Thursday, May 24, 2007

Inzaghi Double Breaks Liverpool Heart

Milan Finished Off Reds In Clinical Style

UEFA Champions League

AC Milan (ITA) 2 - 1 LIVERPOOL (Eng)


Milan - Inzaghi (45min, 82min);

LIV - Kuyt (89min);

As a Liverpool fan, I'm here to congratulate AC Milan in their triumph at Athens. I won't be bitter because I'm not feeling it at all and I must say well done and we've lost to a worthy opponent. I also mirror the views of both Benitez and Gerrard as both were magnanimous in defeat.

We lost to a better team and this time round, no turnarounds and no twist in the tale. It was settled within the 90 with Milan being in their clinical best. Through it all, class prevails and the experience of the players got them to the finish line.

Maybe the football gods decides to return some favour to this Milan side that was battered in Istanbul 2 years ago and now, it's honours even. There will finally be a full stop in all the revenge talks prior to the game and with Milan going on to lift their 7th European title, I for one thinks that there are a lot of positives that could be drawn from this game.

And like our spiritual song, 'You'll Never Walk Alone', suggests that as we walk through a storm, hold your head up high. I believe that even though they walked off the pitch as the losers, they certainly did enough to hold their heads up high through it all.

And although it seemed to be bitterly disappointing to lose at the final hurdle, I think we should be proud of the 11 players on the pitch as they gave their all and played well. But football, sometimes, defy logic, like it did 2 years ago.

Liverpool played well, stifled Milan yet was caught out by two mistakes which probably costs us the game. It was a difference in class and as well as experience yet both teams looked pretty equaled and it wasn't as one sided as it did 2 years ago.

Liverpool started off reasonable well with the fans in fine voice once again. Jermaine Pennant, the player who's making his Champions League final debut, was first to test AC Milan goalkeeper, Dida, from a tight angle. But the Brazilian keeper got down well.

Then the Reds started to dominate not in terms of possession but the control of the pitch as they defended high up top and was able to disrupt Milan from playing their free-flowing football.

Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano were both tenacious in their tackles and was matched up with Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini. Gerrard, being in that unfamiliar foward role, looked enthusiastic and fired up for the game as both him and Dirk Kuyt were constantly harassing the Milan defence.

Both teams then fired warning shots at each end as Riise fired a shot just over the bar while Brazilian maestro, Kaka, was able to work Pepe Reina from distance despite being closed down by Mascherano.

But as time wore on, Liverpool seemed to have gain the upper hand and the match was well in control by Rafa's men. They set up the game's tempo just right for their style of play while Milan were caught out a couple of times by that.

Sloppiness was something that struck me about Milan during the match as their passing were woeful at times while the defence had a torrid time clearing their lines as Liverpool forced them to a couple of errors.

But having shots after shots at goal with no result isn't the best confidence booster for a team that looked inferior on paper. Milan kept their cool as they soaked up pressure from Liverpool and unleashed their power at the right place, right time.

With the pre-match talk mostly on Kaka, Milan was able to bring on a special weapon in some sort to break down the stingy Liverpool defence, in an unorthodox way. The talk was about whether to start Pippo Inzaghi or Alberto Gilardino.

Ancelotti made the right choice in starting the veteran Italian striker as he finally broke the deadlock in Milan's second attempt on goal in the first 45. His experience was invaluable and the way he deflected in Pirlo's freekick showed the typical striker instinct and craftiness.

Known for his goal scoring records, Inzaghi's prowess in the 6 yard box is second to none and Pepe Reina was stranded as the ball hit the back of the net. Suspect of a handball but referee decides it is legit.

Liverpool were caught in a pretty similar situation like they did in Istanbul. But this time round, the deficit was smaller yet you feel that the pressure was very much on Liverpool. 3-0 down, nobody would give you a chance yet by being a goal down, there's still very much to play for.

Nobody will speculate as to whether the Milan players were celebrating in the dressing room this time but one thing's for sure and that is they had the confidence and plan to finish the game off in the Italian 'catenaccio' way.

Being in the position isn't unfamiliar for Liverpool as they've did that in recent years but this time round, no luck for the Reds. Kewell was threw on in place of Zenden but the Australian winger didn't seemed to have enough run out to cause Milan any trouble.

And perhaps Rafa Benitez took a little too long to put on a second striker to support Dirk Kuyt. Peter Crouch was introduced only in the 78th minute and there was little the lanky striker could do with the limited amount of time.

