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Milan put aside league woes to beat Zurich in UEFA Cup

SoccerNews in Serie A, UEFA Europa League 18 Sep 2008

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Struggling AC Milan earned their first victory of the season in a 3-1 success over FC Zurich in the UEFA Cup first round, first leg at the San Siro on Thursday night.

It was a welcome boost for under-fire coach Carlo Ancelotti who will now hope his team carry that form into Sunday's visit of Lazio in Serie A.

Goals from Marek Jankulovski, Pato and Marco Borriello gave Milan a three-goal start before Dusan Djuric pulled one back for the woeful visitors.

It was a measure of Milan's ambition in this competition that despite Andrea Pirlo's injry, Ronaldinho, Gianluca Zambrotta and goalkeeper Christian Abiatti were all rested while Alessandro Nesta wasn't even included amongst the list of 25 available players.

Even so, with the likes of Andrei Shevchenko, Kaka, Pato and Clarence Seedorf starting there was more than enough invention and firepower needed to break down the Swiss — on paper at least.

The reality was somewhat different in the first 45 minutes. It was nine minutes from the break before a noteworthy chance was created. Shevchenko broke free in the box and volleyed goalwards but goalkeeper Johnny Leoni tipped it onto the crossbar.

Moments later Zurich had the ball in the net when Florian Stahel headed home a free-kick only for the linesman to bewilderingly wave his flag.

Milan made the most of their reprieve as Kaka released Shevchenko and although Leoni blocked the Ukraine striker's shot, full-back Jankulovski crashed the follow up off Stahel's head and through Leoni's legs — it had been going wide before striking the Zurich defender.

That goal visibly lifted Milan's confidence and in the opening minute of the second period Pato fashioned a chance for Massimo Ambrosini but the Italy midfielder fired high and wide.

Milan had so far enjoyed a comfortable night at the back due to Zurich's complete lack of firepower but their frailty in that department was exposed when French forward Alexandre Alphonse struck the foot of the post with a prod from a long throw on 55 minutes.

Pato, though, settled Milanese nerves a minute later as he rifled a sumptuous free-kick into the top corner to double the Italians' advantage.

Zurich should have pulled a goal back through captain Hannu Tihinen but he put a free header from a corner well over the bar when completely unmarked in the box.

Substitute Borriello rounded things off with a vicious left foot finish from just outside the area 17 minutes from time although Dusan Djuric thrashed a shot from distance every bit as good as Pato's into the top corner to register the Swiss team on the scoresheet.

Seedorf almost scored a last-minute fourth with a close range header but Leoni made a miraculous save with his foot.

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