It may not be the best AC Milan team of recent memory, but the Rossoneri have shown enough quality to continue playing UEFA Champions League football next February.
Stephan El Shaarawy, Philippe Mexes and Alexandre Pato all scored for Milan as Massimiliano Allegri's side defeated Belgian champions Anderlecht to progress to the Last 16 of the competition.
Milan came out quickly, looking as if they were going to make it a long night for the hosts at Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. Twice in the first few minutes, the Rossoneri slipped past the defense and nearly got through to beat goalkeeper Silvio Proto, but he was able to cover the ball before Milan could get a shot off.
Milan clearly were not as comfortable as they looked, as the balance quickly tipped in favor of the purple and white. The best chance came on a counter attack about 13 minutes into the match, when Milan Jovanovic got on the end of a pass into wide open space from Dieudonné Mbokani, but the ball went right at Christian Abbiati, who easily deflected it away.
There was very little attacking quality in the first half, as Anderlecht shot the ball three times, once on target, and Milan failed to get off an attempt. The Belgians had 56 percent of the possession entering the dressing room.
The match was far more entertaining in the second half. Milan got ahead early when Stephan El Shaarawy took down a Mattia De Sciglio cross six yards from goal and curled it past Porto into the top right corner to make it 1-0 after 47 minutes.
The match returned to its back and forth battle for possession after the goal from El Shaarawy, but Milan found themselves in favorable position to win.
A golden opportunity presented itself for Milan with 20 minutes to play, when Pato was taken down about 40 yards from goal, but by the last defender, Bram Nuytinck. Nuytinck was sent off for impeding a clear scoring chance for the Brazilian.
Riccardo Montolivo swung in the ensuing free kick, which ended up on the chest of Mexes, who jumped to settle it off his chest. In an attempt to recreate Zlatan Ibrahimovic's incredible goal last week, the Frenchmen bicycle-kicked the ball over the head of Porto from 20 yards out.
OH MY GOD. MEXES JUST SCORED ONE OF THE NICEST GOALS I'VE EVER SEEN. AND FROM MEXES— Matteo Bonetti (@TheMilanGuy) November 21, 2012
Mexes goal is a joke!!— Josh McEachran (@JMcEachran20) November 21, 2012
A couple minutes later, Mexes became the second player to leave the match for Milan due to injury. Both Mexes and forward Bojan Krkic were taken off injured. They were replaced by Cristian Zapata and Pato, respectively.
Anderlecht would get one back in the 78th minute from Tom De Sutter, but it was too little, too late for the hosts. They did their best to get back into the match and very nearly did four minutes later, but Olivier Deschacht's attempt went just high and wide from about 10 yards away.
One minute into stoppage time, El Shaarawy was able to get Porto to commit to him coming down the left, leaving Pato wide open in the middle to coolly slot the ball away and put the result beyond any doubt.
With Malaga's draw against Zenit St. Petersburg earlier in the day, the Spanish side ensured that they will be the group champions. With the win, AC Milan guaranteed progression as the second-place side from Group C.
Milan have struggled for most of the season and are still starting matches very slow, but once they get a rhythm going, they are showing that they can be difficult to stop.