepe, Raul Albiol and Iker Casillas, allowed a Massimo Ambrosini through-ball to find Pato a moment later; the Brazilian could not believe his luck and stroked the ball home with minimal fuss.

Drenthe smashed a leveller with just over 10 minutes to play and Raul saw an offside effort chalked off before Thiago Silva thought he won it for the visitors.

His compatriot, Pato, did in the 87th minute from Seedorf's through pass as the Madrid defensive line was typically shoddy.


Dida: Redeemed Himself After A Nightmare Start

There wasn't a lot to choose between the sides in the opening stages as Milan set their stall out effectively to prevent the hosts from cutting through them.

Indeed, the visiting side found an outlet for their attacking play on the flanks early on, from where the clever running of Pato and the accurate deliveries of Clarence Seedorf put Madrid on the back foot. However, they could not forced the bearded figure of Iker Casillas into employment.

It was the hosts who showed more conviction in their offence and the trio of Kaka, Raul and Karim Benzema combined for the first chance of the evening, which was blocked by the ever capable Alessandro Nesta on four minutes.

Sergio Ramos then offered a cross to Esteban Granero, who could find only the buttery palms of Dida. Manuel Pellegrini's side had a steadier base from which to work in midfield, with the efficient Lassana Diarra using the ball well throughout and should have had a penalty on 12 minutes when the ponderous Gianluca Zambrotta ploughed into Benzema from behind; inexplicably, the referee saw nothing untoward and gave a goal-kick.

Madrid did not have to wait long for their opener though, as Dida's nightmare soon followed. After saving a tame Granero effort, the 'keeper bounced the ball off his own knee and into the path of the ever conscious Raul, who netted from a tight angle.

Benzema almost added a second for the iconic number 7 a short time later, but the striker's effort was narrowly off the frame of the goal.

Madrid pressed; Lass' cross-shot almost caught Dida unaware ten minutes before the break before Marcelo rounded off the first half's action with a teasing run and a powerful drive that forced a save.

In between, Pato managed to slip Marcelo again to provide for the peripheral Ronaldinho, who could only find the posterior of Ramos with his goal-bound strike.


Raul Would Never Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth

The hosts continued their dominance of the shooting statistics after the break but could not add to their lead; Raul had a chance from Granero's breakaway but could not trouble Dida.

Kaka jinked past Massimo Oddo and slammed a shot on target but the 'keeper redeemed himself with a fine stop.

He was also equal to the efforts of Benzema moments later as Real went for the jugular. Their skipper's chipped finish, from a Casillas clearance, was then weak before the half was sprung to life from the boot of Pirlo.

The hosts were made to pay for their profligacy just after the hour when the Milan midfielder hit the Bernabeu with a 35-yard sucker punch; he struck the sweetest of efforts inside Casillas' near post to leave the Spanish capital aghast.

Gianluca Zambrotta, as Madrid reeled, tried similar moments later but his shot fizzed wide. But Leonardo's team were about to turn the encounter on its head.

What followed, only seconds after, was a gift to hand the initiative to the guests. Ambrosini's speculative punt split Albiol and Pepe and Casillas raced from his goal. He could not get near Pato as the forward rounded him with ease to slot home. The touchpaper had well and truly been lit and the Merengues again had defensive questions to answer.

With 14 minutes to play, they had their equaliser though. Raul's short corner found Royston Drenthe at the edge of the box and the erstwhile boo-boy elicited cheers with a well-struck shot which beat Dida all ends up.

Madrid thought they won it as the game moved towards its giddy conclusion; Kaka's shot rebounded to Raul, whose effort barely made it over the line before being ruled illegitimate.

Milan were up in arms moments later when a seemingly valid Thiago Silva header was struck off for a non-existent foul as he beat Casillas and two others at the near post. What followed was fisticuffs and a booking for the pugnacious Raul.

The sting in the tail for Pellegrini came in the 87th minute; Pato was at least 10 yards from his marker, Marcelo, when Seedorf's pass was clipped across the area. He made use of his his calm surroundings and held his nerve to pass the ball home right-footed on Casillas' near post.

The Zurich loss has been avenged.

Peter Staunton, Goal.com