Zenit vs. Milan  2 - 3

Article

Abbiati revels in match-winning performance

4 October 2012 13:24

AC Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati was delighted to secure the three points in their Champions League clash with Zenit St Petersburg.

The 35-year-old goalkeeper pulled off a string of wonderful saves to keep his side in the match and was glad that he could help his team to a 3-2 win on Wednesday night.

Speaking in a post-match press conference, Abbiati said: "It was important to get a result here and that's what we did.

"My second-half saves were important for how the match finished. My most difficult save was the one from Hulk's free kick. He hit the ball very hard and my arm still hurts from the shot.

"I was happy with the win and that was why I celebrated like I did. It's tough to win away from home in the Champions League and we did it."

Having joined the Italian side in 1998, Abbiati has had his critics over the years but he revealed that he is not fazed by what others say about him.

"I don't read the papers whether I'm playing bad or whether I'm playing well. If I've been with the club as long as I have there must be some reason why. It was a team win tonight."

Milan look to get their Serie A charge back on track when they entertain fierce rivals Inter on Sunday and Abbiati is looking for a strong response from the side.

"It would have been nice to get three points against Parma and there's bitterness about that because we played a good game and we only conceded the goal on the free kick," he said.

Stephan El Shaarawy scored the pick of the goals in the victory against Zenit and Abbiati is convinced that the 19-year-old striker has a bright future at the Giuseppe Meazza.

"We'll be thinking of the derby from tomorrow. El Shaarawy is a great player. He's young and has a lot to show but he's got the quality," the shot-stopper said.

Team-mate Urby Emanuelson praised Abbiati after his match-winning performance.

"Abbiati was amazing - I don't know what he has been eating! He was our captain today, and the way he played - all I can do is applaud him," the Dutchman said.

"Today was really important as we drew our first game with Anderlecht: we could not afford to lose here. We are really happy with the victory. We worked as a team and it was a great result.

"We started well but after we had gone 2-0 up, Zenit got stronger and stronger. Their scoring right at the end of the first half was bad for us, but it was good we won in the end."

Article

Allegri hails Milan

4 October 2012 03:24

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has praised the spirit of his side after they scored late to defeat Zenit St Petersburg 3-2 on Wednesday.

The Serie A giants looked on track for a comfortable victory when they scored twice inside the opening 16 minutes, but the hosts equalised shortly after half-time.

Veteran goalkeeper Christian Abbiati produced a string of quality sides to keep his side on level terms before a Tomas Hubocan own goal gave the visitors victory.

The result sees Milan maintain second place in Group C of the Champions League with four points, two behind Malaga and three ahead of Anderlecht.

"It's an important victory, but I am convinced this group will only be decided at the very end," Allegri said.

"I have to praise the lads, as we kept looking for the win throughout the match.”

Stephan El Shaarawy's fantastic solo effort was the pick of the goals, although AC Milan's man-of-the-match was 35-year-old shot-stopper Abbiati.

"Abbiati made some great saves both in the first and second half," Allegri said.

"He is an excellent goalkeeper who in my two years here at Milan has done great things.

"Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but a goalkeeping error is always highlighted more than any other."

Luciano Spalletti insists Zenit St Petersburg's Champions League dream is still alive despite picking up no points from their first two fixtures in the competition.

The former Udinese and Roma coach rued the mistakes of his side and also praised the performance of Abbiati.

"Abbiati made some amazing saves – he literally plucked some balls away from the net," he said.

"Unfortunately the individual incidents did not go our way tonight but when you make too many mistakes, eventually you have to accept defeat.

"We didn't play to our full potential... If you want to become a big team you have to play well for 90 minutes, especially in this competition."

The Italian coach questioned the mentality of some of his players and feels that his side now have to secure all three points in their crunch tie against Anderlecht later this month.

"I have a feeling that the players forgot about the importance of this game, they did not take full responsibility," Spalletti said.

