MILAN (AP) — AC Milan is through to the Champions League last 16 after holding Ajax to a goalless draw despite playing most of the match with 10 men after captain Riccardo Montolivo was sent off.
Montolivo was shown a straight red card in the 22nd minute for a stamp on Christian Poulsen. The Ajax midfielder was loudly jeered every time he touched the ball and was substituted at halftime.
"It would have been a complicated match with 11 men. With 10 it became even more difficult," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said. "The lads deserved to qualify because we played very well today. We haven't defended as well as that since the beginning of the season."
Poulsen had gone closest to scoring but headed off the inside of the post in the fifth minute.
Ajax dominated but failed to find the goal it needed, thanks mainly to an impressive performance from Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.
"I would say we deserved more than third spot," Ajax coach Frank de Boer said. "Our game is more positive. It seems to me that anti-football won today. In football the best teams don't always win but we should be proud of this squad, which is a really good one, and we shouldn't be scared of anyone.
"The red card conditioned the game but it's also true that it was deserved," he added. "When someone plays on the man rather than the ball, he deserves to be sent off. (Mario) Balotelli was also lucky not to be sent off in the second half, so Milan should be thankful they played the match in 10 men not nine."
Milan rarely threatened but managed to earn the draw it needed to qualify for the knockout stages for the 11th consecutive season.
"We were in 10 men after 20 minutes, it's normal we had to play like that," Allegri said. "Today the team defended as you should do when the other team has the ball. Tonight the other team had the ball more than us as they were 11 against 10 so we defended more. I think that's normal."
Milan needed just a point to progress and was undefeated at home in the Champions League. Ajax had not won any of its last six away fixtures in the competition but was full of confidence following a shock 2-1 defeat of Barcelona.