shines on a night of heartbreak
By Alison Gow - Liverpool Echo
Take your pick from "the joy of six", "six of the best"
and the "sixth sense".
In the minds of so many Reds fans in Athens, the headlines
were all set to be written as Liverpool went in search of a
record breaking sixth European Cup.
But after a night of heartbreak they were left with nothing
but the terrible pain of defeat as AC Milan turned the
Olympic Stadium into their very own seventh heaven.
Those headlines will have to wait.
Victory was beyond Rafa Benitez's men this time, but the
fans can at least console themselves with the knowledge that
their support will today be recognised throughout Europe as
among the finest and most loyal in the continent.
AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti certainly seemed to think so
as he marched his victorious players across to the Liverpool
end to reciprocate the applause which was showered upon them
after they collected the European Cup.
Their victory was deserved. There was no controversy. And
there was precious little sign of the play acting which
plagues the modern game on far too many occasions.
So there was no room for bitterness or recriminations
amongst the estimated 35,000 Liverpool fans. Rather, there
was an appreciation of their own team's magnificent efforts
and a sporting acknowledgement that this was Milan's night
and they should be allowed to enjoy it to the full.
As Milan captain Paolo Maldini lifted the European Cup above
his head, thunderous applause rang out from the massed ranks
in the Liverpool end, followed by defiant chanting and
They may have missed out on the trophy, but Liverpool left
with their honour and their pride intact and their huge army
of fans could take a great share of the credit for that.
Defeat may be painful but it is also the great test of a
fan's loyalty and, on this occasion, the Liverpool
supporters passed their test with flying colours. While the
Milan players cavorted all over the pitch with their newly
acquired piece of silverware they were accompanied not by
the noise of their own celebrating fans, but by the songs of
the Kop on tour.
Pepe Reina, Jermaine Pennant and John Arne Riise made sure
they showed their appreciation as they temporarily left
their team mates to make their way over to the fans, handing
them their jerseys and various other items of kit.
It was a poignant end to a day which had started with such
hope. If Istanbul had taught us that even the most fantastic
dreams can, and do, come true, the lesson from Athens was
that sometimes dreams aren't enough.
This was Milan's night of glory and after the way they
suffered in Istanbul just two years ago who could begrudge
From early in the day both sets of fans had mingled freely
in the huge squares which can be found throughout downtown
The only outbreaks of trouble came when touts charging
obscene amounts for tickets were attacked by Liverpool
supporters. This happened on at least four occasions in
Syntagma Square alone.
A skirmish between ticketless Liverpool fans in
mid-afternoon was blown out of all proportion by some
sections of the British media who reported around 100
supporters had clashed. The reality was just two arrests
For the most part of the day Athens was the fan festival
which UEFA had hoped it would be.
Syntagma Square played host to the bulk of the Liverpool
fans and they hung their banners from every available
Milan were less conspicuous but when they did make an
appearance they were happy to exchange songs and swop
scarves with their English counterparts.
Former Everton chairman Peter Johnson was among those who
set up base at the square, as did ex-Tory leader Michael
Howard. Despite their true blue tendencies, the pair are
dyed in the wool Kopites and they were not shy in letting
their alliegances be known.
At the stadium, Alex Curran, Nicola Carragher, Sheree Murphy
and Abbey Clancey were spotted, all fresh from a night spent
in the company of Liverpool fans in a resort on the
outskirts of Athens.
They arrived with hopes high of returing home on the arms of
freshly crowned European champions.
Ultimately, their hopes, like those of the rest of the Red
Army, were dashed.
They'll just have to wait for the joy of six.
Maybe it'll come next year in Moscow. With all the reds
there, the headline writers will be able to fill their
bemoans lack of luck in front of goal
By Richard Williamson - Liverpool Daily Post
Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt felt his side had been
unfortunate after they went down 2-1 in the Champions League
final against AC Milan.
Filippo Inzaghi’s deflected goal put the Italians ahead
before he pounced to give Milan a two-goal lead.
Although the Dutch striker pulled one back late on,
Liverpool could not find another way through.
Kuyt believed he and his teammates had been the better team
but had not had any luck.
He said: “At half-time we were in control. We had a few
little chances and you have be lucky to score a goal.
“They were really lucky to score one minute before
“We tried for 90 minutes but unfortunately it didn’t happen
Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf claimed his fourth
Champions League winners’ medal after previous triumphs with
Ajax, Real Madrid and his present employers.
The 31-year-old expressed his pride in the club’s
achievements after a year which saw them embroiled in the
Italian match-fixing scandal.
