The 2005 Champions League final was one of the most exciting in living memory. In the first half, it looked as though AC Milan would romp to the trophy as they took a 3-0 win over Liverpool, but a sterling comeback and ultimate penalty victory gave Liverpool a surprise, but well-earned, Champions League title.
Two years later, on this day in 2007, the two sides clashed yet again in the final, with the Italian outfit keen for revenge for having their trophy snatched away the last time they met. It was to be a close encounter again, this time in Athens, as Milan were desperate to put the disappointment behind them in order to claim their seventh European gong.
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Rafael Benitez, who was also Liverpool manager two years before for their victorious game in Istanbul, had Milan's attacking threat in the back of his mind, such was the damage his side were caused in the first half that night. He decided to name just one striker, Dirk Kuyt, with captain Steven Gerrard moved into the hole in support of him. The dangerous Jermaine Pennant on the right wing caused the first threat of the game, forcing Dida into a diving stop after just nine minutes.
The Spanish manager's tactic worked well in the first half as his side were able to disrupt Milan's flow. Kaka was anonymous for some 20 minutes until he had a minor sight on goal, with his shot not good enough to beat Pepe Reina.
Milan were not defending well and Xabi Alonso was inches away from breaking the deadlock with a fizzing drive from an angle going narrowly wide. The Reds, on top of the game so far, were to go in behind with a goal just before the break.
Alonso was guilty of a needless foul on Kaka just outside the box, and Milan's set piece specialist Andrea Pirlo stepped up. The ball went in, but more by luck than judgement, as the Italian's free kick deflected past the wrong-footed Reina by Filippo Inzaghi, who claimed a true poacher's goal of the sort than only he was capable of throughout his career.
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The Reds had come back from three down two years ago against seven of the 11 Milan players, so their current deficit was not disastrous. They continued to play well with Gerrard, rather than Pennant, their most threatening player once the second 45 minutes got back underway. He showed good skill to glide into the box on 61 minutes past Alessandro Nesta, but his composure let him down when in on goal as he shot tamely at Dida.
That Liverpool chance served as a wake-up call to Milan and they tightened up over the next 15 to 20 minutes, with their defence well protected by the holding pair of Gennaro Gattuso and Massimo Ambrosini. With the Gerrard chance Liverpool's last genuine effort, Milan doubled their lead with just 13 minutes left to play. Kaka threaded through Inzaghi for his second; the Milan striker had not done much at all yet had two Champions League final goals to his name.
A glimmer of hope of another comeback arrived with a minute of normal time left as Kuyt nodded in a flick-on from Daniel Agger, but it was not to be this time as Milan managed to gain their revenge over the Merseyside outfit. It was Milan's night and it was European Cup number seven.
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