Ancelotti hails Pirlo after holders Milan win easily

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MILAN, Sep 19 (Reuters) AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti singled out Andrea Pirlo for praise after his side beat Benfica 2-1 in the opening game of their Champions League defence on Tuesday.

The seven-times winners won quite comfortably despite the scoreline and should have netted several more.

Midfielder Pirlo curled in an early free kick before setting up Filippo Inzaghi, who continued where he left off in the final last May by scoring his 43rd Champions League goal and 60th in European club football.

''Pirlo scored a goal, had an assist and played the ball around well. He is an irreplaceable player. Kaka and Pirlo are a good double act,'' Ancelotti told reporters yesterday.

''We wrapped up victory immediately. We played with speed and with the ball on the floor.'' Recently-appointed Benfica coach Jose Antonio Camacho was not overly disheartened by the result and felt he was vindicated in starting strong front man Oscar Cardozo ahead of Nuno Gomes, despite the latter's stoppage-time consolation goal.

''Cardozo had a few good opportunities but we have played against Milan, one of the best teams. We can realistically try to win the other games,'' he said.

Group D also contains Scottish champions Celtic, who lost 2-0 at Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk.

Reuters BJR RS1012

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