Fri, Nov 28, 2003 - Page 24 News List

AC Milan's victory bumps it foreward

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE The Italian squad joined compatriots Real Madrid, Juventus and Monaco as Manchester United and Stuttgart also advanced


AC Milan' s Andriy Shevchenko, center, is hugged by Filippo Inzaghi, left, and Kaka after opening the score against Ajax Amsterdam during their Group D Champions League match on Wednesday at the Amsterdam ArenA.


Titleholders AC Milan swept into the second round of the Champions League on Wednesday, joined by four other teams that also reached the second stage: Manchester United, Stuttgart, Porto and Chelsea.

Real Madrid, Juventus and Monaco had already advanced to the final 16 with the last eight spots to be decided in matches on Dec. 9-10.

Manchester United and Stuttgart both advanced from Group E. Man United got through as Diego Forlan scored a late goal to beat Greek side Panathinaikos 1-0. Stuttgart advanced beating Rangers 1-0 in Germany. Rangers and Panathinaikos were both eliminated.

Porto won at home over Partizan Belgrade 2-0 to claim the second spot from Group F. Real Madrid had already staked out the other place. Partizan and Marseille, which lost 2-1 to Real Madrid, were eliminated.

David Beckham and Ronaldo scored for the Spaniards.

Beckham's goal on a first-half twisting free kick from 22m was the 600th for Real Madrid in the Champions League/European Cup. Alfredo Di Stefano scored the 100th and Ferenc Puskas the 200th.

Chelsea advanced from Group G despite a 0-0 draw in London against Sparta Prague. In the other Group match, Lazio and Besiktas drew 1-1.

The final rotation matches to decide the last eight qualifiers are Dec. 9-10. The first-leg of the knockout stage of 16 is Feb. 24-25.

Defending champion AC Milan beat Ajax 1-0 on a close-range goal from Andriy Shevchenko.

Milan clinched the top spot in the group with 10 points while Ajax is tied for second with Spain's Celta de Vigo, which drew 1-1 with FC Brugge. Both have six points.

"It was a surprise how they began attacking in the first half," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "Ajax should qualify because together with Milan they're the best team in the group."

An injury-depleted Ajax competed well until Brazilian right back Cafu found Shevchenko in front of the Ajax goal in the 52nd minute. The Serie A's leading scorer had plenty of time to knock the ball past Ajax goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont.

"It's extra painful because our defense was good," Ajax coach Ronald Koeman told Dutch television. "But we were open, we were one-against one, and they know how to punish that."

Despite coach Ronald Koeman's pre-game comment that he would play a defensive game, Ajax spent much of the first half in control of the ball and trying fruitlessly to penetrate Milan's stingy defense.

Milan's chances were rarer but better. Ajax nemesis Filippo Inzaghi had a clear shot on goal from the right side of the box in the 6th minute but clipped it above the crossbar.

Inzaghi broke past Ajax's wall at a 38th minute free kick to chase a loose ball and was almost in time to stop Ajax Lobont collecting it.

Inzaghi, who scored the goal that eliminated Ajax last year in the quarterfinals, got a yellow card for pushing Ajax defender Julien Escude in the 34th before a Shevchenko effort was disallowed.

A rash of injuries and suspensions forced Koeman to start several relatively unknown young players, including 20-year-old Johnny Heitinga, and 18-year-olds Nicolae Mitea and Anthony Obodai.

"We have only ourselves to blame -- one move and they score," Heitinga said. ``We have to be sharper.''

Ajax's attempts were mostly low percentage shots, taken at odd angles or from outside the goal box, but in the 10th minute Nigel de Jong's header cleared the crossbar on a corner by Mitea.

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