AC Milan beat Boca Juniors 4-2 today to become the first European winners of the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
A double from Filippo Inzaghi and goals from Alessandro Nesta and Kaka earned the European champions a deserved victory at the International Stadium in Yokohama, where a sell-out crowd was treated to a fitting climax to a thrilling tournament.
It took Carlo Ancelotti's side just 21 minutes to make the breakthrough. Kaka drove at the Boca defence and after his shot was blocked, he instinctively and superbly drove the ball into the path of Inzaghi, who did not require a second invitation to slot the ball home from six yards. From the restart, though, Boca quickly moved the ball up the other end and Rodrigo Palacio nodded home to level the scores.
Play resumed at a frenetic pace following the interval and within five minutes, Nesta's stunning volley restored Milan's advantage. A couple of menacing runs from the lively Kaka threatened to add to their lead, while only the post denied Hugo Ibarra a superb, long-range equaliser.
With Kaka in inspirational form, though, Milan began to dominate proceedings and it was the Brazilian who made it 3-1 just after the hour mark, slotting through the goalkeeper's legs from a tight angle after a purposeful charge down the left flank. The 25-year-old then supplied a second goal for Inzaghi in the 71st minute.
Both teams were then reduced to ten men in the final stages as Milan's Georgian defender Kakha Kaladze and Boca's Pablo Ledesma were given their marching orders. A Massimo Ambrosini own goal reduced the deficit with time running out, but the day belonged to Milan, who succeeded where the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United (both 2000), Liverpool (2005) and Barcelona (2006) had failed.
Meanwhile, Asia's ascendancy over Africa in the Club World Cup continued today as, following a 2-2 draw, Urawa Red Diamonds beat Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia on penalties to take third place in the tournament.
An early Sabeur Frej penalty gave Etoile the upper hand, but Washington restored parity ten minutes before the break. Washington's second header of the game edged the Japanese heavyweights in front on 70 minutes, but Etoile responded quickly with an opportunistic goal from Armine Chermiti to make it 2-2, which is how the contest finished.
In the ensuing shootout, Urawa made no mistake with their first four spot-kicks and, after Nafkha had failed to convert Etoile's opening penalty, Traoui's miss handed a 4-2 success - and the bronze medal - to the Asian champions.
TOURNAMENT REVIEW: [QUAL: Sepahan 3-1 Waitakere] - [QF: Sahel 1-0 Pachuca] - [QF: Sepahan 1-3 Urawa Red] - [SF: Sahel 0-1 Boca Juniors] - [SF: Urawa Red 0-1 Milan] - [3rd: Sahel 2-2p Urawa Red] - [F: Boca Juniors 2-4 Milan]
REACTION: [Maldini to call it a day] - [Ancelotti/Inzaghi]