Seedorf said: “I am so proud to be part of this team. We
worked hard this year, a very difficult year.
“Hard work makes it happen. We had such a great spirit this
“The final was not the best game, we were very concentrated,
we knew we couldn’t make any mistakes against them.”
Kaka expressed his delight at claiming the cup after his
experiences of 2005.
He said: “It is very nice to win the Champions League, I’m
very happy because in 2005 we lost.
“What happened in 2005 was strange - for just six minutes we
played not so good and paid for that and today we could do
what we want.
“This is a beautiful side.”
Goal hero Inzaghi said: "When I moved to Milan in 2001 I
never thought I could repeat my success at Juventus, never
thought I could win two Champions League titles.
"It's difficult to take in but my relationship with Milan is
of magical night in Istanbul
By Frank Malley - Liverpool Daily Post
No miracle this time. No magical comeback. No tales of
Scousers leaving the stadium early only to find their team
holding the Champions League trophy when they arrived back
at their hotel.
This time in the Olympic Stadium where Kelly Holmes so
memorably won double gold for Britain back in 2004,
Liverpool could only manage silver. Beaten 2-1 by an AC
Milan side many claim should not have been in the
competition because of their part in Italian football’s
corruption. But beaten, too, by a team of worthy
footballers, some wonderful, some gritty, but all who play
the game with a hint of panache.
No, it was not a classic final, but nor was it a sterile
much-ado-about-nothing encounter such as had been served up
by Chelsea and Manchester United in the FA Cup final on
There was even a hint of a wondrous finale when Dirk Kuyt
headed a late goal to send Milan hearts fluttering.
But this final will be remembered for its passion and
commitment, epitomised by one mighty collision between
Gennaro Gattuso and John Arne Riise which neither man
shirked but which earned Gattuso a yellow card.
This Liverpool side is a tighter, meaner, more organised
side, reflecting two years of Benitez influence.
And Jermaine Pennant should have given them the lead, but
his weak shot was easily blocked by Dida. Dirk Kuyt and Xabi
Alonso also went close.
Milan were not at their fluent best. But the margins are
fine in such matches and when Alonso bundled over Kaka on
the edge of the area just before half-time there was a
ripple of apprehension in the Liverpool ranks.
The free-kick was soft, no question about that, but the type
often given in Europe.
Andrea Pirlo, a master of the dead-ball craft, stepped up
but his curling shot would not have troubled Jose Reina if
it had not been deflected into the net by the upper arm of
In truth Gerrard should have supplied the equaliser when he
sprang clear, opened up his body to slide the ball past Dida
but only succeeded in passing it into the arms of the Milan
Nine times out of 10 Gerrard would convert such a chance in
clinical fashion. Unfortunately this was the 10th.
Another Gerrard effort whizzed just wide but Milan always
seemed in control and the match was tied up when Inzaghi
slid home his second and his 38th Champions League goal
after an exquisite through ball from Kaka.
Carragher: Final defeat
left us devastated
By Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post
Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher described his mood as
“devastated” after AC Milan exacted Champions League revenge
The central defender, who inspired Liverpool to European Cup
glory against the Italians two years ago, had to settle for
a loser’s medal following the 2-1 defeat in the Athens
Olympic Stadium.And Carragher also felt responsible for the
first goal after losing control of the ball in the build-up
to the free-kick which Filippo Inzaghi deflected in to give
Milan the lead in the final minute of the first half.
“We are devastated,” said Carragher. “It was the opposite
situation two years ago so you can’t come out and moan and
cry about it.
“Credit to AC Milan. They are a great side and deserved to
win on the night but only slightly. I don’t think there was
much in it. In the first half we just shaded it and everyone
knows in football how important it is to get a goal just
before half-time. Maybe I should have controlled it and
cleared it rather than trying to do it first time. But at
this level small details count.
“It was a soft free-kick but you know in Europe you’re going
to get that. In the Premiership you may get away with it but
we are experienced enough in European football to know
Carragher acknowledged the part the fans played in trying to
influence a repeat of the 2005 victory in Istanbul but after
Inzaghi made it two there was to be no similar fightback
this time, despite Dirk Kuyt’s late headed goal.
The 29-year-old felt Liverpool more than matched their
performance in the previous final, but things just didn’t
fall their way this time.
He added: “It makes it worse when you realise how many are
there like in Istanbul, but unfortunately we couldn’t repay
their support this time.
“I was just thinking in the dressing room that we probably
played as well, if not better, than we did in Istanbul.
We probably didn’t create as many chances but I think we
limited Milan to one chance before the second goal. The way
we played second half, we really went for it but didn’t
create as much as we would have liked.
