Milan limps to scoreless draw against Anderlecht

BY foxsports • September 18, 2012

Seven-time European champion AC Milan limped to a scoreless draw against Belgian side Anderlecht in Tuesday's Champions League opener in front of a more than half-empty San Siro.

Milan was hoping for a positive result after a dismal start to the season in which it has lost its first two home games for the first time in 82 years.

However, Milan again fail to score at home for the third time this campaign after an error-strewn performance, and Massimiliano Allegri's team were roundly jeered off the pitch at halftime and fulltime.

''I can't reproach the lads anything because they're using a lot of energy, both physical and mental,'' Allegri said. ''They have to find a bit more confidence in themselves. I think that tonight hardly any of the starting 11 had played 30 games in the Champions League, so it's normal that they need to grow.

''It's true that the difficult start to the season has affected the team mentally, but to win you need to score and at the moment we can't score, so it's that that we need to work on.''

Anderlecht looked much the better side and only some poor finishing ensured it failed to win in Italy for the first time in its history.

''I'm very proud of tonight's exploits,'' Anderlecht coach John van den Brom. ''We completely dominated at San Siro in the first half, we played with a lot of character. We surprised them on a tactical and technical level and I want to compliment every player, in particular Cheikhou Kouyate, who succeeded in marking (Kevin-Prince) Boateng completely out of the game.

''Anderlecht proved it has a place in the Champions League. This point was really well deserved and as coach I'm very, very happy with how we got it.''

Philippe Mexes was back from injury and made his first appearance of the season, but he clearly lacked match fitness and added to Milan's errors.

Milan went on to win the Champions League both times it has previously faced Anderlecht in the group stages, but it will have to improve dramatically if history is to repeat itself.

''What's positive is that we didn't concede a goal,'' Allegri said. ''It would have been better if we had scored and won the game obviously, but the team did definitely better than we have been doing, created good chances.

Both of Milan's Brazil forwards, Alexandre Pato and Robinho, are working their way back from leg muscle injuries and Allegri will want the duo back as soon as possible as his attack is clearly struggling after the sale of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Malaga is now top of Group C after beating Zenit St. Petersburg 3-0.

Milan was looking to get off to a good start to get its supporters back on side, with less than 28,000 spectators at the 80,000-capacity San Siro reflecting the team's dismal performances of late.

The errors continued to pile up and Anderlecht could have taken the lead when a one-two between Dieudonne Mbokani and Sacha Kljestan saw the latter unleash a curling shot which Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati did well to tip round the post at full stretch.

Milan slowly began to get in the game and had its first opportunity in the 15th minute when Kevin-Prince Boateng got a heel to a good cross from Mattia De Sciglio, but his effort was deflected narrowly wide.

Giampaolo Pazzini, who had scored all three of Milan's goals this season, started to make his presence fell but a cross from Luca Antonini was just too high for the former Inter Milan striker.

Moments later Milan had one of its best chances of the game as the ball ping-ponged around the area before falling to Pazzini who picked out an unmarked Mathieu Flamini, but his snapshot was well saved by Anderlecht goalkeeper Silvio Proto.

Milan should have taken the lead shortly after the half hour when Urby Emanuelson picked out an unmarked Boateng, whose effort was comfortably saved by Proto.

Anderlecht could have taken a halftime lead when Massimo Bruno saw his effort cleared by Mexes but the ball came to Mbokani who tried an acrobatic effort which sailed well wide of the right upright.

Milan was slightly improved after the break but Anderlecht went closest when Mbokani released Lucas Biglia who found himself one-on-one with Abbiati but could not find the target.

Stephen El Shaarawy came on for Boateng on the hour and had Milan's best chance of the night shortly after, as he powerfully headed Emanuelson's cross towards goal, only to be denied by a brilliant stop by Proto on the line.

El Shaarawy turned provider for Emanuelson minutes later but the Dutchman blazed over the crossbar from a good position.