A late goal by midfielder Clarence Seedorf gave AC Milan a 1-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in their opening Champions League Group F match in Donetsk on Tuesday.
The 2003 winners struggled to break down their Ukrainian opponents, despite enjoying a one-man advantage for most of the second half, until Seedorf fired home a loose ball from the edge of the area in the 84th minute.
It was the Dutch international's third goal in two matches after a brace in Milan's 2-2 draw with Serie A rivals Livorno at the weekend.
Shakhtar had won five of their last six home games against continental opposition, but had been expected to struggle, especially as Milan welcomed back Italy internationals Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo, who had both been rested against Livorno.
Instead it was Shakhtar who dominated the first half and Milan might have been two goals down within 10 minutes, as striker Zvonimir Vukic and Brazilian midfielder Matuzalem forced Dida to palm shots round his posts.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti paid tribute to his Shakhtar counterpart Mircea Lucescu.
"They marked us very aggressively. Lucescu was smart, he told his players to stop our men and disrupt our game," Ancelotti said.
"We wanted to give a good performance, but it was difficult. They proved they are a lively and determined side. They made a game of it and tried to beat us.
"This wasn't one of our best evenings, but the most important thing was to win, and we did that."
It was almost 30 minutes into the match before a Pirlo chip over the defence created Milan's first scoring chance, but Jon Dahl Tomasson headed straight at the keeper.
Milan began the second half more brightly, with Andriy Shevchenko stretching keeper Jan Lastuvka with a shot from the edge of the box.
The 53rd-minute dismissal of Shakhtar midfielder Darijo Srna for a second bookable offence seemed to have swung the game in Milan's favour, but still they could not take advantage.
Shevchenko's predatory instincts left him when he failed to make connect with a ball that bounced dangerously in front of goal while a desperate lunge by Shakhtar defender Cosmin Barcauan diverted a shot by Milan playmaker Kaka wide of the post.
With six minutes remaining, however, a poor clearance by Barcauan fell to Seedorf, who lashed the ball into the bottom corner of the net to spare Milan's blushes.