Champions League

Malaga's Euro dream continues

2012-11-07 07:26
Eliseu (AFP)

Milan - Malaga continued their dream Champions League campaign on Tuesday with qualification for the lucrative knockout phase of the competition after a 1-1 draw against AC Milan at the San Siro.

Malaga were clinical in a 1-0 win over the Rossoneri in Spain two weeks ago and despite being dominated by the Italians here Tuesday never looked in danger of defeat.

Milan, ousted in the quarter-finals by Barcelona last season, dominated the first half but spurned several opportunities to take the lead.

Those misses proved costly when Portuguese midfielder Eliseu finished off the fine individual skill of 20-year-old Spanish team-mate Isco to put the visitors ahead in the 40th minute.

Despite a largely mediocre start to the second half Alexandre Pato restored parity when he rose to meet Kevin Constant's cross at the back post in the 73rd minute.

Malaga's first draw after three wins leaves them top of Group C on 10 points, good enough for the last 16 round of the competition at the first attempt.

Malaga's much-travelled Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini, however, says his side won't be resting on their laurels.

"We didn't win, but to come to the San Siro and get a draw is an important result for us," he said.

"But the campaign is not over yet. We want to finish top of our group, and we still have two matches remaining."

With Anderlecht securing a 1-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday, Milan remain second a point above the Belgians with the Russian side two points further adrift.

While Malaga are away to Zenit then host Anderlecht in their last two fixtures, Milan travel to Anderlecht on November 21 and host Zenit a fortnight later.

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri expects their campaign to go right to the wire.

"If we had won we would have had seven points and obviously it would have made it easier to make it to the next round," he said.

"But we still believe in ourselves and I think really it will all go down to the last game."

As well as enduring arguably their worst ever start to a season, Milan's record against Spanish clubs in Europe read: won one, drawn five and lost six in their last 12 games.

In the rare presence of club owner Silvio Berlusconi and amid rumours Milan are hoping to tempt Barcelona supremo Pep Guardiola into replacing Allegri, the Rossoneri added another draw to their tally.

Guardiola's brother and agent Pere reportedly met Milan officials earlier Tuesday before attending the match.

Asked after the match about the report, Allegri told the Mediaset channel: "The presence of Guardiola's entourage in the stands doesn't bother me.

"I've heard a million names being bandied about, I'm a bit bored of this story, also because it's up to the club to deal with this situation.

"Our problems lie elsewhere: moving back up the table and making up ground in the Champions League. These are my objectives and as long as I'm in this post I have to do the best I can."

As the former giants of European football live in hope, Malaga's dream continues.

"It's a relief to have qualified already given that we have such a small squad," added Pellegrini.

"I think Milan have a good chance of qualifying. If they get a good result in Belgium, they can decide it here (in Milan)."

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