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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

AC Milan Powers Through To the Final

In a spectacular performance, led by Ricardo Kaka' and Clarence Seedorf, AC Milan summarily defeated Manchester United, 3 x 0, and advanced on aggregate, 5 x 3, to the Champions League Final in Athens, Greece. The game, which will take place on 23 May, will be a highly anticipated re-match of the epic 2005 final versus Liverpool FC.

AC Milan attacked from the opening whistle, and despite the torrential rains, scored two excellent goals by Kaka' and Seedorf. The pressure continued, and with the exception of a few chances, Man U was never really a threat. They only had two shots on target for the entire night. In the second half, Alberto Gilardino sealed their fate with a clinical finish against a helpless Van der Sar.

ESPN used a very interesting statistic; however, they didn't explain how it worked. They were able to track Ricardo Kaka' at 10,050 meters run during the match. He was substituted in the 86th minute. That figure converts to 10,990 yards, and 6.25 miles.

Paolo Maldini, if fit, will make his 8th European Cup/Champions League final appearance, which is a record. He has won the trophy four times (1989, 1990, 1994, and 2003). His teammate, Seedorf, has won the title with three separate clubs (Ajax Amsterdam, Real Madrid, and AC Milan). Should AC Milan defeat Liverpool, Seedorf will become the only man to win this competition with four different teams. Billy Costacurta has also won the title four times with Milan. At the age of 41, he is a reserve on the current team.

The game will be historic on another front. Tom Hicks and George Gillette, recent owners of Liverpool FC, are the first North Americans to guide a team into a Champions League final. Liverpool has won this competition on five occasions; AC Milan has won it six times. Rafael Benitez, the coach of Liverpool, has won a UEFA Cup with Valencia, along with a Champions League title with the Reds. For Carlo Ancelotti of AC Milan, this will be his third final as a manager. He also won the competition twice as a player. It should be a great matchup in Athens.

This will be Milan's 11th appearance in a final game (7 wins and 3 losses), along with the seventh (five wins and one loss) for Liverpool. Real Madrid, who has won the European Cup/Champions League a record 9 times, has appeared in the most finals: 13. Paco Gento of Real Madrid won the European Cup 6 times, which is the individual record. Several Real Madrid players have won it 5 times, such as Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano from their glory teams of the late 50s.

Video highlights: AC Milan 3 x Manchester United 0.

The European Cup began in 1955, and was won the first five years by Real Madrid. In 1992, it became known as the European Champions League. Next to the World Cup, there is no higher international soccer men's competition. For more information about the history of the Champions League, please click here.

1 comment:

Martin said...

There has been a lot of praise for both Gattuso's and Kaka's play in the semifinal win over Manchester United, and rightfully so, but all of Milan's midfielders, and not just Gattuso and Kaka, deserve mention for their superb play. Milan's midfield pressed United extremely well defensively (did Gattuso or Ambrosini ever miss a tackle in the game?) and when Milan had the ball they passed it with great style and kept United guessing all match long. They spread it out, then would attack down the middle; they used short passes, then long passes; the variety was extensive and they left United chasing shadows for most of the match.

And as someone who has always admired Clarence Seedorf I am pleased to see him playing so well now.

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