AC Milan beats Zenit St. Petersburg in Champions League
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) -- A late own goal by Slovak defender Tomas Hubocan spoiled Zenit St. Petersburg's comeback and handed AC Milan a 3-2 win over the Russian club in an action-packed Champions League match on Wednesday.
Zenit rallied from a two-goal deficit to level the match but fell to its second group defeat that ended a 16-match home unbeaten streak in Europe.
"This is an important victory. It is not easy to win against Zenit on their ground. We came under tough pressure, but our goalkeeper played a great match,'' said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, referring to the six on-target shots kept out by Christian Abbiati.
Allegri opted for an attacking side, with Riccardo Montolivo and Nigel De Jong in midfield behind Urby Emanuelson. Kevin-Prince Boateng, Stephan El Shaarawy and Bojan Krcic.
Milan went ahead when a powerful free kick by Emanuelson in the 12th minute ricocheted off Roman Shirokov, leaving goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev unable to react in time.
Three minutes later, Milan striker El Shaarawy weaved through the Zenit defense in a burst of speed and drove the ball past Malafeyev.
Zenit hit back, however, assailing Milan with a wave of dangerous surges and shots on goal that forced Abbiati into a series of saves.
Brazilian forward Hulk started the fight-back when he powered a low drive past Abbati at the end of the first half. The goal was Zenit's first in the Champions League this season, having gone down 3-0 to Malaga two weeks earlier.
Roman Shirokov equalized with a header from a corner by Hulk four minutes after the break.
Allegri tried to inject some urgency into his side's attack by substituting Spanish forward Krcic, who failed to make an impact in his 52 minutes on the field, for Giampaolo Pazzini.
Still, it was Boateng's diving header a couple of minutes later that showed Milan's renewed threat.
An energetic Zenit kept Milan fighting hard to keep the score level, but the Italian side finally scored when Hubocan knocked the ball into his own net with Pazzini looming.
Seven minutes before time, Abbiati stopped what look like a certain goal from a scorching strike by Aleksandr Anyukov.
"This is a very sad night for me. All the work we did before the match was of no help,'' said Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti. "Once again, we started the game very poorly. As we did against Malaga, we let in two goals in the first 15 minutes.''
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