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Malaga through as Milan flatter to deceive
Competition debutants Malaga held seven-time champions AC Milan to a 1-1 draw at the San Siro to secure qualification for the knockout phase of the Champions League here Tuesday.
Milan, ousted in the quarter-finals by Barcelona last season, dominated the first half but spurned several opportunities before Eliseu put the visitors ahead in the 40th minute.
Brazilian Alexandre Pato then gave Milan hope of a second group stage win when he levelled in the 73rd minute, but despite the hosts' push for a late winner the Rossoneri were to be denied.
Malaga's first draw after three wins leaves them top of Group C on 10 points.
With Anderlecht securing a 1-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg, Milan remain second a point above the Belgians with the Russian side two points further adrift.
Milan's remaining matches are away to Anderlecht on November 21 and at home to Zenit a fortnight later. For Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, their campaign is set to go right to the wire.
"If we had won we would have had seven points and obviously it would have made it easier to make it to the next round," he said.
"But we still believe in ourselves and I think really it will all go down to the last game."
Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini said: "We didn't win, but to come to the San Siro and get a draw is an important victory for us.
"But the campaign is not over yet. We want to finish top of our group, and we still have two matches remaining."
As well as enduring arguably their worst ever start to a season, Milan's record against Spanish clubs in Europe read: won one, drawn five and lost six in their last 12 games.
But, buoyed by a 5-1 win over Chievo in Serie A Saturday, Milan displayed attacking verve in the opening half thanks largely to the energetic runs of Bojan.
On 19 minutes the Spanish forward danced around the Malaga defence to unleash a shot which forced Malaga keeper Willy to quickly turn on his heels and parry after the ball had taken a deflection.
Moments later Bojan got to the Malaga byline and cut the ball back for Stephan El Shaarawy, who saw his solid first-time effort blocked.
When Pato won a freekick on the edge of the area, Dutch winger Emanuelson stepped up to send a curling effort around the defensive wall towards goal but Willy produced a spectacular dive to palm the ball round the upright.
Milan were dominating, but Malaga exposed the hosts' defence all too easily.
In the 40th minute the Spaniards broke the deadlock when Eliseu latched onto Isco's through ball to beat Abbiati low to his right after the Spaniard's mazy run caught Milan chasing back towards their own goal.
Milan continued their pressing early in the second half, but without any real true conviction.
Guinean defender Kevin Constant did well to set up El Shaarawy inside the area but the Italian's swivel and turn effort went well wide of the post.
Soon after, Allegri replaced El Shaarawy with Kevin Prince Boateng whose first touch was a volley from all of 35 metres as Willy strayed off his line.
Milan were in the doldrums, but on one of the rare occasions they penetrated deep into Malaga's area Pato rose high at the back post to head Constant's cross past Willy.
Pato, making his competition debut this campaign following two months of injury woe, told the Mediaset channel: "This goal is important but now we have to go for it. I'm feeling good in myself and in my game but I'm not here to enjoy myself, I have to be efficient."
Both sides went on to create chances in the remaining 17 minutes, with Roque Santa Cruz, who came on earlier for Saviola, dribbling past the Milan defence with consummate ease.
Allegri sent on Robinho for Emanuelson late on but despite showing glimpses of promise the hosts failed to penetrate the Malaga backline.
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