Friday, May 25, 2007

Year of the Italians

When Liverpool had their miracle in Istanbul 2 years ago, Pippo Inzaghi was sitting in the stands. In Athens, he was in AC Milan's starting line-up, and became a hero as he scored twice to give Milan a 2-1 victory over Liverpool to secure the Champions League.

From a free-kick, Andrea Pirlo's shot was deflected in off Inzaghi's shoulder. Let's admit it. Liverpool was very lucky in Istanbul 2 years ago. What goes around comes around I guess because I don't care what Inzaghi says, that first goal was a total fluke. And it came in first-half injury time!

The first Milan goal was lucky, the second was just a piece of skill and great timing. Chasing the game, Liverpool took out Javier Mascherano for Peter Crouch. That left Liverpool without a marker for Kaka. The Milan wizard then delivered a pass through the Liverpool defence for Inzaghi. Credit to Inzaghi because that run of his was beautiful. Perfect timing, no chance of offside. Round the keeper, Pepe Reina and it was 2-0. Dirk Kuyt pulled a goal back with a header with a minute left, but it was too little too late.

Unlike most people in Singapore, I thought Milan deserved the victory. For all of Liverpool's passion and commitment, they never looked dangerous. Even in the first half when Liverpool had 60-70% of the possession, Milan never looked in trouble. Rafael Benitez may have his tactics right, but upfront they were just short of class. Crouch is Liverpool's most dangerous striker, but Benitez liked the movement of Kuyt and Craig Bellamy more. Nothing wrong there but Kuyt and Bellamy are not going to break that Milan defence. Crouch's height gave Liverpool something dangerous upfront and I believed he should have started.

Compare this to Milan. AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti picked Inzaghi over Gilardino as their lone striker upfront and 2 goals from Inzaghi tell you that it was the correct decision. Benitez may have won the tactical battle but Ancelotti made the correct selection upfront. That was the real difference as both teams were well-match in other areas.

After the World Cup, came the Champions League. This is the year of the Italians.

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