Champions’ League quarter-finals: second leg (Deportivo through, AC Milan out)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
April 7th, 2004 • 7:20 am

Talk about major upsets! After the demise of Arsenal and Real Madrid yesterday, it was the turn of AC Milan today. Before this game, they looked like the odds-on favourites to win the trophy for the second consecutive year. After all, they had beaten Deportivo comprehensively and convincingly in the first leg (4-1 in Italy), and the other two top favourites, Real Madrid and Arsenal, were out. In addition, Deportivo had been humiliated 3-8 by Monaco earlier in the tournament, and are nowhere near the top of the Spanish league at the moment (third spot, 10 points behind the leaders Real Madrid).

In other words, Deportivo needed a miracle. And they got one! When I tuned in, they were already 3-0 up, and, like Arsenal yesterday (and probably Real Madrid as well), AC Milan looked “deflated”, as they say. The Italians had a couple more chances, including a bad miss by their striker Inzaghi — but the night was Deportivo’s, and they added a fourth goal (ultimately not necessary, because of the away goal rule), meaning that Milan would only have been on level terms if they had managed to score one. But they didn’t, and they are out. Amazing.

Here again, the performance of the goalkeeper was crucial, with Deportivo’s Molina making a crucial save 10 minutes from time. But how Deportivo managed to put four goals past Milan is beyond me. Italian teams such as AC Milan are supposed to be super-tight defensively.

After this and the Real Madrid elimination yesterday, Arsenal’s defeat doesn’t look so bad! At least they weren’t trounced by Chelsea…

Ultimately, however, all these upsets can only be good for the game. They bringing some much needed passion back into the competition. Last year’s final between AC Milan and Juventus was a revoltingly boring affair, and I for one am glad that no Italian teams are left in the competition. I am not sure I am too excited by the FC Porto comedians getting through, but hopefully Deportivo can teach them a lesson or two.

Of course, the favourites to win the tournament now are probably the Chelsea millionaires, but the Monaco players will surely be very motivated by the fact that they have made it that far. (Don’t forget that their club was on the brink of bankruptcy and forced relegation to the French 2nd division not long ago.) They have many exciting players, including the lively Giuly and the deadly Prso, and Nonda, their top scorer last year, is back from a long injury with a vengeance. They have absolutely nothing to lose, whereas Abramovitch and Ranieri certainly have tons.

As for Arsenal, they now need to pick up the pieces and focus on winning the league. The next two games are important, but neither Liverpool nor Newcastle have been all that impressive this season. And Chelsea won’t have an easy ride in the last 7 games either, especially with a trip to Old Trafford for the second-last game.

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