In a match where Kaka was expected to herald big-spending Real Madrid’s return to Champions League glory, it was AC Milan striker Pato who ultimately emerged as the star.
Pato scored twice – including the winner with two minutes to play – to hand Milan a 3-2 win over the record European champion in its own backyard.
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The 20-year-old Brazil striker took advantage of a goalkeeping error by Iker Casillas in the 66th minute to help the Italian club to its first ever win at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in a highly anticipated matchup of club heavyweights.
“It was a very special game for me because I scored two goals and we earned the victory at such a difficult ground like this and against a rival like Real Madrid,” Pato said on Wednesday, three days after he also delivered the winner in a victory over AS Roma in Serie A.
Pato stole the show from Kaka, who left San Siro to join Madrid’s €250 million ($375 million) galactico project.
“Milan is always dangerous because they have great players,” Kaka said. “We should have been more calm and controlled the game.”
Madrid controlled until Andrea Pirlo surprised Spain goalkeeper Casillas in the 62nd by curling in a 30-meter effort to cancel out Raul Gonzalez’s 19th-minute opener.
Although Royston Drenthe drew the hosts even in the 76th, the momentum was with the Rosseneris to the close.
“In the second half I always thought we would win,” Milan coach Leonardo said.
Madrid looked disjointed throughout, but coach Manuel Pellegrini said Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence was not to blame. Ronaldo was Madrid’s other blockbuster summer signing but has been out with an ankle injury.
“We need our best players and Cristiano is one of them but we didn’t lose because he wasn’t playing,” said Pellegrini, who suffered a second defeat in three games. “We lost because we made defensive mistakes and got punished by an experienced Milan team.”
Milan is now slight Group C favorites with a home date against Madrid beckoning and the clubs tied at six points with three games to play.
Both are confident of getting through to the knockout stage, which is essential for Madrid with the Bernabeu hosting May’s final.
“I hope that we can get it right next time, so we can qualify from the group stage,” Brazil midfielder Kaka said. “In the end we will qualify though.”