Inzaghi's goals propel AC Milan to glory

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Filippo Inzaghi scored two goals in AC Milan's 2-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final at Athens on Wednesday night.

Updated: May 26, 2007 16:40 IST
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Athens, Greece:

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi did a lap of honor before the Champions League final against Liverpool.

Maybe he knew what was coming.

Italy's former Premier got his hands on the famous trophy again on Wednesday after Filippo Inzaghi scored two goals in a 2-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final.

It was Milan's seventh European Cup in the 52-year history of the continent's most prestigious soccer competition, and its third appearance in the final in five years.

Flanked by security staff and surrounded by photographers and TV cameramen, Berlusconi walked in front of the Milan fans before the kickoff at the Olympic Stadium and then watched the players' warm up.

The match was a repeat meeting of the 2005 final, when Milan tossed away a 3-0 halftime lead to lose to Liverpool on penalties after a 3-3 draw that become one of the greatest finals in the competition's history.

This time, Milan needed a chunk of good fortune to get started.

Inzaghi accidentally deflected in a free kick by Andrea Pirlo in the final minute of the first half. But he ended a well-worked move to take Kaka's pass and run clear to shoot past Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina in the 82nd.

"The first goal is a scheme that the coach designed," Inzaghi said. "Sure, you need a little luck, but Pirlo is great at hitting me. The first goal opened up the game, but the second was certainly more beautiful."

Although Dirk Kuyt's header pulled Liverpool within a goal with a minute to go, this time there would be no extra time and no penalty shootout.

"It's the fifth victory for me, and still very beautiful," said captain Paolo Maldini, who captured his fifth winners' medal in the competition and shows no sign of giving up a month before of his 39th birthday.

"Finishing with this trophy would be nice, but I want to play in the Supercup, and another Serie A championship. Then there is the Intercontinental Cup. And then I want to try to win the Champions League again next year. It'd be fantastic."

Kaka's magic

Inzaghi's second goal was set up by Kaka, who wound up as this season's leading scorer with 10 goals.

"It is very nice to win the Champions League," the Brazilian said. "I'm very happy because in 2005 we lost. What happened in 2005 was strange. For just six minutes we played not so good and paid for that, and today we could do what we want."

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti now has two winners' medals as a coach to go with the ones he won as a Milan player in 1989 and '90.

"This joy has to be shared with all those close to the club, all those who have sustained us, and all the fans," Ancelotti said. "It was a very difficult game, much like our season. We started slowly but grew in confidence as the game went on.

"(The game) wasn't spectacular, but Liverpool is a team that can stop you playing."

Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso said the team was finally over its loss in Istanbul.

"The defeat two years ago will stay me for a lifetime," he said. "But this is a different story. It's our turn to celebrate now."

Milan close in on Madrid

Milan moved within two of Real Madrid's record of nine European Cup triumphs while Liverpool stays with five.

Maldini, who scored a rare goal in the opening minute in Istanbul, made a mark as soon as the game in Athens kicked off. He made his eighth appearance in the competition's final, tying the mark Gento set in 1966.

This time, Milan scored in the final minute of the half rather than the first.

Kaka went down under a challenge from Xabi Alonso outside the Liverpool area and Pirlo's free kick brushed Inzaghi and deflected past Reina.

"I thought we started well," Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said. "We were in control just how we like to be, but when you do that you've got to score. They got the first goal, with a bit of luck, but it was a big lift for them."

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, who also led Valencia to the UEFA Cup title in 2004 before moving to Anfield, said his team was unlucky to concede Inzaghi's deflected goal.

"We lost against a good team with top-class players," Benitez said. "The first half we played really well, but conceded a goal, a deflection, through bad luck."

Gerrard had a chance to equalise in the 61st when Gattuso gave the ball away 25 meters from his own goal and the Liverpool captain ran clear. He didn't get any power on his shot, however, and Dida raced off his line to make a blocking save.

Gerrard's failure to score reflected his lack of influence on the game. Usually adept at surging through from deep positions, he had been told to support Kuyt and the plan clearly didn't work.

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