23 May 2007
The omens were good for Milan. Liverpool have never won a match officiating by Herbert Fandel while Milan had won all five. Michel Platini is indeed a great, great man.
Milan had the lion's share of the possession early on but were misplacing passes left right and centre and hitting too many longballs. Jankulovski, who has been the teams best defender this season, took a heavy touch on a Seedorf pass, Pennant closed him down and Kuyt rolled a perfectly weighted pass into his feet and from a tight angle he forced Dida to save and Nesta hacked clear before Kuyt could get a chance on the rebound. Ambrosini and Nesta failed to clear a Zenden header, the ball found it's way back to the midfielder but he sliced horribly wide, Xabi Alonso latched onto Maldini's clearance but dragged his shot wide of a post. Pennant dispossessed Jankulovski a second time, Gerrard took over and turned Maldini, who equalled Paco Gento's record of 8 European Cup final performances, brilliantly before passing to Kuyt but his shot was charged down by a combination of Nesta and Oddo. Crucially despite their chances Liverpool failed to work Dida and paid the price on half-time. Kaka' made the most of minimal contact from Xabi Alonso, preferred in the centre to Gerrard who the supposed tactical genius Rafael Benitez decided to employ in the hole, to win a free kick on the edge of the D. Pirlo fired the ball through a huge gap in the Liverpool wall and as Inzaghi broke from the pack the ball struck his ARM before bouncing past a wrong footed Reina.
Gerrard went down in the box under a poor challenge by Nesta but this time there was no Spanish referee. On the hour mark he should have equalised. He ran onto an atrocious pass from Gattuso and got a lucky break off Nesta's heels as he ran into the box, he opened up his body to shoot into the bottom right corner as Dida covered his near post but scuffed the ball and the giant Brazil gathered at the second attempt. A sloppy pass out of defence from Pirlo found it's way to the Liverpool captain off the back of Fandel and from about 30 yards he fizzed the ball past the left post. Inzaghi made up for poor control after the Liverpool defence left him unmarked in the centre of the box on a counter attack by scoring his second goal of the game and 58th in European competition overall, finishing off the only attack of quality in the match. Kaka' gave Pennant, who was marginal in the second half having been superb in the first, a taste of his own medicine by stealing a ball off him and spreading wide to Oddo, Oddo decided against taking on Riise and passed the ball back to the Brazilian, he played a one-two with Ambrosini and ran forward unopposed before threading a pass into Inzaghi who raced clear as the Liverpool defence appealed in vain for offside, Reina flew off his line but Inzaghi kept his composure and shot from a bad angle wide right on goal as the 'keeper dived at his feet and the ball tricked towards the bottom left corner of the net. Both teams made substitutions on a 89th minute corner, Benitez making the bizarre decision to bring on Arbeloa for Finnan while Gilardino replaced two goal hero Inzaghi. Kuyt, standing in an offside position, re-directed Agger's deflected header past Dida to give Liverpool a glimmer of hope. Kaka' tried to run down the clock near a corner flag but only succeeding in giving the ball away. In the 92nd minute of injury time Ancelotti made his last substitution, bringing on Favalli for Seedorf. Benitez kept looking at his watch as the seconds ticked down but this time there would be no injury enforced substitutions or a mental collapse as Handel blew for full time. Web content composed with the free instant HTML code editor.
Milan picked a hell of a night to give one of their poorest performances of the season. Liverpool didn't exactly set Athens alight with their football, which is hardly a surprise, but created considerably more chances, even if they failed to work Dida. Gerrard claimed Liverpool would be back for another final. Under Benitez I think that's highly unlikely. They can only draw Chelsea in semi- finals so often.
Milan started the season with an eight point penalty in the league and owed their participation in the tournament to the fact that Empoli weren't registered to play in European Competition. They said Italian football was in crisis. They said we were too old. They said we were too slow. We are CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE. Years from now people will look back at this and ask which is the bigger miracle? Jesus rising from the dead or Milan winning the European Cup in 2007? The latter isn't disputed.
Attendance : 74,000
Assists : Pirlo (fk), Kaka', n/a