By DAN KARELL
Kevin-Prince Boateng made sure that AC Milan wouldn’t have to suffer a second consecutive defeat on Wednesday afternoon.
The Ghanian international scored two goals in a 3-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven (4-1 on agg) in the UEFA Champions League play-off round, earning the seven-time European cup champions a place in the group stages.
Boateng opened his account in the ninth minute, taking a sharp strike from the top of the box that somehow found its way past PSV goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet to take an early lead and ignite the crowd of more than 51,000 at the San Siro. In the 55th minute, AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli scored his first Champions League goal for the club with a close range volley to put his side up two goals on the night.
In the 77th minute, Boateng put the Italian club up for good with a sliding left-footed shot that wrong-footed Zoet, leading Milan to a 3-0 scoreline.
Here are some more scorelines from around the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday:
FORREST’S GOAL SENDS CELTIC THROUGH IN THRILLING FASHION
Last season’s Champions League darlings have booked a place once more in the group stages.
Trailing Shakhter Karagandy 2-0 following the first leg defeat in Kazakhstan, Celtic FC defeated Karagandy on Wednesday, 3-0, to win the tie outright and advance to the next round. 22-year-old midfielder James Forrest scored the aggregate winner in the first minute of 90th minute stoppage time to send Celtic Park into an absolute frenzy.
The Scottish club, who began this season’s Champions League in the second round of qualifying, had trouble unlocking the Shakhter defense in the first half, and it took a moment of absolute brilliance from Kris Commons to cut the aggregate deficit in half just before halftime. Taking the ball from teammate Georgios Samaras, Commons blasted a curling shot with the outside of his boot for a key goal. Samaras then tied the match on aggregate in the 48th minute with a close range finish, taking a laser pass from teammate Charlie Mulgrew before firing over the goalkeeper.
As time wore on, it looked as if the game was headed to extra time. That was until Arsenal youth graduate Anthony Stokes weaved in and out of three tired Shakhter defenders, finding Forrest in the box who roofed his shot and set off wild scenes at Parkhead, with even manager Neil Lennon joining in the team’s dog pile.
VELA LEADS LA REAL TO NEXT ROUND
Anthony Stokes wasn’t the only former Arsenal player to guide his team to the Champions League on Wednesday.
Carlos Vela scored a brace for Real Sociedad as they defeated French club Lyon, 2-0 (4-0 agg) to advance to the group stage of the competition for the first time in ten years. Lyon meanwhile will spend the second season in a row in the Europa League after more than ten years as a Champions League power.
The Mexican star scored in the 67th minute off an Antoine Griezmann corner kick an then again with a trademark cheeky chip in the first minute of stoppage time to effectively finish the game and tie off then and there.
Here’s a full list of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League play-off round scores:
AC Milan 3, PSV Eindhoven 0 (4-1 agg)
Celtic 3, Shakhter Karagandy 0 (3-2 agg)
Real Sociedad 2, Lyon 0 (4-0 agg)
Zenit St. Petersburg 4, Paços de Ferreira 2 (8-3 agg)
Maribor 0, Viktoria Plzen 1 (1-4 agg)