Ibra scores as Milan downs Plzen
AC Milan stayed level with Barcelona at the top of Group H of the Champions League following a 2-0 win over Czech side Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted a penalty in the 53rd minute, then provided the pass for Antonio Cassano to double the lead in the 66th at the San Siro.
The penalty was awarded when Plzen defender Marian Cisovsky handled the ball inside the area while attempting to mark Ibrahimovic. Cassano then scored with a delicate chip over the goalkeeper.
Barcelona and Milan have four points each, while Plzen and BATE Borisov have one apiece.
Barcelona beat BATE 5-0 in the other group match Wednesday.
Milan drew 2-2 at Barcelona in its opener, while Plzen drew 1-1 at home against BATE in its first ever match in the top European competition.
''It was important to win and get the three points and follow up the match in Barcelona,'' said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Ibrahimovic hadn't played since Sept. 9 due to a thigh injury, and Milan was glad he returned - since fellow forwards Alexandre Pato, Robinho and Filippo Inzaghi were all unavailable.
Pato and Robinho are both injured, while Milan left the 38-year-old Inzaghi - one of the most prolific scorers in European history - off the squad list for the Champions League.
The only other forward available was Cassano.
Milan is also missing several key midfielders - Kevin-Prince Boateng, captain Massimo Ambrosini, Gennaro Gattuso and Mathieu Flamini - and the absences have contributed to a slow start for the Italian champion, which only got its first win in Serie A last weekend, edging last-place Cesena 1-0.
''We've been playing with the same players for a month, and you could see some fatigue tonight,'' Allegri said.
Plzen, meanwhile, has had a memorable start to the season, beginning an excellent qualifying run in July with a squad that contains exclusively Czech and Slovak players.
It looked like Plzen might have even bigger ambitions when striker Marek Bakos connected on a dangerous header five minutes in, although Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati made a diving save to push the ball wide.
Cassano then produced a series of chances for Milan, although Ibrahimovic had the hosts' best opportunity of the first half in the 32nd when he received the ball unmarked inside the area. Somehow, though, Plzen goalkeeper Marek Cech stuck his hand up at the last second and blocked the Sweden striker's shot.
Ibrahimovic then had another attempt stopped in the 37th and two minutes later Milan Petrzela missed wide with a decent opportunity for Plzen.
Shortly into the second half, the match was decided.
Milan next hosts BATE on Oct. 19, while Plzen visits title-holder Barcelona.