Celtic suffered more Champions League late heartbreak, conceding two late goals in the San Siro to lose their opening group game 2-0.
It was harsh on Celtic who held their own and dominated for spells against an injury depleted Milan side missing the likes of Riccardo Montolivo, Kaka and Stephan El Shaarawy.
But a cruel deflection from Cristian Zapata’s speculative shot wrong-footed Fraser Forster and gave Milan a barely deserved lead before Sulley Muntari followed up Mario Ballotelli’s late free-kick to put the game safe.
The first half was an evenly contested affair with the home side enjoying marginally the better chances, Celtic having Forster to thank for a string of saves from Alessandro Matri and Balotelli, the last a fingertip save in the dying seconds of the half.
But after the break it was Celtic who were the dominant force, Georgios Samaras and Kris Commons going close before Champions League debutant Anthony Stokes shook Christian Abbiati’s bar with a dipping free kick.
Celtic continued to threaten and actually looked the more likely side to go on and win it before Milan’s late double snatched the game away. The Scots next face the daunting task of taking on Barcelona in Glasgow as Milan travel to Amsterdam to take on Ajax.
PRE-MATCH: Anthony Stokes makes his Champions League debut for Celtic as Milan start without Riccardo Montolivo, Kaka and Stephan El Shaarawy.
4’ – SAVE: Birsa’s cross falls to Balotelli who lashes a shot at Forster who beats it away.
16’ – CONTROVERSY: Brown gets a boot to the ball in the Milan box but referee Wolfgang Stark bizarrely awards Celtic a free-kick in the box for a back pass. Mulgrew takes but it’s charged down.
45+1’ – SAVE: Balotelli’s shot is deflected by Ambrose and almost creeps inside the far post. Forster gets his fingertips to it to touch it behind for a corner.
62’ – AMAZING MISS: A great cross from Constant finds Muntari with a free header into the net but he somehow plants it wide.
79’ – WOODWORK: Stokes has Abbiati scrambling with a great dipping free-kick that hits the bar.
81’ – GOAL: Zapata’s speculative effort deflects off Izaguirre and past the hapless Forster.
85’ – GOAL: Muntari wraps it up after prodding home Forster’s save from Balotelli’s free-kick.
Celtic have now lost 23 of their 25 away matches in the Champions League whilst Milan recorded only their second home win in their last six Champions League games.
TALKING POINT: The backpass that never was – How referee Wolfgang Stark awarded Celtic an early free kick in the Milan box is anyone’s guess. The ball seemed to clip Scott Brown’s boot before clipping a defender and Christian Abbiati rightly collected. It could have cost Milan dear.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic): Was at the heart of most of his team’s attacks, both from open play and set pieces, with his dangerous delivery. Also defended well and ran his socks off all night. Unlucky to be on the losing side.
AC Milan: Abbiati 6, Zaccardo 6, Zapata 6, Mexes 7, Constant 6, Nocerino 6, De Jong 7, Muntari 7, Birsa 5, Matri 6, Balotelli 6. Subs: Poli 6, Emanuelson 6, Robinho 6.
Celtic: Forster 7; Lustig 6, Van Dijk 6, Ambrose 6, Izaguirre 6; Matthews 6, Brown 7, Mulgrew 8, Samaras 7; Commons 6, Stokes 7. Subs: Pukki 6, Biton 6, Boerrigter 6.
THE MATCH IN A TWEET