AC Milan unashamed by Liverpool loss
Victorious over Italian rival Juventus in 2003 to claim a title some didn't think it deserved, AC Milan wondered if fate had caught up with the club.
Squandering a 3-0 halftime lead, Milan allowed three goals in six minutes and eventually succumbed on penalties 3-2 to Liverpool on Wednesday, handing the title to the English.
``I think we played a good final,'' Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said. ``We lost when we deserved to win. Two years ago we won on penalties when maybe we deserved to lose.''
In the 2003 final, Milan played Juventus to a goalless draw before winning on penalties 3-2 in Manchester, England. This time it lost to Liverpool in the early hours of Thursday morning.
A goal after only 52 seconds by Paolo Maldini and two more by Hernan Crespo put Milan seemingly in control after 43 minutes.
But goals by Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso had tied the match by the 60th.
``What happened? It's unexplainable,'' Ancelotti said. ``It was a very strange game. We had six minutes of disorder and that complicated things.
``Compared to Manchester, I thought we covered more ground,'' the coach continued. ``Extra time was played virtually entirely in one end.''
Milan controlled extra time but were thwarted by Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, who prevented Milan from winning a seventh European Cup.
``I think we lost with honor,'' Ancelotti said.
Milan also lost this year's Italian league title, finishing second behind Juventus after a season-long battle.
Club owner Silvio Berlusconi said Ancelotti need not fear for his job.
``Poor guy. I'm not firing anyone,'' the Italian prime minister said upon exiting Ataturk Stadium.
Ancelotti made it sound as if the loss was only a slight stumbling block in Milan's march toward more success following the 2003 title and last season's Serie A ``scudetto'' with mostly the same group of players.
``We should be satisfied. We worked until the end in both competitions,'' Ancelotti said. ``The cycle has all the ingredients to continue.''
Before next season, Milan's main objectives will be to keep Crespo, who played on loan from Chelsea this season, and restore striker Filippo Inzaghi to top condition.
Over the past few months, the club re-signed several of its starters through 2009.
Inzaghi missed most of this season with various injuries. He was expected to sit on the bench against Liverpool but Ancelotti made a last-minute decision to keep him out completely in favor of an extra midfielder.
Milan may also attempt to rejuvenate its aging defense. Captain Paolo Maldini turns 37 next month. Cafu will be 35 by next season and Jaap Stam will be 33. Alessandro Nesta is the only starting defender still solidly in his prime at 29.