Wednesday 23 May
Final: AC Milan 2-1 Liverpool
A goal in each half from Filippo Inzaghi ensured AC Milan avenged their defeat by Liverpool in Istanbul two years ago to claim the European Cup for a seventh time in their history in Athens.
Inzaghi had been forced to sit out the 2005 final which Liverpool won on penalties after trailing 3-0 at half-time, but he made up for that with a double strike that fully justified coach Carlo Ancelotti's decision to select the veteran ahead of Alberto Gilardino. The gods were smiling on the 33-year-old when he deflected in Andrea Pirlo's free-kick on the stroke of half-time though there was no doubting his ability when he rounded Pepe Reina to make sure of victory with eight minutes remaining.
Mindful of the damage Milan caused in the first half in Istanbul, Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez was taking no chances. The Spaniard opted for a five-man midfield with Jermaine Pennant and Boudewijn Zenden on the wings, while captain Steven Gerrard moved inside to provide support for lone forward Kuyt. The tactic had the desired effect as Liverpool held the ball well, showing no signs of the nerves that gripped them in the early stages two seasons ago. Pennant worked the first opening on nine minutes, dispossessing Alessandro Nesta before drawing a sprawling save from Dida. Pennant's pace provided a nuisance but Milan also threatened, Pirlo coming close to releasing Inzaghi before Pepe Reina saved well from Kaka.
The Brazilian was coming into the game, bringing the Milan fans to their feet with one supreme drag-back and turn, yet neither side could put their stamp on a surprisingly open contest. Xabi Alonso and John Arne Riise both missed from distance while, for Milan, Massimo Oddo and Marek Jankulovski were dangerous pushing forward down the flanks. It was Pennant, though, who looked most likely to furnish a breakthrough. Running at the veteran Milan rearguard was bringing rewards, and on 35 minutes he stole the ball off Paolo Maldini to supply a shooting chance for Kuyt. The 38-year-old Maldini had become the oldest outfield player to appear in a European Cup final, his record-equalling eighth, and was being kept busy.
A defensive lapse at the other end, however, cost Liverpool dearly on 45 minutes. Kaka for once was afforded too much space on the edge of the box and was brought down by Alonso. Pirlo's free-kick eluded the Liverpool wall but struck Inzaghi and deflected in. Five of the Liverpool team that started the final two years ago were picked again here, against seven survivors from Milan. Having been given the rare opportunity to make amends for the disappointment of 2005, the Rossoneri were in no mood to let another lead slip. It was Gerrard who had sparked the recovery in Istanbul, and Liverpool looked to their talisman once again to lift them. On 61 minutes Gennaro Gattuso's misplaced pass was intercepted by the Reds captain and he breezed past Nesta into the area only to shoot weakly at Dida.
With Massimo Ambrosini and Gattuso shielding the Milan back four, Liverpool were finding chances hard to come by and with 13 minutes to play Benítez brought on Peter Crouch for Javier Mascherano to try and open up the match. This time, though, there would be no comeback. Kaka, so often Milan's match-winner en route to the final, turned provider here, slipping the ball through to Inzaghi who scored with a typically clinical strike. Kuyt sparked hope when he nodded in Daniel Agger's flick-on from a corner in the last minute of normal time but this was Milan's night.
[Carlo Ancelotti] - [Paolo Maldini] - [Silvio Berlusconi] - [Massimo Oddo] - [Fillipo Inzaghi] - [Rafael Benitez] - [Gennaro Gattuso] - [Ricardo Kaka] - [Sepp Blatter] - [Clarence Seedorf] - [Adriano Galliani] - [Fans] - [Newspapers] - [Photos]