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"In any language, the whole world is united by a ball." --- Steve Amoia, World Football Commentaries

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Champions League Final: AC Milan Wins For the 7th Time

Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece.

AC Milan 2

Dida, Maldini (captain), Nesta, Oddo, Jankulovski
Ambrosini, Gattuso, Kaka', Pirlo, Seedoorf

Coach: Mr. Ancelotti.

Subs: Kaladze for Jankulovski in the 80th, Gilardino for Inzaghi in the 89th, and Favalli for Seedorf in the 90th minute.

Goals: Inzaghi 44th and 81st minutes.

Liverpool FC 1

Reina, Agger, Carragher, Finnan, Riise
Alonso, Gerrard (captain), Mascherano, Pennant, Zenden

Coach: Mr. Benitez.

Goal: Kyut 88th minute.
Subs: Kewell for Zenden in the 58th, Crouch for Mascherano in the 77th, and Arbeloa for Finnan in the 88th minute.

Yellow cards: Gattuso and Jankulovski for Milan. Mascherano and Carragher for Liverpool.

Here a few key stats courtesy of ESPN and Eurosport. (Milan is listed first).

Shots: 7 to 17
On Target: 3 to 4
Fouls: 16 to 26
Corners: 4 to 6
Time of Possession: 54% to 46%.
Tackling efficiency: 80.8% to 76.2%.
Passing efficiency: 74.8% to 70.2%.

Referee: Mr. Fandel of Germany.
Attendance: 63,000.
Weather: Cool.
Field Conditions: Dry.

Liverpool dominated the first half with crisp passing and territorial possession. In terms of actual possession, Milan surprisingly had almost 60% of the ball. Jermaine Pennant and Bolo Zenden were excellent strategic choices by Mr. Benitez. Both caused problems down the right wing, and Pennant had a good effort in the 10th minute that Dida saved. Xavi Alonso also came very close, with Dida beaten, in the 26th minute for Liverpool. Much of the play was directed against Milan left back Jankulovski who could not handle the speed, along with the concentrated efforts of Pennant, Zenden, Gerrard, and Alonso. Gattuso of Milan was called for a yellow card. Outside of that, it was a fairly contested first half. Nesta made several fine tackles against dangerous Liverpool chances, although from their 7 shots on goal, only one was deemed on target.

Against the flow of play, Milan scored in the 44th minute. Andrea Pirlo took one of his patented free kicks from the top of the penalty box, and the ball deflected off of what appeared to be the upper arm or chest of Pippo Inzaghi. It was a very rapid play. Hand ball was not call, and the goal was valid.

In the second half, Liverpool continued to press forward. I felt that they should have played the ball on the ground, instead of using high balls which played into the advantage of the Italians. In the 62nd minute, Steven Gerrard had an excellent chance to equalize, but he stroked the ball too weakly, and Dida had no problems with the shot. Milan was very cautious. They played balls up to Inzaghi and Kaka, but primarily focused to keep Liverpool out of harm's way to defend their first half goal.

In the 81st minute, Pippo Inzaghi sealed the win. From a nice through ball by Kaka', Inzhagi went around Pepe Reina and clinically pushed the ball on a very narrow angle into the left corner. A few minutes later, Dirk Kyut deftly headed a shot past Dida from a rebound for a consolation goal.

This was not a great game from a technical or tactical perspective; however, as Carlo Ancelotti was quoted a few years ago, "If you want entertainment, go to the cinema." Milan executed a strategic game plan to win their 7th European championship, along with the 5th for the legendary Paolo Maldini. Liverpool fought to the very end, but will rue key misses by Pennant, Gerrard, and Alonso. They also had a significant territorial advantage, and controlled the midfield against the more celebrated Milanese contingent. But in the end, Milan obtained the desired result with two goals by one of the best finishers in the modern game: Pippo Inzaghi. Some analysts and fans may state that his first goal was a hand ball; however, in fairness, Dirk Kuyt appeared in an offsides position for his goal.

Well done, Milan. Congratulations to Paolo Maldini who became the only man to win the Champions League five times. His teammate, Billy Costacurta, was not part of the team tonight, but also was involved in his 5th title for Milan. Congratulations to Clarence Seedorf who became the first man to win the Champions League with four different sides, along with Mister Ancelotti, who has now won this competition twice as a player and as a coach.

Liverpool should also be commended for their performance in the Champions League. They eliminated two of the favorites: Barcelona, the defending champion, and Chelsea. Mr. Benitez motivates his team perhaps better than other other coach in circulation. With the new American ownership (Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillette) who have promised to fund player purchases, Liverpool FC will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

Video of Goal #1 by Inzaghi.

Video of Goal #2 by Inzaghi.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Thanks a lot! Great review, very fair. :)



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