first team / AC Milan 3-1 OL

What a cruel finish

Published on the 04 April 2006 à 23:00 by SR

The draw at the Stade Gerland six days earlier inspired hope, a lot of hope. OL hadn’t blown their chances in the first leg, unlike in previous years. But this time, the opponent was of an entirely different calibre…

Juninho, suspended from the opening leg, returned to reinforce a side already full of character. “A great team needs to be capable of getting by without one player,” claimed Gérard Houllier. That was the case with ‘Juni’ in the first leg and the same goes for Tiago in the second, replaced by Govou on the team sheet. It was a new-look starting XI for OL, attacking, with the in-form Nino Wiltord playing as a number 10. For Milan, Pippo Inzaghi got the nod ahead of Gilardino in attack.

In the past, Lyon had won twice at the San Siro, both times against Inter Milan. But it was the other Milan that stood before OL on Tuesday. The match pitted a Milan with an incredible home record against a Lyon used to moving mountains on the road – much to the delight of the travelling 9500 Lyon supporters present inside the San Siro. Who better than the 2004 Ballon d’Or could promise us an ‘open match’ in his own mythic backyard in front of a sell out crowd.

Les Lyonnais, in white and red, kicked-off and immediately took the upper hand. The clearest chances fell to the visitors as they took the game to the Rossoneri in the early stages. After a quarter of an hour the festival of missed chances began for both sides. Sidney Govou opened hostilities with an effort from 20m out without worrying Dida (14’). Inzaghi intercepted a low Serginho cross without anymore success (16’). Then Nino tried to pounce on an error from the Brazilian ‘keeper... out. After some great pressure from Fred, Malouda lobbed Dida and his 1.95m with the outside of the left foot, but he also chipped the crossbar (18’). Costacurta came in for Stam, injured...
After a host of chances, the first one on target found the back of the net. Against the run of play it was Inzaghi who angled home an unstoppable header on 25 minutes. The turnover in midfield was hard on Les Gones as Seedorf broke down the left and served it up on a platter for Super-Pippo. On the the edge of the six-yard box the striker had no problem guiding home his free header.
The goal sounded the charge as Milan fought back aftera timid start... In the return it leg it was Les Gones who ran the show, just as Milan had done at the Stade Gerland a week before. And just minutes later Diarra, pushed on the Lyon supporters at his back answered Pippo just minutes later. A forceful header from a Juninho free-kick and the Malien had scored his second Champions League goal of the season (31' ; 1-1).

The ball continued to fly from one penalty are to the other. Seedorf fired off a missile (33’). Govou did likewise at the other end before Juninho saw his cross-cum-shot tipped over the crossbar by Dida (39’). Lyon enjoyed the possession of the ball and Djila was everywhere, in attack as in defence. Fred came within a whisker of doubling the mark when his header found the outside of the post with the ‘keeper beaten…Diarra then blocked the way for Kaka on his way to challenge Coupet. An animal, as his mate Essien nicknamed him. As Bernard Lacombe told OLTV: “if Diarra can’t win a ball, he gets rid of it.” Inzaghi went into the book for an altercation with Cris and the referee then sent all 22 players to the changing-rooms for half-time.

After the break, Juni, the metronome, provoked and earned a well-placed free-kick on the edge of the Milan area… blocked by the wall. Abidal also had his say in attack with a ferocious shot that had Dida furious with his defence (55’). At the other end, Serginho fired at a vigilant Coupet after beating Caçapa… The minutes ticked by. Nino saved his side with a header off the line to deny a Kaladze header. Playing as a true playmaker, Wiltord was everywhere, in attack, in defence, changing the thythm...
Antho Réveillère came into replace Govou on the right flank and hold down the Italian attacks, coming with more and more frequency now, right up until Sheva fired at Coupet seconds before full-time. Unmarked at the back post, the Champions League’s top scorer turned Maldini cross into the turning point. Grégory Coupet managed to turn the ball onto the his right-hand upright. The ball than rebounded along the line and off the left-hand post… Inzaghi pounced on the loose ball to turn home his second of the night. The scenario became a catastrophe for Le Lyonnais when Sheva, completed the scoring in injury time and sent Milan into the semi-finals.

How cruel. The first away loss since March 2005 seemed totally unjust. OL dominated the match and played brilliantly. They didn’t need much, but Milan made their chances count and qualified for their third semi-final in four seasons. With a record-breaking fifth domestic crown just around the corner... with 72 points in Ligue 1, OL already has a ticket into next seasons Champions Lerague…
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