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Milan edge through in Eindhoven

Wednesday, 4 May 2005

By Kevin Ashby at Philips stadium

[1] Two of Europe's most revered and decorated clubs will contest the 2005 UEFA Champions League final after AC Milan dramatically eliminated PSV Eindhoven on away goals to join Liverpool FC in the Istanbul showpiece.

Decisive Ambrosini

[2] Such has been the exceptional quality of Milan's defending throughout this campaign that they were not expected to relinquish their 2-0 first-leg lead. However, strikes in each half from Ji-Sung Park and Phillip Cocu saw the visitors do just that before an added-time strike from acting Rossoneri captain Massimo Ambrosini left PSV needing two more to advance. Cocu looped one of them over Dida but it was not to be, and Milan will now attempt to win a seventh crown on 25 May.

Cocu pain

[3] The elimination will be particularly painful for Cocu who twice suffered Champions League semi-final defeats with FC Barcelona in addition to failures with the Netherlands in the last four of both the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship. In contrast, Paolo Maldini - who was taken off at half-time after receiving a boot to the head - will lead Milan in his seventh European Champion Clubs' Cup final having most recently won the competition in 2003.

Ambrosini promoted

[4] PSV lined up as expected, with Theo Lucius replacing the suspended right-back André Ooijer and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink returning to spearhead the attack as DaMarcus Beasley recovers from a knee injury. Both impressed as second-half substitutes last week as the Dutch side tore through Milan at will, so Carlo Ancelotti bolstered his midfield by fielding Ambrosini, also restoring Alessandro Nesta in place of Kakha Kaladze.

Maldini injury

[5] Neither addition was able to repel the early waves of PSV attacks, as the Eredivisie champions continued where they had left off at the San Siro. As early as the fifth minute the Milan defence was again looking vulnerable, Peruvian winger Jefferson Farfán leaping above Jaap Stam to create a sight of goal for Vennegoor of Hesselink. The striker shaped for an overhead kick from six metres but could only connect with the head of Maldini.

Park goal

[6] As the Milan captain received treatment, Park made the breakthrough. The diminutive Korean raided smartly from midfield and slid the ball through to Vennegoor of Hesselink who held off Stam and turned the ball into the path of the on-rushing Park who in turn smashed a left-foot shot beyond Dida. It was the first goal the Brazilian had conceded since Matchday 4.

Energy and endeavour

[7] PSV's energy and endeavour was enthralling, with Park typifying their approach by dispossessing Andrea Pirlo on the centre spot in the 28th minute and releasing countryman Lee Young-Pyo on the left. Pirlo exacted revenge, leaving Mark van Bommel to curl in a free-kick which the lively Vennegoor of Hesselink headed against Dida's bar.

Kaladze on

[8] Kaladze replaced Maldini at half-time and was soon felling Farfán, who showed no ill effects to drill in a low cross which Van Bommel intelligently stepped over for Park, but the Korean somehow shot backwards via his shin. Still Milan showed no urgency, inviting PSV to push in the hope of leaving space for Andriy Shevchenko to exploit. It was a dangerous tactic as Wilfred Bouma and Cocu both threatened to restore parity.

Splendid tackle

[9] PSV did just that in the 65th minute. Vennegoor of Hesselink showed skill and strength in midfield before poking the ball to Lee who galloped to the by-line and whipped in a cross that Cocu headed in after eluding Kaladze. Ancelotti responded by introducing the scorer of the second goal in Milan, Jon Dahl Tomasson, while Bouma made way for Robert.

Magical moment

[10] The latter had stroked in the winning penalty against Olympique Lyonnais in the previous round and he nearly enjoyed another magical moment in the 77th minute, outfoxing Cafu and forcing a low save out of Dida with a fizzing drive.

Ambrosini clincher

[11] The players seemed to be preserving their energy for an extra 30 minutes, but that proved unnecessary as Ambrosini was left unmarked in front of goal a minute into added time to glance Kaká's cross beyond Heurelho Gomes and end the home team's hopes. Although Cocu scored again almost immediately with a fine volley, time was against the Dutch champions and Milan survived a frantic last few seconds to book their trip to Turkey.

Massimo Ambrosini celebrates scoring Milan's crucial away goal