Real's Leon dents Milan heroics
© AFP

Substitute Pedro Leon struck an injury-time equaliser against AC Milan to send Real Madrid through to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League and preserve the Spanish club`s unbeaten record under coach Jose Mourinho.

Filippo Inzaghi looked to have consigned Real to defeat after netting twice in the second half to help the Italian outfit overturn a 1-0 deficit, given to Mourinho's side by Gonzalo Higuain on the stroke of half-time. However, with Mourinho set to suffer a losing return to the San Siro where he enjoyed so much success with previous club Inter Milan, Leon popped up in the fourth minute of additional time to drill home the equaliser. The result means nine-time European champions Real are guaranteed a place in the knockout stages even though they lost their 100 per cent record in Group G.

Mourinho complained that Inzaghi's second goal should have been chalked off. "Their first goal came from a slip by Pepe and their second was clearly and obviously offside, without a shadow of doubt," he said. "But I don't want to talk about Pepe or the referee, we played very well tonight and Leon's equaliser was deserved."

Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri praised his side's character. "I think the draw was a fair result, they were better in the first half but in the second we had a good reaction, that's our strength. Unfortunately, though, we didn't manage to hold on to the win."

I think the draw was a fair result, they were better in the first half but in the second we had a good reaction, that's our strength.
Massimiliano Allegri, AC Milan boss

Both sides had chances during an entertaining opening period, although it was in-form Madrid - with ten wins from 13 competitive games under Mourinho this season - who looked much the more likely scorers for large periods. In the opening ten minutes the visitors went close through Higuain and Pepe and then, after Kevin-Prince Boateng fired straight at Iker Casillas for Milan, Real had four more decent efforts in quick succession.



Xabi Alonso fired a 30-yard volley just wide, Angel Di Maria hit the outside of the post when he perhaps should have done better before Andrea Pirlo produced two goal-saving headers one after another to deny Higuain and Di Maria. Sami Khedira then headed a corner against the post, although it would not have counted as referee Howard Webb had spotted a foul.

Real were looking in total control but Milan's star-studded attack were not without threat either and Casillas did superbly to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the on-loan Barcelona striker had been put clean through by Boateng. Ibrahimovic had another chance in the 36th minute after being put in by Ronaldinho`s clever chip, but the Swedish hitman's lob over Casillas - whose had recklessly charged out to the edge of the area - landed harmlessly away from goal and Madrid could breathe again.

Mourinho's side deserved a goal for their first half efforts, and they got the breakthrough they had been looking for right on the stroke of half-time. Di Maria charged in from the left wing and threaded a superb disguised pass into fellow Argentinian Higuain, who collected possession by the penalty spot before sliding his shot past the unprotected Abbiati. That was Real's 700th goal in the European Cup, comfortably becoming the first club to reach the milestone.

Madrid were back on the attack at the start of the second half with Cristiano Ronaldo bringing a flying save out of Abbiati in the 47th minute with a dipping 25-yard shot. However, just when the Primera Division outfit looked to have the match under complete control, Milan equalised out of the blue through veteran Inzaghi, who took advantage of some poor defending from Madrid to net his 45th Champions League goal.

Pepe made a mess of trying to clear a through-ball, allowing Ibrahimovic to break down the left and then Casillas could only parry the Swede's cross up into the air, allowing the predatory Inzaghi the easy task of heading home from close range.

That was in the 68th minute, and ten minutes later the 37-year-old netted what looked like being the winner. The Italy international got in behind as Gennaro Gattuso played a pass over the top. The flag stayed down and Inzaghi got to the ball just before Ricardo Carvalho and Casillas to slide the ball in.

Massimiliano Allegri's men must have felt that was enough to sentence Los Merengues to defeat, but the visitors refused to give up and Leon latched onto fellow replacement Karim Benzema's neat pass before drilling his shot through Abbiati's legs, sparking wild scenes from the visitors.