BARCELONA, Sept 26 (Reuters) - AC Milan beat Barcelona 2-0 at the Nou Camp on Tuesday thanks to Francesco Coco who headed the first goal and set up the second for Oliver Bierhoff in the Champions League Group H match.
Barcelona, beaten semifinalists last year, are third in the group, three points behind Milan and leaders Leeds United - who thrashed Besiktas 6-0 - and are in danger of being knocked out in the opening stage for the third time in four seasons.
Barca coach Llorenc Serra Ferrer chose to man-mark Milan forwards Andriy Shevchenko and Oliver Bierhoff in the first half and that helped restrict the Italians early on.
But the home side failed to break down the disciplined Milan defence and the visitors took the lead just seconds before halftime as Coco produced a fine header from Federico Giunti's free kick.
Rivaldo squandered a simple chance to equalise at the start of the second half as he scooped over a Simao Sabrosa cross from five metres before Barcelona, who had reverted to a back-three, were undone on the break.
Bierhoff, who had a quiet game, was allowed to wander into space in the Barcelona area and he headed Coco's cross wide of Richard Dutruel.
Despite enjoying most of the first-half possession, Barcelona found Milan predictably tough to break down, particularly as they refused to commit holding midfielders Gerard and Philip Cocu forward.
Simao managed to get clear of Paolo Maldini for the first time on 11 minutes and his early cross gave Patrick Kluivert a half-chance. But the Dutch international, playing as he had for much of a miserable season with Milan prior to joing Barca, hit his first time shot wide.
Substitute Luis Enrique - playing for the first time in almost seven months following a serious knee injury - almost got the equaliser for 1-1. His first-time shot forced a fine save from Dida on 57 minutes.