“But it’s gone now and credit to AC Milan, they have a
tremendous record, they are a top side.
“They feel we shouldn’t have beaten them two years ago but
they’ve come back.”
Now Carragher is setting his sights on returning after the
summer to launch another Liverpool comeback, not just in
terms of trying to conquer Europe again but being more of a
force on the domestic front.
He added: “When you lose you have that hunger to come back.
We want to get closer to Chelsea and Manchester United next
“We’ve proved we are a very good side in the Champions
League. You can’t win it every year but you want to be in
the running every year and we’ll be looking to do the same
Papers say Liverpool
robbed by hand of Inzaghi
Liverpool's 2-1 defeat by AC Milan in the Champions
League final was due to a controversial opening goal that
came off the arm of striker Filippo Inzaghi, newspapers said
"Armed Robbery" was the front page headline in The Sun which
said Liverpool's Champions League dream was "cruelly
shattered" by Inzaghi's deflected opening goal on the stroke
of halftime at the Olympic Stadium in Athens on Wednesday.
Inzaghi, who also scored a fine second goal for Milan in the
82nd minute, ran into the path of Andrea Pirlo's free kick
to send the ball past goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who was
wrongfooted by the deflection that put Milan ahead.
"Robbed by the hand of Zag" was The Daily Mirror's front
page headline next to a picture of Inzaghi being clearly hit
on the arm by the ball that gave Milan a fortunate lead.
The Daily Express headline said; "Inzaghi ruins Athens
Dream" and the paper reflected that: "It was a cruel blow
from which the Reds never recovered and gave Milan the
revenge they craved after losing this trophy to Steven
Gerrard's men in Turkey..."
The front page of The Times said simply "Heartbreak", the
paper reporting that two years after the "Miracle of
Istanbul" -- when Liverpool recovered from 3-0 down to force
a 3-3 draw and victory on penalties -- Milan got their
"Liverpool were left to reflect on a Greek tragedy last
night as their hopes of lifting a sixth European Cup were
ended by a Milan team whose thirst for revenge was sated
with a win that led to tears of joy and despair at the
The Daily Telegraph opted like most of the papers for a
picture of dejected Liverpool captain Gerrard under the
front page headline "Greek tragedy for Liverpool".
"Liverpool's drive towards the European cup ended on a hard
shoulder here last night, Filippo Inzaghi's bony upper arm
causing the English real pain," reported the broadsheet
"Like the monsoon that briefly drenched Athens,
disappointment swept through the ambitious emissaries from
Anfield," the Telegraph added.
The Guardian ran the headline: "Liverpool have bravery but
no breaks as Inzaghi inflicts Milan's revenge", adding "This
was revenge for Milan as they atoned for the famous fiasco
against Liverpool in 2005 but neither club last night struck
the heights they had attained in the past two months"
with short injury time
By Karolos Grohmann - Reuters
Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez said on Wednesday his team
could have come back from two goals down against AC Milan
but shorter than expected stoppage time dashed their hopes.
AC Milan beat Liverpool 2-1 despite an 89th minute goal by
Dirk Kuyt that briefly lifted the English team's hopes of a
Liverpool won the 2005 final against AC Milan after
recovering from a 3-0 first-half deficit, forcing a penalty
shootout which they then won.
"I don't want to use this as an excuse... but I counted two
minutes 45 seconds and 51 hundredths (of stoppage time),"
Benitez told reporters. "I had confidence (of drawing) but I
was surprised with the stoppage time. We did not have time"
Benitez said Liverpool had started the match well,
controlling the game and pushing forward.
"We were there. We were really close. We had chances," he
said, adding the Italians' first goal through Filippo
Inzaghi just before the break was a lucky deflection that
forced Benitez to change his game plan.
"The first half we played really well and conceded a
deflection, some bad luck. In the second half, we pushed
forward and when you do you leave space between the lines
and in the wide spaces and they have quality and that's the
Inzaghi struck again eight minutes from time when he slotted
the ball under Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina from close range.
Ancelotti says win will help
Italian game's credibility
By Barney Spender - Reuters
AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed his side's 2-1 win
over Liverpool in the Champions League final on Wednesday as
a victory for Italian soccer.
The 47-year-old said it would go some way towards restoring
faith in the Italian game after last year's match-fixing
scandal that saw four Serie A clubs punished, including
Milan who were only reinstated in the Champions League on
"Winning the Champions League is completely unexpected in a
sense because we had to overcome so many difficulties," he
"I wouldn't call this revenge for the scandal but I do think
that Italian football suffered from it, especially Milan, so
I would say this is good for Italian football in general. It
will help us to regain some of our credibility."
