Anderlecht frustrate Milan at San Siro
MILAN, Sept 18, 2012 (AFP) - Group C whipping boys Anderlecht held seven-time champions AC Milan to a scoreless draw in a Champions League opener that will heap further pressure on the hosts' coach Massimiliano Allegri.
After two home defeats and one away win in three Serie A games, the pressure was on Allegri to deliver a win that would get Milan's European campaign up and running.
But it was whistles that rang out around a less than half-empty San Siro stadium at the end of a match in which the hosts failed to take by the scruff of the neck having been dominated in the early exchanges.
Towering Brazilian forward Kanu's second minute header and defender Bram Nuytinck's shot in the third minute kept Christian Abbiati alert in the Milan goal.
And further efforts from the impressive Dieudonne Mbokani and American midfielder Sacha Kljestan were a reminder that Anderlecht had come to upstage the underperforming Italians.
It took until the quarter hour for the hosts to find their stride.
Defender Luca Antonini's glancing header from Emanuelson's corner went wide and when Antonio Nocerino sent a superb cross in for Pazzini it inched just over the striker's head.
Their best chance of the half fell to Mathieu Flamini, who latched onto defender Mattia De Sciglio's ball in the 18th minute to hit an angled shot from close range which Silvio Proto did well to block.
At the other end, defender Guillaume Gillet saw his angled shot from close in parried by Abbiati.
Kevin Prince Boateng was then on target with an angled shot from the left of goal after being given space, but Proto got low to block.
Impressive midfielder Nocerino's long ball then found Urby Emanuelson running between two defenders but the Dutch midfielder's superb first-time effort was stopped by Proto.
Anderlecht came fighting back and it took a good block from French defender Philippe Mexes, making his return to the team, to stop Massimo Bruno's shot. After the ball was sent back in Mbokani sent his bicycle kick effort well wide of the post.
On the stroke of half time Boateng forced Proto into action before the ball was bundled to safety.
Two minutes after the restart Nocerino's close-range header from Boateng's flighted cross inched wide of Proto's goal, but was ruled offside.
Anderlecht then spurned a great chance when Lucas Biglia broke on the right only to send an angled shot from close in high over Abbiati's bar.
Milan enjoyed a brief period of domination and Boateng was unlucky to lose momentum just as he connected with Pazzini's lay-off to send the ball wide of Proto's goal.
The Ghanaian was replaced by Stephan El Sharaway on the hour mark, and while the Italy under-21 striker added verve to Milan's attack it also added to their frustrations.
After Pazzini had agonisingly failed to connect with a low cross on 66 minutes following a well-worked counter-attack launched by El Sharaway, Emanuelson ran across goal and turned to send his angled effort high.
El Sharaway then sent a right foot volley from a high cross over the bar, and in the closing minutes Pazzini ran into Anderlecht traffic on the edge of the area after El Sharaway's lay-off.