AC Milan 2 - 1 Liverpool: Milan the new European champions 2007
Wednesday night's match gave a good performance by Liverpool but a matching finish from Milan to take the trophy this time round. Liverpool were a credit for their approach to the threat of Milan, well renowned through Kaka, Clarence Seedorf, Andreas Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso to name four. But Liverpool lacked a cutting edge to their finishing, something else had has been past around amidst rumours why we have failed to thoroughly establish a domestic challenge to the title.
It was clumsy of Xabl Alonso to concede a foul so near to our box and with Pirlo poised, his effort came off Fillipo Inzaghi past Pepe Reina and delivered a crucial blow to the effort of the Reds, just before half time. Liverpool imposed themselves well in the first half and could have equalised in the second through Steven Gerrard but one-on-one from an angle Dida was down to the save. And as Liverpool legs appeared to grow wary and tired, Massimo Oddo combined with Kaka to thread through to Inzaghi, who collected and coolly rounded Reina to slot underneath the keeper for Milan's second. Yet another cruel blow.
With mere minutes of injury time remaining, a Liverpool corner from Jermaine Pennant was deflected off Daniel Agger then Oddo to Dirk Kuyt, who headed past Dida to give a faint glimmer of hope, but that glimmer was diminished as time went down and once the final whistle was blown, the Milan bench erupted onto the pitch in celebration.
AC Milan are, for the seventh time in European football history, European Champions 2007!!!
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti:
"Liverpool didn't allow us to play at our best and for us it has been difficult. Anyway, I think it was our destiny to win this match and this cup for what happened two years ago and what happened this year. I think it has been a deserved win for the troubles we had to live.
"Undoubtedly there is a big satisfaction because in November the situation was really hard. I'm happy also because we have been able to recover and react from the bad situation we had in that period."
Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez:
"And the difference sometimes is that you can work hard, but you cannot close the space or the pass, or the penetrative pass from Kaka, or a Seedorf or Inzaghi. The first half we did really well, we played really, really well and then we conceded a deflection at the end of the first half. Second half we were pushing, pushing, but then you leave space and then they have quality and it made the difference.
"We tried to keep the ball and press high, but you need to take your chances - we did have a lot and went close, but the quality they have if you lose the ball you will be in trouble. I think the team in the first half was really good."
For this Liverpool fan it was hurting to watch the players in despair, being so close, having gone so far but to no avail, to cruelly concede two then gain one so late when we needed it earlier, much earlier. It was hurting to watch Milan celebrate, and then there was some relief to the pain as I reflected on our celebrations in Istanbul, where the better team did not win. It was a severe reverse of fortune last night, once again the better team did not win but simply AC Milan earned their victory by the simplest of sayings: score one goal more than the opposition to win.
I felt the two comments above summed up the game for me. For AC the win signified a beacon for more than one reason. That of two years ago, the match-fixing scandal back home that put their presence in the competition in doubt, Seedorf's fourth win, his second with Milan, and captain Paolo Maldini's fifth in Milan's third final in five years. Maldini now has one win fewer than that of Real Madrid's midfielder Francisco Gento in the late 50's - early 60's, the current record holder.
Liverpool were close to equalling Milan's European Cup record and now it stands with five for Liverpool, seven for Milan and nine for Real Madrid. For Liverpool, lacking that cutting edge I referred to above means a revamp and potentially good signings with funding for the coming season. Liverpool need to increase their scoring regularity for it is in this department where they flutter away leads and games they should win. For the likes of Man Utd and Chelsea, if it is not Wayne Rooney or Didier Drogba scoring, it's Frank Lampard or Christiano Ronaldo, Salomon Kalou or Ryan Giggs. Shaun Wright-Philips, Arjen Robben, Michael Ballack; Michael Carrick, John O'Shea, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Even with Arsenal, Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Julio Baptista, a fit Robin Van Persie, Thierry Henry.
We need more consistency with our scoring from almost every player to really challenge for any competition. But I'm proud of the Reds, of the effort they put in to get to Athens, the effort last night, the respect from the champions. I just wish for a Part III with the excitement from Parts I and II mixed in!!
I want to add my frustration over the ticket allocation for the final. Many fans were left stranded at John Lennon airport as a chartered flight to Athens was cancelled at the last minute, with little regard for those booked to fly. UEFA received some 4,000 tickets from Milan unsold yet refused to pass them over to LFC for those in need of them. There were fans who had geniune tickets refused from entry as their own seats were taken up by those holding fraudulent tickets. The UEFA spokesman William Gaillard said:
"The behaviour of the Liverpool fans is in the end responsible for the problems that took place before the game."
Absolute rubbish. The British ambassador to Greece, Simon Gass, begged to differ as the British Embassy vowed to take up the matter with UEFA. Ambassador Gass said: "The organisers had a plan which involved three cordons to try to ensure that people who didn't have tickets were not able to get into the stadium. Clearly there was some element of breakdown where those fake tickets appeared to be legitimate - that's something Uefa must look at. The vast majority of fans with proper tickets got in but even if a small minority did not, that's not satisfactory."
With a capacity of 70,000 plus and 34,000 allocated to fans, leaving a remainder of 36,000 plus tickets to third parties, namely ticket offices and potentially touts, the Greek authorities along with UEFA simply opened up a circumstance to ridicule. We'll see if under Michel Platini's stewardship UEFA will repeat or avert such a fiasco occurring again. Their spokesman does not fill me with confidence:
"[Thanks to the Greek police because they had ] To control the fact that so many fake tickets were around as we warned but this was all done in Britain."
"It is very easy to say it is not a suitable stadium, coming from the man that invented the poll tax." [in response to the former Conservative leader and Liverpool fan Michael Howard's comments that the stadium was not appropriate enough]
"The Milan supporters didn't face the same problems because they didn't behave in the same way. The kind of pushing that was going on and the attempts to jump over barriers - imagine if we had turnstiles, we could have had a tragedy."
"The only responsibility we could have is that we did not choose a stadium with 250,000 seats, but unfortunately they do not exist."
A piss-up in a brewery, anyone??