SOCCER SHORTS

Reuters

Thu, Nov 28, 2013 - Page 19

SCOTLAND

Milan cruise to easy win

AC Milan put their dismal away form behind them to cruise to an easy 3-0 UEFA Champions League victory at Celtic Park in their Group H match on Tuesday. The Italians, who were without an away win so far this season, were gifted two of the goals by some inept Celtic defending. Kaka opened the scoring after 13 minutes when the home side’s defense stood still as Valter Birsa’s corner came into the penalty area and the unmarked Brazilian headed home from close range. Celtic’s best chance fell to defender Virgil van Dijk after 48 minutes when his fierce volley smashed into the body of Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati. A minute later, Milan made it 2-0 from another poorly- defended corner taken by Birsa. Antonio Nocerino was left alone at the back post and he prodded the ball across goal for Cristian Zapata to tap in. Van Dijk had the ball in the net, but was ruled offside, then James Forrest shot wide before Milan added a third on the hour. Mario Balotelli latched onto a long ball by Riccardo Montolivo, outmuscled Efe Ambrose and clipped it past Fraser Forster in the Celtic goal. The result keeps Milan second in the group on eight points. Celtic are bottom with three points and go out.

ROMANIA

Lackluster Schalke held

Lackluster Schalke 04 face the prospect of missing out on the UEFA Champions League knockout stages after being held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday. The result meant the Germans dropped down to third in Group E and must now beat visiting Basel in their final game on Dec. 11 to progress to the round-of-16. Chances were limited on a cold night at the National Arena in Bucharest and Schalke were decidedly lukewarm in attack. Ralf Faehrmann, deputizing for the injured Timo Hildebrand in goal for Schalke, was barely tested before the break, but did well to parry a fine Federico Piovaccari volley on the half-hour mark. Steaua needed to win to retain any chance of reaching the round-of-16. The home team replaced ineffective midfielder Ionut Neagu with centerback Fernando Varela at halftime and the hosts had a brighter second half, but neither side could find the back of the net.

RUSSIA

Zenit handed a lifeline

A goalkeeping blunder by Atletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois gave Zenit St Petersburg a qualification lifeline as they fought back to draw 1-1 in their UEFA Champions League Group G match on Tuesday. Toby Alderweireld deflected a Igor Smolnikov cross toward the net in the 74th minute and Belgian Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, flapped at the ball as it dropped over his head into the net for a precious equalizer for the Russians. Atletico, already through to the round-of-16 as group winners and missing several regulars, went ahead in the 53rd minute when Adrian Lopez raced clear on the left before slipping the ball under goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin.

PORTUGAL

Porto fail to capitalize

Porto striker Jackson Martinez salvaged a 1-1 home draw against Austria Vienna as the wasteful Portuguese champions failed to make the most of an earlier slip by UEFA Champions League Group G rivals Zenit St Petersburg. The Colombian’s header canceled out Roman Kienast’s first-half strike as Porto missed a chance to overtake second-placed Zenit. With one round to go, the Portuguese side remain third on five points, one behind the Russians, while the Austrians have only two points and cannot qualify for the Europa League.