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Zurich heap pressure on under-fire Leonardo with Milan win

FC Zurich pulled off a famous and unlikely victory as Finland’s Hannu Tihinen scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over AC Milan in the Champions League at the San Siro on Wednesday.

And this latest set-back will surely have piled even more pressure on under-fire Milan coach Leonardo.

In four home matches this season Milan have scored only one goal, also winning only once, while they have fared little better on their travels.

But the significance of this home defeat to European football minnows can hardly be understated, particularly as Milan’s next two Group C games will be against free-scoring Real Madrid.

Having also won only two of six league matches, already Milan’s pretentions both at home and in Europe look decidedly fragile.

Leonardo began this game under pressure and the first half would have made uncomfortable viewing for the Brazilian.

On seven minutes Milan full-back Ignazio Abate mishit a cross from the right that almost caught out Zurich goalkeeper Johnny Leoni, who bizarrely reacted by kicking the ball off his line.

But on 10 minutes the visitors were in front with a goal from a former West Ham player that the Premier League club’s current manager would have been proud of.

Milan Gajic swing over a corner and Tihinen arrived unmolested at the near post to flick the ball with his heel between his legs and past Marco Storari in the Milan goal — a near copy of a goal Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola scored for Chelsea against Norwich in 2002.

On the quarter hour Filippo Inzaghi should have levelled after a surging run and devilish cross from Marek Jankulovski but the veteran striker slid in and poked wide from two yards.

It was an open game and after Clarence Seedorf had volleyed over for the hosts, Johan Volanthen escaped on the counter-attack and pulled the ball back for Xavier Margairaz, who failed to keep either his shot or his head down.

Milan were enjoying some success with their full-backs and Abate beat Onyekachi Okonkwo down the right and crossed for Inzaghi, whose header drifted wide of the far post.

Seedorf sent a vicious long range shot just past the upright but then Storari had to scramble behind an even harder shot from Gajic.

Leonardo wasted no time in trying to fire up his side, bringing on former world player of the year Ronaldinho for Seedorf at the break.

Just before the hour mark Inzaghi almost levelled again as he met a dangerous Andrea Pirlo free-kick with his head but Leoni made a flying one-handed save.

Moments later Ronaldinho sent Pato in on goal with a sumptuous through ball but although his young compatriot lifted the ball over Leoni, it dropped wide of the post.

It was a thrill a minute and after Leoni blocked a close range Inzaghi shot with his foot, Storari kept out a drilled Margairaz effort with his boot.

Milan kept pushing and on 88 minutes captain Massimo Ambrosini shaved the outside of the post with a low strike from 20 yards.

With almost the last kick of the match Gianluca Zambrotta crashed a stunning shot against the Zurich upright but the Swiss deserved that bit of luck and the three points that boosts their qualification hopes after their 5-2 home defeat to Real.

Wed 30 September, 2009
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