By Adam Szreter at Old Trafford
|AC Milan captain Paolo Maldini lifts the UEFA Champions League trophy|
AC Milan won their sixth European title on penalties after a captivating UEFA Champions League final, high on technique with no little drama. Andriy Shevchenko struck the winning penalty after a catalogue of misses on both sides.
Bitter end for Juve
For Juventus FC, it was a bitter end to a sweet season which saw them win the Italian Scudetto. But on the night they were beaten by a side who were stronger until effectively being reduced to ten men in extra time.
There had been no great surprises in either side's starting lineup, 37-year-old Alessandro Costacurta being passed fit to take part in his fifth such final for Milan, while Mauro Camoranesi took the place of the suspended Pavel Nedved for Juve.
After the opening skirmishes it was Milan who took the initiative through Rui Costa. Following a spurious penalty claim by Filippo Inzaghi after a challenge from Igor Tudor, it looked as though Milan had taken a ninth-minute lead.
Rui Costa picked up a loose ball in midfield and found Inzaghi running through the inside-left channel. He cut the ball back for the unmarked Shevchenko, who stroked the ball past Gianluigi Buffon. But Rui Costa had continued his run and was in an offside position directly in the Juve goalkeeper’s line of vision, so the effort was rightly disallowed.
At the other end David Trezeguet flashed a header wide but Juve were soon back under pressure. Ciro Ferrara intercepted magnificently after Paolo Montero was beaten by Shevchenko on the Milan right, but moments later Montero inexplicably gave possession away to the same player. The Ukrainian found Clarence Seedorf on the right, but Inzaghi’s flying header from the Dutchman's cross was expertly turned aside by Buffon.
Costacurta picked up the game’s first yellow card for a foul on Gianluca Zambrotta and after Rui Costa had fired fractionally wide, the injured Tudor made way for Alessandro Birindelli with Montero moving into central defence.
In the dying moments of the half Alessandro Del Piero went close, Dida saving at the near post, while Alessandro Nesta made a miraculous clearance as Ciro Ferrara closed in on Del Piero’s overhead cross. But the last word before the break fell to Milan as Kakha Kaladze’s shot was gathered by a grateful Buffon.
At the re-start Juve coach Marcello Lippi made his second change of the night, replacing Camoranesi with Antonio Conte, like Ferrara and Del Piero a veteran of Juve’s last Champions League triumph in 1996. The substitute brought immediate improvement to his team, heading on to the bar from Del Piero’s cross. But the near-miss failed to galvanise Juve and instead Milan captain Paolo Maldini should have opened the scoring with a free header from Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick.
By now both coaches were camped permamently in their respective technical areas at pitch-side, and Lippi’s last throw of the dice was to bring on Marcelo Zalayeta for Davids. His counterpart, Carlo Ancelotti, withdrew Costacurta and Pirlo in favour of the Brazilian pair Roque Junior and Serginho.
Zalayeta, like Conte earlier, made an instant impression for Juve, glancing a header past the post from Del Piero’s free-kick before Conte himself volleyed over, Del Piero again providing the service. Meanwhile Serginho got into the act by crossing for Inzaghi who put another diving header just wide.
With time running out, Milan threw on Massimo Ambrosini in place of Rui Costa, whose influence had begun to fade as extra time beckoned. Seedorf sent in a low shot, easily gathered by Buffon but with that, the 90 minutes were up. It was the first final to remain scoreless in normal time since FC Barcelona's victory in 1991/92, coincidentally the last time it was played in England.
Extra time brought a handicap to Milan, as Roque Junior was a virtual passenger after sustaining an injury early on. Conte and Del Piero both nearly took advantage with speculative efforts, and the Juve supporters found their full voice for the first time all night. Alas for them it was not to last, and Shevchenko had the final say.