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    Diego leaves it late as Bremen hold AC Milan

    New Delhi: Pippo Inzaghi opened the scoring for Milan in the first half, only to see Diego equalise for the Germans six minutes from time, in the first leg of this Round of 32 tie.

    Both sides were without some key players for this match, as Kaka was not deemed fit to return, and both David Beckham and Alexandre Pato started from the bench for Milan on Wednesday night. Pippo Inzaghi headed the Milan attack, with Ronaldinho and Clarence Seedorf in behind, whilst the reported Juventus target Diego started in behind the front two pairing of Hugo Almeida and Claudio Pizarro for the Germans. Torsten Frings was Bremen’s only absentee, as he missed through suspension.

    First Half

    The home side got the play underway in front of a packed stadium in Bremen, and it took them just one minute to create the first opportunity, as Diego’s corner found Mertesacker in the area, only for the powerful defender to somehow fail to beat Dida from close range. Incredibly, the Germans could have and should have gone 1-0 up in the opening minute of play.

    Werder continued their excellent start to this match, as they went close again just moments later, when Hugo Almeida went close to breaking the deadlock. Pirlo’s poorly directed pass to Zambrotta was easily intercepted by the Bremen hitman; however he too fired it wide of the target from close range.

    It was at this point when Milan began to find their feet and work themselves into the contest, as they had a couple of opportunities to go ahead in the next ten minute period. Firstly through a header by Inzaghi, who managed to get on to the end of a cross into the area by Zambrotta, which unfortunately for the Rossoneri’s sake was weak and easily dealt with by Wiese; and then through Flamini, who simply should have scored from close range, as he was sensationally denied by the Bremen keeper.

    The intensity began to drop, as both sides began to settle into the match, following an extremely frantic opening 20 minutes. By this stage, Inzaghi had found himself offside on more than three occasions already, whilst the Germans continued to press forward and attempt to make the most of their opportunities. Both defences were standing tall though, however the Milan back four could do nothing to prevent Fritz’s powerful effort from long range that forced Dida into making an awkward save.

    Two reckless challenges by Bremen players, almost completely turned the match on its head just after the half hour mark, when firstly Mertesacker’s poor challenge on Zambrotta in the area resulted in the Milan players pleading for a penalty to the referee. It wasn’t to be however, and just moments later, Diego should have been sent off for another terrible foul on Zambrotta. He was only shown the yellow card, which was extremely fortunate for the Brazilian midfielder.

    It was all Milan at this point, as they really began to take control of the match, and as expected, a goal eventually was produced as a result of their pressure on 36 minutes. A poor defensive clearance by Fritz, meant that Flamini was able to pick the ball up and send in a decent cross from the right, where he picked out Inzaghi, who with a lucky bounce, managed to drive the ball into the corner with his left foot. 1-0 to Milan.

    Despite the Rossoneri’s dominance at this point of the match, the Germans had a huge opportunity to respond just two minutes after the Inzaghi goal, as Pizarro simply should have done better from close range. The Peruvian hitman failed to make good contact with a glorious flick by Diego, and fortunately for Milan, they escaped and somehow managed to maintain their one goal advantage.

    Both sides continued to test their luck in the remaining minutes of the half; however neither could create any clear cut opportunities, so this is where it ended, with Milan leading by a goal at the break. Bremen were certainly the better side early on, however it was the Rossoneri that made the most of their opportunities throughout the first half.

    Second Half

    The Italian giants got the second half underway, however as was the case in the first half, it was the home side that managed to create the first opportunity early on, when after just two minutes Pizarro had the chance to restore parity for his side. He was brilliantly denied by Zambrotta, who made a superb challenge and an even better clearance to deny the striker.

    After 51 minutes Werder almost equalised yet again, as they continued to press, and this time it was through Hugo Almeida from a free kick. Diego stepped up to take the kick 25 yards from goal, however it was the Portuguese big man that eventually tested his luck, and unfortunately for his sake the ball sailed just wide of the top corner.

    Milan were desperately struggling in the opening stages, as the home side continued to press. After leaving Pirlo for dead, Diego had yet another opportunity to score, however Dida made an outstanding save to once again deny the Brazilian. Just a minute later, Hugo Almeida was given a gift, when he found himself unmarked at the back post from Naldo’s ball in.

    The Italian defenders all failed to make contact with the ball, leaving the powerful hitman all alone at the back; however he failed to direct his header on target. The Rossoneri finally put together their first promising attacking movement of the second half after 58 minutes, when Flamini’s powerful strike from the edge of the area was well dealt with by Wiese. As was the case in the first half, one attacking opportunity led to another, as just seven minutes later, Inzaghi struck the crossbar, following some tremendous passing play between Seedorf and Ronaldinho.

    As the clock approached the final 20 minutes, Inzaghi was given another opportunity to double his side’s advantage, following some great work by Flamini, however the Italian striker was not ready when the ball came in. To their credit, Werder kept at it, and knowing that they were in need of a helping hand, the home supporters began to lift in voice as the match neared the end.

    It was evident that Bremen were giving absolutely everything they had at this point, whilst the Rossoneri were content to just sit back and hold onto their one goal advantage. Despite all of their pressure going forward though, the Germans were unable to find a way through the Milan defence, as almost all of the Italian players were sitting behind the ball.

    On 84 minutes, Diego was gifted another opportunity to score, and this time he made no mistake, as Werder deservedly equalised within the final ten minutes of play. A long ball sent forward found Hugo Almeida, and he managed to head the ball towards Diego, who then made no mistake with his left foot, as he smashed it past Dida and into the bottom corner.

    Carlo Ancelotti replaced Ronaldinho with David Beckham after 89 minutes, however immediately following the switch; it was the German club that should have taken the lead. Favalli’s poor clearance from a Diego free kick managed to fortunately come back off his own post, providing Pizarro with a massive opportunity, however his poor attempt from close range was blasted over the bar.

    That’s where it ended, as Werder Bremen and Milan will travel to the Italian peninsula next week deadlocked at 1-1. The Rossoneri managed to attain a vital away goal through Inzaghi, a goal that should see them go in as favourites when the sides do battle at the San Siro next Thursday.

    TEAMS

    Werder (4-3-1-2): Wiese; Fritz, Mertesacker, Naldo, Boenisch; Tziolis, Baumann, Ozil; Diego; Pizarro, Hugo Almeida

    Milan (4-3-2-1): Dida; Bonera, Senderos, Favalli, Zambrotta; Flamini, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Seedorf, Ronaldinho; Inzaghi

    GOALS

    36’ Inzaghi (Milan)

    84’ Diego (Werder Bremen)

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