Soccer-Giroud on target as AC Milan ease past Dinamo Zagreb

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group E - AC Milan v Dinamo Zagreb - San Siro, Milan, Italy - September 14, 2022 AC Milan's Olivier Giroud scores their first goal from the penalty spot REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

MILAN (Reuters) -AC Milan secured their first Champions League win this season after goals from Olivier Giroud, Alexis Saelemaekers and Tommaso Pobega powered them to a 3-1 victory over Dinamo Zagreb at home in Group E on Wednesday.

Giroud opened the scoring from the spot in the first half with Saelemaekers and Pobega adding two more after the interval as Milan, who drew at Salzburg in their group opener, grabbed a vital win despite a late rally from the Croatian champions.

"It's another positive step. I told my players we deserved to win a game in the Champions League. The fans deserve it. And we can do even better - not concede and score more," Milan boss Stefano Pioli told reporters.

"Our performances depend on us, regardless of our opponents. Of course, against top teams we must raise the bar."

A lively opening from Milan led to half-chances for Sandro Tonali and Giroud but the best opportunity of the half fell to Rafael Leao, who failed to get his shot away despite being brilliantly picked out by Brahim Diaz from deep.

Dinamo, conquerors of Chelsea on the opening matchday, almost struck against the run of play in the 28th minute through Sadegh Moharrami, whose left-footed effort was turned behind by Mike Maignan.

The Serie A winners finally made their dominance count when Giroud dispatched a penalty on the stroke of halftime after Leao went down under a clumsy challenge from Josip Sutalo.

Milan flew out of the traps in the second half and were rewarded instantly when Saelemaekers doubled their advantage with a thumping header following some excellent play down the left from Portugal international Leao.

But Dinamo refused to go away, displaying the grit that helped them topple Chelsea as they pulled one back through Mislav Orsic, who smashed home in the 56th minute after being set up by deft footwork from Bruno Petkovic.

Petkovic was a constant threat as the game wore on but Milan's superior attacking quality told when youngster Pobega combined with Theo Hernandez to finish off Dinamo.

"It wasn't an easy match. We wanted to win playing our football and, with a bit more accuracy, we could have scored more goals," said Frenchman Giroud after scoring his fourth goal in all competitions this season.

"The Champions League is the best of competitions. We want to do well, and at least progress from the group."

Milan are top of Group E with four points from two games, with Dinamo one point behind in second. Chelsea host Salzburg later on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in BengaluruEditing by Toby Davis)

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