AC Milan beats Schalke 3-2

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Kaka scored two second-half goals to lead AC Milan to a 3-2 victory over Schalke on Tuesday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:53 IST
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Kaka scored two second-half goals to lead AC Milan to a 3-2 victory over Schalke on Tuesday, sending the Italian team to the knockout phase of the Champions League. The Brazilian midfielder scored in the 52nd and 60th minutes with low diagonal shots at San Siro stadium. The home team had appeared in trouble after Christian Poulsen's 44th-minute header quickly evened Andrea Pirlo's goal from a curling free kick two minutes earlier. Lincoln strikes Lincoln gave the German team its second goal in the 66th and made the closing minutes tense as Schalke could have advanced on a 3-3 draw. The victory gave AC Milan, a six-time European Cup champion, first place in Group E with 11 points. PSV Eindhoven finished second and also qualified, while Schalke was eliminated. AC Milan, bitterly criticized following a 2-1 loss at Chievo Verona last Sunday in Serie A, started cautiously and had to reshuffle its defense when captain Paolo Maldini limped off the field in the 30th and was replaced by Dario Simic. As both sides focused on control at midfield there were no clear scoring chances for 42 minutes. Then Pirlo, a free kick specialist, curled a right-footed shot over the wall into the net as goalkeeper Frank Rost dived but could not reach the ball. Celebrations of partisan fans were short lived as Poulsen headed in the equalizer in the 44th by taking advantage of the traditional lapses of Milan's defenders on long crosses. Milan leads Andriy Shevchenko, who had an otherwise unimpressive performance, led a quick counterattack and fed Kaka, who scored with a low shot to lift Milan to a 2-1 lead. Eight minutes later, the Brazilian controlled a rebound on a missed volley by "Sheva" and made it 3-1 with a diagonal shot. "It's a great celebration for us because we won a very difficult match and qualified from a very tough group," Kaka said. "I had an impressive performance, and I'm overjoyed. Now we must think of the upcoming matches." Lincoln's goal, helped by a deflection off Shevchenko, revived Schalke's hopes. The team added two forwards, Ebbe Sand and Soren Larsen, in the closing minutes. However, Milan's defense, commanded by Jaap Stam and Alessandro Nesta, withstood the pressure. "I must say I was more calm on 2-1. We suffered a lot, but we strongly wanted to qualify and we did it by beating a brave opponent," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said. Schalke ended up third in the group with eight points, earning a UEFA Cup berth. Fenerbahce, last with four, was eliminated. (AP)

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