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Inzaghi makes the difference for Milan again
Simon Evans | April 05, 2006 16:49 IST
AC Milan's dramatic 3-1 Champions League quarter-final victory against Olympique Lyon on Tuesday was decided by the quality of finishing and Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti was full of praise for two-goal Filippo Inzaghi.
"Inzaghi has the experience for games like this -- he is always ready from the first until the last minute," said Ancelotti.
"We have the kind of quality in our attack that can pull something out for us even when things aren't going so well."
Thing certainly weren't going well for Milan on Tuesday -- in the 88th minute of the second-leg, Lyon were deservedly heading into the semi-finals with a 1-1 draw enough to take them through on away goals.
Then Milan's Andriy Shevchenko fired in a diagonal shot which was tipped against the far post, zipped across the goal line and hit the other post before ricocheting out.
For a moment it seemed luck had favoured Lyon but in a split-second the ball was in the net and a 79,000 home crowd was celebrating Inzaghi's instinctive poacher's goal.
"That ball seemed like it didn't want to go in," said Inzaghi, "It was lucky that it arrived in front of me after it came out off both posts. I just hit it with my right."
Perhaps it was good fortune that the ball fell straight to Inzaghi but the Milan striker has scored so many of his goals from close range that it is surely not a matter of chance that he was once again in the right place at the right time.
Nor was it an accident when Clarence Seedorf put in a cross from the left in the 25th minute that Inzaghi had lost his marker, found his way to the near post and was able to beat Lyon keeper Gregory Coupet with a perfect header to put the home side ahead.
Inzaghi has now scored 52 goals in all European competition -- with last night's double taking him past Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano in the all-time scoring charts.
Only two currently playing strikers are above him in those rankings -- Real Madrid forward Raul and Inzaghi's strike partner Shevchenko, whose injury time goal to make it 3-1 last night took his all-time European total to 56.
"Inzaghi is a great player as is Shevchenko," said Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani, "Without them we wouldn't be at the top in Europe. We are fortunate to have players like these."
Inzaghi's form this season, which includes scoring twice in Milan's 4-1 win over Bayern Munich in the previous round, is all the more impressive given his career was threatened by an 18-month injury lay off.
The sight of him back poaching in the area and making the life of his markers a nightmare, with his constant wriggling, turning and falling, has led to calls for Italy coach Marcello Lippi to hand the 32-year-old a chance before the World Cup finals.
Inzaghi has scored 21 goals in 48 international appearances but won his last cap in October 2003 when he scored twice in a 4-0 Euro 2004 qualifier against Azerbaijan.
The Milan striker has not been involved in the national team under Lippi, who took over in August 2004, but if his form continues it is hard to imagine the Italy coach ignoring him for much longer.
UEFA Champions League 2005-06: The Complete Coverage