AC Milan secured their qualification from Group G in the UEFA Champions League with a 2-0 victory at Auxerre tonight.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's wonderful 64th-minute opener came out of the blue and he was later replaced by Ronaldinho, who netted the second late on. The win result puts Milan on eight points, and Ajax's 4-0 defeat at home to Real Madrid ensures the Rossoneri qualification for the final 16.
"Ronaldinho made a good entrance. He played well and scored a great goal," said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri. "We were under heavy pressure at the start of the match and we felt a little bit trapped inside our penalty area, but everything finished well."
Auxerre welcomed back Cedric Hengbart from a hamstring problem and Dennis Oliech from suspension on a cold night, while injuries deprived Milan of Alexandre Pato, Filippo Inzaghi, Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Oddo and Luca Antonini. Milan were first to have a sight of goal as Robinho fired over, while goalkeeper Christian Abbiati dealt with Dariusz Dudka's free-kick and Benoit Pedretti's corner at the other end. Abbiati was forced to field a shot for the first time - and did so with ease - as Roy Contout met Dudka's cross with his head.
Abbiati was tested much more by Benoit Pedretti's free-kick two minutes later, producing a superb save before also gathering another set-piece effort from Valter Birsa as the hosts enjoyed a spell of pressure. Contout then shot over, an effort replicated by Clarence Seedorf in an overdue Milanese attack in the 22nd minute. The Dutchman then set up a chance for Mathieu Flamini, whose shot was blocked. Oliech also saw an effort charged down and Frederic Sammaritano's low long-range effort was held by Abbiati before Gennaro Gattuso shot over for Milan. Half-time arrived with little else in the way of incident, with Massimo Ambrosini booked seconds before the interval for a bad foul on Contout.
There was no immediate sign of an improvement after the interval, with Thiago Silva's shot wide for Milan and Robinho's effort - blocked by Adama Coulibaly - the only two noteworthy incidents of the first quarter-hour. Hengbart's injury resurfaced and he was replaced by Kamel Chafni before Delvin Ndinga, teed up by Contout just outside the box, shot narrowly over. Oliech was off target from similar range and Auxerre were made to pay as Milan took a scarcely-deserved lead.
It was a goal out of keeping with the game - but one which perfectly summed up Ibrahimovic. Hitherto anonymous in the game, the Sweden striker arrowed a superb effort into the top-right corner from outside the box to break the deadlock.
Oliech shot over and defender Stephane Grichting's left-footed volley wide from outside the box betrayed Auxerre's desperation - the French side knew defeat would confirm their elimination from the competition. Julien Quercia, introduced in place of Sammaritano, saw his effort blocked by Gianluca Zambrotta before Pedretti fired over. Veteran defender Alessandro Nesta was booked for time-wasting as Milan ran the clock down and Ronaldinho's precise curler as the game ticked into injury time, having been set up by Robinho, sealed victory.