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Revenge Served Warm

Thursday, May 24, 2007

They say that revenge is a dish best served cold, but for Milan that wasn't to be. With the 2005 Final still fresh on the minds of both sides, it seemed that the time for the Italian side to reep revenge on the red's of Merseyside had come sooner than anyone could have hoped for.

As fans of the beautiful game, we could not have hoped for a better final. Sure, a few weeks back everyone got excited at the prospect of Manchester United and Chelsea battling out for glory on all three fronts in 3 momentous games, however, after watching the FA Cup Final, it was clear that the Champions League warranted something a bit more, something special, something with a bit of morbo as the Spanish say. With the Final being held in the lap of the Gods in Athens, the Gods came through and gave us AC Milan vs Liverpool - Part Deux.

The build up was always going to be the best part of this Final. There was never going to be a repeat of the legendary fightback where Milan appeared to lose 100% concentration for all of six minutes, there was no Dudek and no Shevechenko either. But this time we had an in form Kaka versus a determined Gerrard and a Liverpool side that had improved in every way over the team of 2005. This time, there was morbo.

Liverpool started well, demonstrating an attacking formation and a desire to take the game to the Italians. Gerrard played off Kuyt and was all over the place, Pennant ran Jankulovski up and down the wing and Mascherano was doing a great job of containing Kaka and Pirlo. Seedorf was AWOL, and Pippo was performing a tribute to terriers everywhere by snapping away at defenders and doing his utmost to get in the referee's ear. It was rivettting stuff, and it seemed that finally, a Cup Final was going to be decided in normal time.

The goal was harsh on Liverpool, although if you believe Inzaghi apparently it was intentional. "Every now and again we manage to pull it off. We rehearse it with the manager." Pure Pippo, and here at Heaven's 11 we believe him, after all, this man is famed for goals which are unlikely to feature in any goal of the season competition. 1-0 Milan, and half-time.

In the 2nd half the game had changed. Liverpool were aware that they needed to go for it, and Milan were quite content in giving a masterclass in defending. Milan's defending left a lot to be desired for, although Nesta had a good game and made a fair few essential tackles which otherwise would've allowed Liverpool to level the score.

Gerrard went through on goal, but his tame shot was easily held by Dida. In the meantime, Benitez threw on Crouch at the expense of Mascherano, the one player who seemed to be able to stop everything Kaka attempted in the centre of the park. Within 5 minutes of his replacement, Kaka slipped a throughball to Inzaghi who rounded Pepe Reina and slotted a very classy shot into the net. At 2-0, with 10 minutes to go it seemed that it was all over.

Kuyt had other ideas. Standing at the far post, the dutchman was able to header into the back of the net to bring the scoreline to 2-1. He was arguably offside, but there was a lot of movement in the box and the decision is contestable. Fans in the epic olympic stadium were overjoyed, sensing another comeback, but this time the Milanese weren't going to fall asleep. They kept their cool, and remained focused. Very few passes went astray in those final few nervous minutes, Liverpool rushed their game and Crouch gave away a foolish foul in the buildup to a potentially threatening play. The game was over, and Milan emerged victorious.

The scenes of celebration were fantastic. Inzaghi was mobbed by his team mates while Liverpool players look dejected, and this blog felt sympathy for the likes of Carragher and Kuyt who were interviewed while still in a state of despair.

Platini has decided that from now on, trophies awarded in European Cup Finals will be handed over "amongst the fans" rather than on a platform in the centre of the pitch, a detail which added a certain old-school element evoking victors of the past. Maldini has now lifted the trophy 6 times, a total equal to that of Liverpool's entire history. Incredible.

Benitez later complained about the referee only allowing 2:51 seconds for stoppages instead of the 3 minutes indicated by the board (incidentally, as the boards only show whole numbers, are we to assume that the ref rounds up or down to the nearest whole number at his discretion? If this is the case, then Benitez hardly has grounds for complaint). There were shouts for handball in the first goal, but overall the Liverpool players seemed to admit that Milan were worthy of their medals.

Gattuso rounded things off nicely by handing the trophy over to Berlusconi before finally adding, "The defeat two years ago will stay me for a lifetime, but this is a different story. It's our turn to celebrate now."

posted by teedoubleyou


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