Inzaghi scores twice to defeat Liverpool
Italian striker Filippo Inzaghi scored two goals in the Champions League final to ensure that AC Milan, not Liverpool, was crowned European Champions. Whilst I thought Liverpool performed quite well – especially in the first half – it was Milan’s defensive resilience that saw them through a tough encounter with the side that had overcome them in the final two years earlier. Many Liverpool supporters will no doubt feel hard done by with the manner in which their team conceded the first goal but Milan deserved the win based on their tactically astute – if not technically brilliant – performance.
To put the first goal that Inzaghi scored down as a fluke would be harsh on a player who thrives on situations like the one presented by Pirlo’s free-kick. The Milan striker’s run across the goalkeeper saw the ball deflect in off his chest but to be fair to Inzaghi – he was in the right place at the right time, just as he was late in the second half when slotting home in a typically sneaky manner. I had predicted that the game had the potential to be dominated by Kaka but this proved to be incorrect – Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso did well to keep Kaka’s influence nullified. But despite being marked tightly, Kaka’s class told as he won the free-kick that lead to the first goal and provided the pass for Inzaghi to turn in and seal the match.
Ancelotti’s faith in Inzaghi
At half-time I expected Carlo Ancelotti to replace Inzaghi – despite his goal – with Alberto Gilardino in an attempt to take some stress of his side’s defensive players. The Milan defence were consistently caught out trying to pass their way out of trouble and this was leading to a multitude of mistakes and a consistent application of pressure by Liverpool’s attack. I though that bringing on Gilardino – a frontman who would come forward to receive the ball, rather than consistently moving away as Inzaghi had – would take pressure of the Milan defence by providing a target as well as bringing Kaka into the game. But Carlo Ancelotti stuck with his tactics, the Milan defence improved their technical performance, and Inzaghi killed off the game.
Full credit to Milan for their win and condolences with Liverpool after an encouraging performance. In the end it was their lack of firepower to create and finish some clear cut chances while Liverpool were dominating in the first half that proved their undoing. No doubt Rafa Benitez will be looking for a world-class striker in the summer to lead the line more effectively next season.
New deals for Adebayor and Bendtner
In Arsenal-related news, both Emmanuel Adebayor and Niklas Bendtner have signed new long-term deals to stay with the club. I am a big fan of Adebayor and see this as great news for the club. He has shown himself to be committed and passionate about the club and has been one of Arsenal’s better performers this season despite his tendency to be a little wasteful in front of goal. As for Bendtner, he returns from a loan spell at Birmingham with some rave reviews and is confident of his ability to make progress in the Arsenal first team.
“There were no other clubs that were interesting for me. I know I have the right qualities, or will be able to develop them [at Arsenal]. I truly believe that I can break through on that level, and I have had meetings with [Arsenal] where they have told me that I figure in their plans for the future.”
I personally have not seen much of Bendtner in his time at Birmingham but there is a feeling around the club that the 19-year-old is the type of forward that Arsenal have lacked in the past few years; tall, strong and with a poacher’s instinct for goals, as illustrated in his first goal for Denmark against Poland (above). It will be interesting to monitor Bendtner’s progress next season but as a fully-capped Danish international there is little doubt that he has the raw ability to have an impact at the club.