A befitting end to grueling and competitive season of football in Europe. The curtain fell on the continental scenario when AC Milan beat Liverpool 2-1 in Athens to lift the champion’s league for 7th time. Rewind the tape to the start of august, when Milan is shattered by match fixing bribing referee allegations, people shouting for Berlusconi’s head, the game is tampered. But the Milan players and coaches can do nothing about it. They don’t fix the matches, the officials upstairs do. Yet they had to fight adversity, they had to qualify for the champions league.
In an earlier writing I have discussed the season as a whole, how the two teams reached final, not going to do that now. I will keep my discussions on the final match itself. Liverpool played much more flaring attacking football from the beginning. They had to. They saw how Man Utd carried a 1 goal lead in san siro in semifinal, and got destroyed by playing not-so-pressure football from the beginning.
Rafael Benitez asked his boys to go out in the attack from the start, and they did. They used the flank pretty well, with Pennant and half-fit Zenden running down. Pennant was simply superb, and so was Mascherano. It is mascherano who never allowed Milan upfront players to settle down, he didn’t allow them to hold the ball, do slick passing. Milan was trying to free Kaka and Inzaghi, with little success.
Milan was doing another thing, giving up the possession near their defense number of times. But Liverpool never took advantage of those gifts. In today’s world, no body misses a chance to grasp on free gifts. If you don’t, you are lagging behind. That’s what happened to Liverpool.
Milan’s 1st goal was completely against the run of the play, Xavi Alonso sort of pushed Kaka, and Kaka did enough to earn a free kick. Pirlo’s shot deflected of Inzaghi’s shoulder to go in. Liverpool supporters call it luck. No it’s not luck; it is part of the game. The mix of players, who stand beside the wall, always follows the ball after the free kick, so there is always a possibility that the ball going to get deflected.
That goal changed the whole game. Milan came after the half time with more assurance that they can take their time and hold the ball, while Liverpool looked desperate with every second passed by. Seedorf and Kaka was not a factor in this game, but Jankulovski, Ambrosini, Oddo, Nesta and Maldini..They were huge factors. They never really allowed Kuyt or Gerrard to have a clear easy shot at goal.
Master tactician Benitez did two big mistakes. 1) He kept unfit Zenden on pitch for 60 minutes, and 2) he brought in Crouch on 76th minute. Too late. Dida is never comfortable on aerial balls, but Liverpool never tasted him in air. One would have predicted that Liverpool will have Crouch upfront, have pennant or zenden crossing from wings, and Crouch will try to nod it in. Or Gerrard will have some long-range shots. Did not happen. I think Liverpool, instead of sticking to the basics, tried to do too much. Tried to out think Milan. In the process, they lost their natural game.
The 2nd goal was a result of Kaka’s brilliant pass and Inzaghi’s immaculate finishing. The way Pippo just rolled the ball under onrushing Reina’s arm from an acute angle is really commendable.
That’s why Ancelotti started him ahead of Gilardino. He will be offside 15 times, will miss 10 times (as he did today, among them was one easy tap in from 8 yards out), but he will score the all important goal that matters. He did it against Bayern Munchen in quarterfinal. He did it again today. Kuyt’s equalizer in 89th minute (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x228wz_ac-milan-liverpool-2-1-dirk-kuyt) only meant that the supporters will be on their toes till the final whistle. There is no more Istanbul happening this time. Those things do not happen every day. Milan is the king of Europe one more time. Paolo Maldini lifted the Champions league trophy one more time.