Ibra scores twice as Milan beats Auxerre 2-0
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice on his Champions League debut for AC Milan to give the seven-time winner a 2-0 victory over Auxerre in their opening group game.
It was Milan's first win at home in Europe in seven games, a run that stretches back to a 1-0 victory over Braga in the UEFA Cup on November 2008.
After Milan struggled to score in the first half, the Swede broke the deadlock in the 66th after linking up with Kevin-Prince Boateng and Ronaldinho. His second came just three minutes later, and completed a slick counter-attacking move that began with Robinho carrying the ball from the defense and culminated in Ibrahimovic sweeping home Ronaldinho's deft pass.
'''Ibra' had a good game tonight,'' Milan coach Massimo Allegri said. ''He was better in the second half than the first, especially the way he took his two chances. He is a very important player for us - for his technique and the way he leads the attack.''
Before then, Auxerre had the better of the chances. Valter Birsa and Steeven Langil had early shots and Adama Coulibaly headed against the bar.
''We knew before the match that Milan had the better players,'' Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez said. ''We have far less experience of the Champions League than Milan. You could see that after an hour. When their players had chances to score, they had the experience to take them.''
Milan had to wait until the 20th minute for its first chance, when Andrea Pirlo curled in a free kick that goalkeeper Olivier Sorin punched clear.
Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini went off early in the first half with an injury to his left knee. That meant Boateng was able to come on and add greater energy and drive to Milan's midfield.
''Ambrosini has a traumatic injury and we will have to assess it,'' Allegri said. ''Boateng is an important player for us because he is strong, has good technique, is young and is different to the rest of our midfield.''
Auxerre defender Coulibaly then sent a powerful header against the bar from a corner by Benoit Pedretti and the half came to a close with another chance for the French side. Ireneusz Jelen and Dennis Oliech led a break out from defense, but once in the area Langil shot high and wide.
''I wasn't scared as such, but Auxerre had a great game.'' Allegri said. ''The players used space well, were compact and went close on the counterattack. After the goals, though, the space opened up and it allowed us to play.''
Soon after the break, Milan went close when Andrea Pirlo hit a low shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area, leaving the hosts to wait till midway through the second half to open the scoring.
Ronaldinho crossed from the left, Boateng flicked the ball further into the area and Ibrahimovic sneaked ahead of Stephane Grichting to score his first goal in Milan colors.
He doubled his tally in the 69th after Robinho broke from defense and found Ronaldinho, who drew in the Auxerre defenders and passed to Ibrahimovic, and the Swede's low shot went inside the far post.
''For an hour, Auxerre played well,'' Fernandez said. ''We stayed compact and didn't leave space for Milan to play in. After an hour, the players became tired and it opened up spaces for them to attack and take advantage.''