And just like how Milan struck in the first half, they once again pierced through the heart of Liverpool's defence surgically with Kaka weaving his magic and Inzaghi once again, showing his knack to confused defenders with his run and then calmly placed the ball under the body of Reina.

With Mascherano taken off before the goal, Rafa took the gamble but it backfired. Kaka was left alone and with all the time and space, was able to release Inzaghi. Game plan came undone and the player's head dropped.

But you'll always expect Liverpool to comeback stronger and they did once again.

Dirk Kuyt was able to head home his first Champions League goal this term and what a time to score it. Pennant's corner was deflected off Massimo Oddo's back and the Dutchman made no mistake with his header from the back post.

But it all seemed too little too late for the Reds as they failed to conjure up the magic that won them the cup 2 seasons ago. Milan very well knew that they couldn't afford to let Liverpool in once again and was able to hang on to the very last minute.

Controversies will be about the referee blowing the whistle even before the clock hits 3 minutes of added on time but it just wasn't meant to be for Liverpool. They might have used up all their luck in the match against Chelsea and perhaps, what comes around goes around.

And to the Liverpool fans:

Surely, disappointed we are to go all the way to the finals, defeating Chelsea and Barcelona on the way. But the display from the lads on the pitch suggest that there are much more to come from Rafa Benitez and his men.

As Liverpool enters a new era under Tom Hicks and George Gillett, I personally feel excited about the upcoming summer as Liverpool will dig deep into the pockets for new players as Rafa continue to look to improve the squad, with resources this time round.

It might all be a blessing in disguise for the Reds as only in defeat, we might see our own downfall and weaknesses and hopefully, Rafa acknowledges this and it might prove to be a monumental moment for the club.

Chin up lads, there are much more to come and disappointments being part and parcel of life, we look to move on and away from the pain. Well done, and we'll bounce back!


psychohare said...

for some reason, this loss might actually be good. It showed that we wont be lucky every time, although Rafa is good, he is only human and cant possibly always beat the odds with really minimal finances. Gerrard wasnt very good but we were too dependent on him, cant blame Gerrard really, he did as much as he could already in such a tight affair.
Mascherano is boss, we really know that now. Carra is king, how pinpoint can his tackling be. It's really obvious now... u know every time we attacked, i didnt feel the danger from Liverpool at all, but when Milan counter-attacked i was very worried. We really dont have that attacking edge. Pennant is good, but not good enough, he could sometimes barely beat the wingbacks but quality of crosses dwindled away... Kewell isnt sharp, i cant blame him as i thought he made a decent effort with his runs and touches.
No one really played badly to be honest (although im not sure how to gauge Zenden.. since Rafa rarely feels that he played badly), we just cant score... time to get a couple goal machines and some crazy wingers...
u are right my friend, i really didnt feel bitter at Milan... i just felt that despite all the possession we had, the only one real chance we had was the one that Gerrard taped to Dida. Not enough clear chances really. 20 mil * 3 quality players will make a huge difference...
until next season, time to hit the transfer rumor bandwagon...

Shaun said...

I felt the match summed up our season really. Numerous shots on goal, but unable to convert. I'll stick my neck out and say the lads gave a good account of themselves though. One thing that puzzled me was why Crouch didn't start. His height would have come in handy in frazzling the Milan defence abit. Looking forward to our new striking options next season, but not hoping for too much. I guess years and years of going without the Premiere League trophy does that to you.

gerggles said...

lets all face it.... we love to love our liverpool players, but, do they have enough quality? in my opinion we are buying players with a lot of heart but not enough quality.

Good luk to those who find another club next season.........


Yea, it's true that it summed up Liverpool's season really. Rafa speaks about controlling the game and we could but we just didn't do enough to kill off the game when we needed. Because we lacked that quality and that has to be sorted out soon.

It also seemed like they're more convinced that they can win it more than us. They played poorly yet have the right mentality and conviction.

DM Osbon said...

Crouch should have played an earlier part in the game...Pennant always delivers crosses that Crouch can make into goals & that's what was needed more pressure applied to their defenders in the last third of the pitch.

TLR said...

It's been said before, but I'm proud of the lads today. Gave it their all, but came up a little short in the finishing stakes.

Also love the fact that neither Gerrard, Benitez or Carragher deflected any of the blame for the defeat and heaped praise on Milan. True class.

Unlike what "Moaninho" would've done!

Even in defeat, I'm proud of my club and it's supporters today.