Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced a vintage second-half display to sink Auxerre in Group G
The Swede scored both AC Milan goals in four second-half minutes as the experienced Brazil playmaker pulled the strings. The visitors, though, will look back with regret at a four-on-two break in the first half which went to waste due to Steven Langil’s rash shot.
Auxerre, indeed, had the better chances of the first period as a whole, with Valter Birsa’s low drive comfortable held by Christian Abbiati in the early stages.
Langil had a penalty appeal waved away after going down under Gianluca Zambrotta’s challenge and, as the attack continued, saw a shot saved by Abbiati.
A brief Milan salvo saw keeper Olivier Sorin eccentrically punch away Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick when it was curled straight at his chest.
But Auxerre resumed their attack and defender Adama Coulibaly headed against the angle of post and bar from Dennis Oliech’s corner.
Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng was denied by Stephane Grichting’s block before Langil’s moment of madness. Oliech broke at pace and the forward shot wildly high and wide of the near post, with Ireneusz Jelen and Cedric Hengbart wide open across the penalty area.
Alexandre Pato was denied a penalty at the other end after Jean-Pascal Mignot’s challenge, with the Brazilian possibly caught by a stray elbow, and half-time arrived goal
Sorin kept out Pato’s effort from a dangerous position early in the second half before Mignot header Benoit Pedretti’s corner over at the other end.
Sorin then tipped Pirlo’s drive around the post as Milan’s dominance began.
Luca Antonini flashed a dangerous ball across the six-yard box, with Ibrahimovic narrowly unable to make contact and Boateng’s drive at the far post blocked by Hengbart.
Ibrahimovic then jinked through four players only to cross behind Robinho and Delvin Ndinga mopped up – but the Sweden striker broke the deadlock in the 66th minute.
Ronaldinho’s teasing cross was flicked on by Boateng and Ibrahimovic stretched out a leg to beat Sorin to the ball and find the net.
Three minutes later, he struck again. Ronaldinho drove at the defence and unselfishly teed up the striker, who placed a precise finish past the lunging Coulibaly and the diving Sorin.
Boateng failed to make a proper contact with Ronaldinho’s superb cross before Auxerre had a brief late flurry.
Oliech saw a shot well saved by Abbiati and Anthony Le Tallec had a ‘goal’ disallowed by one of the more obvious offside decisions in recent history.
Milan closed the game out though, with Ronaldinho’s sumptuous display summed up when he put Robinho clear with a backheeled pass against his line of sight while on one knee. His fellow Brazilian, sadly, was flagged offside.