Mad Milan: Comeback Victory From Italian Giants Shocks Europe

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Mad Milan: Comeback Victory From Italian Giants Shocks Europe
(Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Real Madrid 2-3 Milan

Goals: 19' Raul, 76' Drenthe; 62' Pirlo, 66' & 88' Pato

A stunning second half performance from AC Milan silenced the Bernabeu crowd in producing a performance and result that will make all the other big guns of Europe sit up and take notice.  A stunning strike from Andrea Pirlo and two fine finishes from Pato gave the rossoneri a victory that few before kick off had believed they could achieve.

This was finally meant to be the season that Milan's old stars were proven to be washed up.  Against a Real Madrid team that spent millions on bringing in Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema and Alonso, the old guard of Nesta, Seedorf, Pirlo and Ronaldinho were meant to be blown away by this vibrant attacking merengues side.  Surely a Milan side defeated at home by Zurich in the last round were going to be involved in a damage limitation exercise on their visit to Spain?

For a while it looked like that might be the case.  Real were full of positive intent at the start, although perhaps tellingly were not able to carve out a clear chance until Milan's backup keeper Dida had one of his "didasters" in goal on twenty minutes.  A harmless shot was hit straight at him by Granero, but as he tried to catch it, it bounced off his knee, spilling the ball to the feet of Raul who was never going to miss from 6 yards.

For the rest of the half, Milan looked slightly shocked to have gifted such a simple goal to their illustrious opponents, but once again, despite dominating possession, Real could not carve out more chances to extend their lead.

The second half started in much the same way, and Dida made up for his earlier error with a couple of great saves, including one from his ex-teammate Kaka.  However, Milan started to get their foot on the ball more and their midfield began to stamp its authority on the game, lead by the peerless Andrea Pirlo.  In many ways, he is the epitome of Milan; many critics think he is old, washed up, past it.  But when it comes to a big game, he steps up.  Just past the hour mark, he received the ball 35 yards out and unleashed a low, powerful shot that caught everyone, including Casillas in the Real Madrid goal, by surprise.  It was a strike that a game of this stature deserved and it seemed to awaken his teammates.

Suddenly, Milan visibily grew in confidence and Real fell back.  Four minutes later, Casillas had a rush of blood to the head as he came out to try and clear a ball.  He missed and Milan's young star Pato had an easy chance, which he put away with ease.

A period of frenzied Madrid attacking followed, and a clever corner ten minutes later saw Raul pick out Drenthe on the edge of the box.  The Milan defence rushed to close him down but his shot skimmed the ground and found the inside of the post beyond a diving Dida.  

The Dutchman's goal set up a frantic finish; Raul had a chance cleared off the line by Nesta (although the Spaniard was also flagged for offside so the goal would not have stood in any event), and five minutes from time a Milan corner was headed in by Thiago Silva.  The goal looked good, but was ruled out for a non-existent push.  The Milan players were incensed, but they didn't have to wait long for what they will see as justice.

Two minutes later, Seedorf calmly collected the ball on the edge of the Madrid box.  He waited patiently to pick his pass, Ronaldinho dummying a run to his left which allowed him to cross to his right where an unmarked Pato hit home a cool finish.

The goal was greeted with stunned silence by the majority of the Spanish crowd, but the Milan players celebrated a deserved victory.

It has been said before on numerous occasions, but each season it seems to be forgotten - write off this Milan side at your peril.  They may be old, but they have players who know how to win the games that matter.  In the Champions League, as they proved again tonight, it takes a brave man to bet against them.

Real Madrid: Casillas; Sergio Ramos; Pepe; Albiol; Marcelo; Diarra; Xabi Alonso; Kaka; Granero (67' Drenthe); Benzema; Raul.  Subs not used: Dudek; Arbeloa; Garay; M. Diarra; Van Der Vaart

Milan: Dida; Oddo; Nesta; Thiago Silva; Zambrotta; Ambrosini; Pirlo; Seedorf; Pato; Ronaldinho (91' Flamini); Inzaghi (60' Borriello).  Subs not used: Roma; Kaladze; Antonini; Jankulovski; Huntelaar)

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