The victory was Milan's first in the Champions League at the San Siro since they defeated Celtic in the last game of the Group Stage of the 2007/2008 tournament in December of 2007.
The former Inter Milan man celebrated his return to the San Siro with goals in the 66th and 69th minutes with the help of Brazilian winger Ronaldinho, who found his form in the second half and finished the match strong.It was the first hour that was cause for concern for the Italian giants.
In all reality, this is a match that Milan were fortunate not to draw or lose. The visitors had chance right from the start, as Milan came out slow and flat. There was no control in the passing or any sign of hustle in the middle and final third of the ground.
Auxerre got many early shots, but they failed to challenge Christian Abbiati.
Milan were not helped in the Kevin-Prince Boateng had to be called upon for his Champions League debut in the 15ht minute in place of captain Massimo Ambrosini, who picked up a knock to the knee in the early minutes.It was the 40th minute that the French side will be banging their heads about.
Off a Milan corner, Auxerre were able to unleash an unbeatable counterattack, as they had a four-on-two advantage.\However, with two players wide open and onside to his left, Auxerre midfielder Steven Langil went for glory himself and shot the ball over the crossbar.
Despite gaining some momentum for a brief stint near the end of the 45 minutes, it is a first half Milan would like to forget and improve on. However, manager Massimiliano Allegri did have some positives to take from it."The first half was not what we wanted, but it's also true that against a side that presses high up the field like Auxerre it is going to be tough. We went behind against Cesena, but learned from those mistakes and this time had the patience to find a way through."
Milan continued their woes in the first quarter hour of the second half. Pato was taken off after he struggled to do much in attack and was replaced by Robinho, who played well in his half hour, but clearly had room for improvement. His fitness was a focal point for Allegri after the match.
However, Milan finally turned on the gears and went into attack mode. Ronaldinho, who had been fairly silent all match, began to come to life and create chances for his fellow attackers.
Breakthrough was finally made in the 66th, when Ronaldinho swung a ball in for the attack and was touched by Boateng to Ibrahimovic who netted his first Milan goal
From that point, it seemed that the roles had changed. Whereas both teams were fairly even for the first hour plus, Milan now gained the momentum and Auxerre went on the back foot.
The hole got deeper for the French in the 69th, when Ronaldinho played the ball to the corner of the box for Ibrahimovic for the one timer which curled effortlessly beyond the reach of goalkeeper Olivier Sorin.Auxerre got back into the match late as they created several chances in the final five minutes.
They were unable to get anything on the board, but not for lack of trying.
Milan escaped with a difficult 2-0 victory and are level with Real Madrid in Group G. The Galacticos defeated Ajax Amsterdam 2-0 today.
The win does not tell the whole story. Someone just looking at the score of the match will not see stats about how flat and lifeless the first hour was for Milan. There were strong points, but it is clear that Milan lack the pace and fitness to compete on both the Italian fronts at the moment.
Milan were slow to the ball and very flat at points while Auxerre continued to press up the ground. The offense had their own problems as they made too many stupid turnovers, especially Ibrahimovic with his attempts at the fancy back heel passes that either found nobody or the foot of a defender right on his back.The Rossoneri have a lot of work to do.
With Real Madrid playing strong today against their Dutch counterparts and it will be difficult for Milan to progress far into the tournament if they do not step up against the Spanish giants.
Winning the group means avoiding the winners of the other groups in the Round of 16. With the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan, Arsenal, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich as favorites in some of the other groups, runner up in the Group of Death may be a ticket to an early exit from the tournament.
During the transfer window, Milan may want to invest once again. Ticket sales have been through the roof the past three weeks which means more money. Adding in money coming in from merchandise and other ventures, Milan should have some money to take aim at a player like Lassana Diarra for the midfield and a solid young fullback like Salvatore Bocchetti from Genoa.
At the end of the day, Milan can not rely on small bursts of greatness from a team with such a wealth of talent in attack. They need to rejuvenate the weaker parts of the midfield and the defense. Whether that is with purchases of established or taking a risk on some of the Primavera players, most notably Alexander Merkel, though I would not recommend that until they see time in Serie A and Coppa Italia, they have to do something.
If Milan fail to reestablish the form we saw against Lecce and continue on sloppy football with the occasional great play, there is no hope of any trophies this year.