"However, we are not out yet, we can still qualify, but we have to start playing better and winning games immediately.

"I would be very angry if anybody in the team thinks it's over after these two defeats."

Article

Allegri concedes tough times ahead in Europe

2 October 2012 18:24

Massimiliano Allegri believes Milan and Zenit St Petersburg will take their bid to qualify from Group C to the last matchday of the Champions League.

The two sides meet in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday, and Allegri admitted his team is in a very competitive group.

"I knew it was a tough group and I think that Milan and Zenit will fight to qualify until the last matchday," the 45-year-old told reporters.

When asked about the man in charge of Zenit, former Roma boss Luciano Spalletti, Allegri had nothing but praise for his counterpart.

"Spalletti is showing he's a great trainer. He was close to winning the Scudetto with Roma and he has won the league title in Russia. He always gives a clear identity to his squads."

Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo said he was excited at being involved in Europe's premier club competition once again, having played in the tournament with Fiorentina two years ago.

"I am glad to be involved in the biggest club tournament again – to accept a new challenge and show my best," the midfielder said.

"Playing for the national team has brought me to a new level and with each match we look better. We are still finding our way, tactically, but I am sure we will find the best option – for me, and the team."

Article

UEFA Champions League Group C preview: Zenit squares off with Milan

2 October 2012 07:03

Group C of the UEFA Champions League appears wide open as Zenit St Petersburg and Malaga seek to capitalise on the decline of AC Milan.

Malaga have experienced two rollercoaster years following the arrival of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani as owner in 2010, spending their way to fourth place in La Liga last season, just three points behind European regulars Valencia.

After previously stating his intention to break the hegemony of Barcelona and Real Madrid, Al-Thani performed a bizarre U-turn in the close-season, apparently pulling the plug on his investment and leaving the club in limbo.

Financial uncertainty triggered a host of high-profile departures, chief among them the sale of playmaker Santi Cazorla to Arsenal for a reported fee of 19 million euros.

But they have defied expectations to remain competitive, shrewdly recruiting the likes of Javier Saviola, Oguchi Onyewu and Roque Santa Cruz in a combination of loan moves and free transfers.

Sitting third in La Liga after six matches played, they thumped Zenit 3-0 at home on matchday one.

This week coach Manuel Pellegrini, who guided similarly unfancied Villarreal to the Champions League semi-finals in 2005/06, takes Malaga to Anderlecht.

The Belgian side managed a credible 0-0 draw at struggling Serie A giants Milan last month, but may have a tougher task containing their in-form visitors from Spain.

As for Milan, they have struggled badly early in 2012/13 after being shorn of key men Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who were sold to Paris Saint-Germain in the close season.

Operating under strict budgetary constraints, coach Massimiliano Allegri, who led Milan to the Serie A title in 2010/11, has seen his team manage just two league wins in six attempts to date this term.

On Wednesday they go up against a club enjoying life at the opposite end of the financial scale, with Zenit, funded by Russian state energy company Gazprom, now among European football's biggest spenders.

They stole the headlines last month with an audacious swoop for Porto forward Hulk and Benfica midfielder Axel Witsel, the pair reportedly costing a combined total of 100 million euros.

They join a squad already boasting Portuguese pair Bruno Alves and Danny, as well as several stars of the Russia national team, including striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov, goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, and midfielder Igor Denisov.

Reigning Russian Premier League champions under Italian coach Luciano Spalletti, Zenit have struggled early in the season, managing just one cup victory from their last five matches in all competitions.

Regardless of the disparity in resources at the clubs' disposal, a victory for either team at the Petrovsky Stadium is likely to prove significant in their bid for European progression.

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 9 +22 25
2 9 +12 21
3 9 +11 19
4 9 +6 19
5 9 +9 18

Serie A table

# Team MP D P
4 5 +4 11
5 5 +6 8
6 5 +2 8
7 5 +0 8
8 5 +0 7