Ancelotti, who also led Milan to the Champions League title
in 2003, stopped short of describing the win as revenge for
Milan's defeat by Liverpool on penalties in the final two
years ago in Istanbul but drew comparisons between the two
"Sometimes, tactically you want to play a game in a certain
way but the actual game forces you to change. In Istanbul,
the game was more open, more bubbly. This game was tighter,
more controlled from the first minute.
"Against Manchester United in the semi-final we were able to
play more the way we wanted but tonight we came under
considerable pressure from Liverpool.
"And that meant we couldn't get the ball to players like
Kaka and Clarence Seedorf who struggled to get into the
game. But what we saw tonight was the other face of AC
Milan. We saw that it is a tough team."
Ancelotti, who won the European Cup twice as a player for AC
Milan, before becoming coach in 2001, declined, however, to
be drawn on his future at the club.
"My market value has certainly increased with this victory
but my relationship with Milan is very strong. I have worn
the shirt of Milan on the field and that builds a strong
relationship. What I have achieved depends a lot on my
feeling of belonging."
Gerrard tips Reds
to bounce back
BBC Sport Online
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said his side would come
back stronger next season after their 2-1 defeat by AC Milan
in the Champions League final.
"We can be proud of ourselves. We've done so well getting to
the final and I know we'll play in another one of these
finals," said Gerrard.
"We've got to pick ourselves up, have a good rest in the
summer and then go again next season.
"We're going places, there's no getting away from that."
Two goals from Pippo Inzaghi ended Liverpool's hopes of
adding to their five European Cup triumphs, with Dirk Kuyt's
89th-minute header coming too late to save the Reds.
"I think we controlled in the first half but not as much as
we would have liked in the second half - but let's not
forget that we were playing a top side with top players,"
"Credit to AC Milan - they won and maybe they just about
"In the build-up to the game we said it would be decided on
small details and a bit of luck and AC Milan got that.
"We need to strengthen and bring some quality into the club.
The manager and the people in charge of the club know that
and it will be an interesting summer.
"You've got to give credit to our lads, they gave everything
and it just wasn't to be."
double ends Liverpool dream
By Phil McNulty - BBC Sport Online
Pippo Inzaghi struck twice as AC Milan gained revenge for
their 2005 Champions League final defeat against Liverpool
with victory in Athens.
Inzaghi scored a freak opener in first-half injury time,
unwittingly deflecting Andrea Pirlo's free-kick past a
wrong-footed Pepe Reina.
Steven Gerrard missed a glorious chance to equalise before
Inzaghi slid home a second eight minutes from time.
Dirk Kuyt pulled one back with a header with two minutes
left but time ran out.
Liverpool, as expected, used Kuyt as a lone front man with
captain Gerrard pushed into an advanced role.
And it was a ploy that worked well until Liverpool conceded
unfortunately in the dying seconds of the first half.
Jermaine Pennant was also prominent as Liverpool posed the
greater threat, forcing a fine save from Dida after Marek
Jankulovski had conceded possession.
The much-touted Brazil star Kaka was a peripheral figure
early on, but he brought a comfortable save from Liverpool
keeper Reina with a 20-yard drive.
Alonso then came within inches of putting Liverpool ahead
after 26 minutes, sending an angled drive just wide after
more poor Milan defending.
But after controlling the game, Liverpool conceded
needlessly in first-half injury time.
Alonso had committed several careless fouls, and he paid the
price for another infringement on Kaka 20 yards out.
Pirlo's free-kick took a crucial deflection off Inzaghi that
completely wrong-footed Reina.
Liverpool struggled to exert their superiority in the early
stages of the second half and Benitez made a change after 58
minutes, sending on Harry Kewell for Bolo Zenden.
Gerrard had Liverpool's best chance on 62 minutes when he
was sent clear by a dreadful pass by Rino Gattuso, but his
finish was weak and Dida saved.
Time was running out for Liverpool and Benitez made a second
change with 13 minutes left, sending on Peter Crouch for
As Liverpool pushed forward, they were punished by a piece
of brilliance by Kaka and a trademark ruthless finish from
Kaka unlocked Liverpool with a glorious pass and Inzaghi
rounded Reina before scoring from an angle.
Crouch then tested Dida with a 25-yard drive as Liverpool
tried to mount an unlikely recovery.
Liverpool pulled one back with two minutes to go when Daniel
Agger flicked on Pennant's corner and Kuyt headed home.
But this time there was no dramatic comeback and Milan