Wednesday, May 23, 2007

La Forza del Pippo: AC Milan Beat Liverpool FC

The match had been built up by many as The Godfather, Part Two of football matches--a worthy successor to the first and perhaps an even better one. Well, okay, few if anyone actually thought that today's game would live up to the 2005 Champions League final, which has already entered the ranks of all-time great games. As build up to today's championship, I rewatched the 2005 final three times (once all the way through and twice in bits and pieces) over the last week and it's hard to beat that marathon of a game for sheer excitement, drama, and for operatic tragedy and/or triumphant comeback stylings.

I'm not always the most realistic of people, so I'm a bit disappointed that today's game wasn't the Beethoven's Ninth of football matches, but it was still enjoyable and there were moments of nice play by both clubs. All in all, though, neither side appeared brilliant and although Liverpool commanded the pace of the game for most of it and were able to shut down Milan's Kaka and Seedorf (the Czech left-back Janus Jankulovski, on the other hand, shut himself down for the entire first half and showed up to play intermittently in the second) but somehow were never able to contain the slippery, venal assassin known as Inzaghi. Is there any player who looks more like an extra from a Charles Bronson Death Wish feature? I don't think so. "Pippo" Inzaghi's second goal--a ludicrously comical "strike" that slowly rolled in past Liverpool's keeper Pepe Reina who struggled to intercept the striker--really shouldn't have even happened if the Liverpool side had actually... played some defense. Instead, the stealthy (not in a beautiful way) poacher remarkably stayed onside to begin his run toward goal, with not a single Liverpool player moving an inch to stop him. Worthless and comical. Did those stunned Reds assume Inzaghi was offside? He frequently is (Sir Alex Ferguson once said that Inzaghi was born offide). But not tonight. Strangely enough, one of Europe's most hated players (at least in the UK) was Milan's savior, and although I would've loved to have seen Kaka live up to his "greatest player in the world" status, the young Brazilian's pass to Inzaghi for that second goal was tasty indeed. Personally, I thought Andrea Pirlo's fantastic low free kick in the final moments before the end of the first half, which was ever-so-slightly shouldered in by Inzaghi, was the highlight. One of those mean, soul-sucking goals that can really drain the spirit from a club because it just wasn't supposed to happen. A freak goal, but a goal nonetheless.

Considering what happened two years ago, no one in their right mind was going to count out Liverpool, even with time trickling down. Luckily, the Reds did manage to score their one goal of the evening courtesy of Dirk Kuyt in the 88th, but as the three minutes of stoppage time quickly evaporated, so did their chances.

Many will undoubtedly whine about Milan's efficient if unimpressive win. They certainly didn't play anywhere near brilliant (see their second leg semi-final dismantling of Man Utd a few weeks ago) but it was a well-deserved victory for a team that really shouldn't have blown it two years ago when they truly did deserve to hoist the trophy up as Europe's finest.

AC Milan 2 - 1 Liverpool

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