Celtic undone by Milan’s late show

AC Milan 2 Celtic 0

Celtic undone by Milan’s late show

The home side were struggling against Neil Lennon’s men and in need of some inspiration as the game entered the final stages.

However, they got a huge slice of luck when defender Cristian Zapata’s drive in the 82nd minute appeared to be heading wide before it deflected off Parkhead left-back Emilio Izaguirre and ended up behind Fraser Forster.

The Hoops goalkeeper was beaten again four minutes later despite making a great save from Mario Balotelli’s free-kick, as midfielder Sulley Muntari knocked in the rebound.

Much was made of AC Milan head coach Massimiliano Allegri’s lengthy injury-list which included the absence of Kaka and captain Riccardo Montolivo but the home side, and indeed they looked disjointed for most of the match.

Much of that, however, was down to the performance of Celtic.

Forster had to make several saves early on and one near the end of the first-half, but in between, the visitors enjoyed more than their fair share of possession.

There was a confidence in the way the Scottish champions kept the ball albeit it was without threatening Milan keeper Christian Abbiati too much.

After the break Muntari missed a great chance while Hoops’ in-form Irish striker Anthony Stokes hit the top of the bar with a free-kick.

The two late goals, though, were a sickener for Celtic who take on Barcelona in their next group fixture at Parkhead at the start of October with Ajax also waiting in the wings.

Forster was first called into action in the four minutes later when he parried Balotelli’s powerful volley clear with midfielder Antonio Nocerino driving the rebound wide.

However, Celtic steadied themselves and their diligence continued to frustrate the impatient home crowd.

There was a scare for the visitors, though, just after the half-hour mark when Nocerino sent a dipping volley just over the bar from the edge of the box after taking a pass from defender Philippe Mexes with the Hoops defence vulnerable.

The visitors started the second half brimming with belief and came close five minutes after the restart when Samaras drove just past the post from 25 yards.

The Milan fans were becoming increasingly frustrated as Celtic encroached into their box with menace although the visitors escaped again in the 62nd minute when Muntari missed a sitter, heading Zapata’s cross over from three yards.

Celtic had their best chance in the 67th minute when Commons played in skipper Scott Brown with a clever pass but Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong, who had earlier conceded possession, retrieved the situation with a great saving tackle and the Scotland midfielder’s shot lacked the pace to trouble Abbiati.

In the 79th minute Celtic substitute Teemu Pukki was brought down by De Jong 30 yards from goal but Stokes’s free-kick clipped the bar on the way over before the late frustration which started when Zapata’s drive from 30 yards took a touch off Izaguirre before nestling behind Forster.

More woe visited Celtic when Brown was booked for a foul on Balotelli, whose curling free-kick from 25 yards was brilliantly saved by Forster, only for Muntari to bundle the rebound in to take the three points.

Lennon admitted the defeat was hard to take.

“We dominated the game for long periods,” he said. “I have just said to the players that when you are on top, you have to take your chances. Anything can happen — a ricochet, a deflection — and that’s what happened.

“They didn’t deserve that but sometimes you don’t get what you deserve in football. I thought we were brilliant.”

AC MILAN: Abbiati, Zaccardo, Zapata, Mexes, Constant (Robinho 75), Muntari, De Jong, Nocerino, Matri (Poli 87), Birsa (Emanuelson 63), Balotelli.

CELTIC: Forster, van Dijk, Lustig, Ambrose, Izaguirre, Brown, Matthews (Boerrigter 75), Mulgrew (Biton 89), Commons (Pukki 77), Samaras, Stokes.

Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany).

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