Own goal lifts AC Milan after Zenit fightback

GENNADY FYODOROV
Last updated 08:21 04/10/2012

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Seven-times European champions AC Milan needed a late own goal to beat Zenit St Petersburg 3-2 in an entertaining Champions League Group C match today.

The Russians fought back from 2-0 down with two goals in four minutes to level before Milan scored the winner with 15 minutes remaining when a low Riccardo Montolivo shot hit Zenit defender Tomas Hubocan and slid into the near corner.

The Italians scored twice in the first quarter of an hour, with the home side in disarray. Urby Emanuelson put the visitors ahead with a 20-metre free kick that took a deflection, wrong-footing Zenit keeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev in the 13th minute.

Stephan El Shaarawy, who turns 20 this month, doubled the lead three minutes later after a mazy solo run through the Zenit defence, becoming the youngest player to score for Milan in the continent's elite club competition.

Brazil striker Hulk pulled one back for the home side with a powerful left-foot blast from inside the box after a nice through ball from Roman Shirokov just before the break.

It was Hulk's third goal in six matches for Zenit since joining them from Porto for a Russian league record 60 million euros ($NZ94.7 million) before last month's transfer deadline.

Midfielder Shirokov, Zenit's leading scorer in the Champions League last season with five goals, headed a 49th-minute equaliser from a Hulk corner.

But the Russian champions paid the price for sloppy defending when Montolivo slid in unmarked at the near post to fire in a shot from a low cross which struck Hubocan's leg before ending up in the back of the net.

The defeat piled more misery on Zenit, who have been in turmoil for the past week with several senior players apparently unhappy after the club last month splashed out more than $US100 million ($NZ122.3 million) on Hulk and Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel.

Zenit demoted Russia captain Igor Denisov to the reserve team last week after the midfielder issued an ultimatum to renegotiate his contract and refused to play.

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- Reuters

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