Two goals in four minutes from AC Milan dealt another away defeat on Celtic, which was unbecoming of their play in the San Siro on Wednesday night. Despite dominating much of the game and having a number of chances to score, Celtic’s poor decision making and play in the final third cost them as AC Milan scored through Zapata and Muntari to secure all three points.
Celtic dominated play for the large parts of the first half, however they could not turn that possession into clear cut chances as they wasted a number of set pieces in dangerous areas.
With Adam Matthews causing problems for AC Milan down the right wing, Milan were ripe for the taking, but despite this poor decision making and Celtic’s final ball let Neil Lennon’s side down.
The best chance of the first half for Milan came from former Man City striker Mario Balotelli just before the half hour mark, his shot took a wicked deflection off Efe Ambrose, but with much of the pace taken out of it, Fraser Forster managed to top the ball wide of the goal.
Into the second half, Celtic continued to dominate proceedings against an injury-hit AC Milan side and came close to breaking the deadlock, first Greek striker Georgios Samaras fired just wide of Milan’s goal before Anthony Stokes hit a curling shot from a free kick off the crossbar.
Milan rarely threatened Celtic’s goal until the final ten minutes of the game and they took the lead through a lucky deflection. On 82 minutes a shot from Zapata was heading wide of the Celtic goal but took a deflection off Emilio Izaguirre and past Forster to give the hosts an undeserved lead.
Four minutes later, Milan added more misery to Celtic as they doubled their advantage. After a contentious off the ball incident between Celtic skipper Scott Brown and Mario Balotelli, the Italians were awarded a free kick and from the resulting spotkick Balotelli forced Forster into a superb save, as the ball came back out Muntari knocked in the rebound as the Celtic players were caught ball watching.
It was a cruel blow for Celtic who deserved more out of the game, up next for Neil Lennon’side is a home tie against Barcelona at the start of October.
After the match, manager Neil Lennon said: “I’m bitterly disappointed because, for long periods of the game, we were the better team. So to come away from the San Siro, not having picked up a point or three, and to feel disappointed is a mark of how we’ve developed as team and how well we played tonight.
“But you have to take your chances when you are on top and, unfortunately, we didn’t get the break of the ball that Milan did. The scoreline flatters them. I didn’t think there were two goals between the teams at all. We dominated Milan from about 20 minutes into the first half until 10 minutes to go of the second half. Apart from a chance for Muntari, Fraser had nothing to do in the second half.
“We kept them to long-range shots over the bar and we played good football. We had good chances tonight and didn’t take them. That will be the one regret we have. We were in good spirits coming into the game and we fancied ourselves to get some kind of result. It does heighten the disappointment when you play so well. Sometimes you like to play badly and nick a result. But you have to look at the performance as well and it was of a very high standard.”
Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong admitted the Rossoneri were fortunate to win, adding: “It was a lucky win but sometimes you need luck to win games. We did not start off too well and let Celtic dictate in the first half. In the second we played a little bit more and got two lucky goals. That is football. Celtic were mentally-wise a lot stronger. When Celtic come, you know you have to be strong all over the pitch.”
AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri was delighted with the win, he said: “It was important to win and we struggled at the start of the second half, as we couldn’t get it clear. We were fortunate with the goal. It was a good victory for a group of players who were whittled down to the bone, but played with substance. What counted was getting the points.
“I am not angry at always getting the goals in the final stages, as if all games went like this I’d be happy! The truth is towards the end the spaces open up more and we can create more chances. We do have to improve, as we gave the ball away too much and tried to force the passes through, but it was a good reaction from the side to earn victory.
“The lads have heart and desire, as they know a game is always open until the final whistle, as we saw against Torino. What we do need to improve is how we read the game, knowing when to take up the tempo or slow it down. We started playing Celtic’s game with long balls, which is what we should not be doing.
“We must always try to think positive. I have faith in the last 15-20 minutes of a game, as I know anything can happen there. The substitutions helped, as they did on Saturday.”
Milan: Abbiati; Zaccardo, Zapata, Mexes, Constant (Robinho 75); Nocerino, De Jong, Muntari; Birsa (Emanuelson 64); Balotelli, Matri (Poli 86)
Celtic: Forster; Lustig, Van Dijk, Ambrose, Izaguirre; Matthews (Boerrigter 74), Brown, Mulgrew (Biton 89); Samaras; Commons (Pukki 77), Stokes
Ref: Stark (GER)