Milan's road to Athens!

After one crazy season, Milan have made it to the 2007 Champions League Final in Athens on May 23rd. For the many people that follow Milan, many wouldn't have thought reaching the Champions league would be possible for Milan this season. After disappointing games in the league, a string of injuries, and low confidence, Milan were certainly not looking like their vintage selves that the fans knew. But somehow Milan managed to turn the bad luck into good, and qualify for the Champions League Final, their 3rd in five years.

I take an in depth look at how Milan paved their road to Athens:

After the calciopoli scandal, Milan were first not allowed to compete in the Champions League. But once Milan had appealed for their 15-point penalty to be reduced they were allowed to enter into the Champions League through the preliminary stages.

8 August 2006: Milan 1-0 Red Star Belgrade
Milan drew Red Star Belgrade for the preliminary stages, and on August the 8th 2006 Milan were back on the field after a crazy summer, playing their way into the Champions League group stages. The first game ended 1-0 in favour of the rossoneri with Pippo Inzaghi scoring the only goal to make his 33rd birthday even more spectacular.

23 August 2006: Red Star Belgrade 1-2 Milan
On August the 23rd Milan travelled to the home of Red Start Belgrade, and managed to win 2-1 on the night, Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi again hitting the back of the net. Milan won 3-1 on aggregate sending them through into the group stages of the Champions League.

24 August 2006: Group Stage Draw
After Milan had qualified for the group stages, the next day UEFA took to Monaco to do the presentation for the Champions League Group stages. Milan's looked like this:

Champions League -Group H
AC Milan (ITA)
LOSC Lille Métropole (FRA)
AEK Athens FC (GRE)
RSC Anderlecht (BEL)

Some could say Milan landed up in the easiest group of the lot. But luck was certainly on their side, as their drop in form later on into the season, might have seen them not qualify for the knockout rounds if they had faced a stronger opposition.

13 September 2006: Milan 3-0 AEK Athens
Milan's first game of the Champions League, and it couldn't have turned out better. Coach Carlo Ancelotti opted for a weaker line-up but they managed to do the job perfectly winning 3-0. With Pippo Inzaghi opening up the scoring, followed by Yoann Gourcuff who made his debut for Milan. In addition, Kaka finished it off with a goal from the penalty spot. A satisfying result and Milan head to the top of the group.
Man of the match: Kaka

26 September 2006: Lille 0-0 Milan
Milan traveled to France, and an unfortunate injury suffered to Yoann Gourcuff ruled him out of playing for a month. The game ended in a stale mate, as a perfect Clarence Seedorf goal was ruled offside. The match was nevertheless, an entertaining one. And Milan still remain top of the group, as AEK and Anderlect draw 1-1.
Man of the Match: Kaka

17 October 2006: Anderlect 0-1 Milan
Milan came into the game on the brink of their crisis, as they hadn't won in 5 games in all competitions. The game was tight, and it all looked to be going Anderlects way when Daniele Bonera got booked for the second time in the game to be red carded. Nevertheless, Kaka proved once again that when times of low all you need is one moment of brilliance to lift the spirits. And he did it in fine style, striking a sublime strike to see it go into the back of the net for the game to end 1-0 to Milan.
Man of the Match: Kaka

1 November 2006: Milan 4-1 Anderlect
Milan took the game to the Belgians and found them selves 1-0 ahead when Gilardino was fouled in the penalty area and all was left or Kaka, to put it into the back of the net. That spurred on the rossoneri some more as they went into the break 2-0 up from another Kaka goal. After the break Kaka proved once again why he is one of the best in the world as he scores a magnificent 3rd to rap up a well deserved hatric. Anderlect did manage to get a consolation goal through Juhász, before Gilardino rubbed salt in the wounds to score his 1st Champions League goal. Man of the match: Kaka

21 November 2006: AEK Athens 1-0 Milan
Milan came into the game in the middle of their crisis and needed a win to make sure of qualifying without worrying about what happened in the other games, and more over they needed the win for a confidence boost. AEK had previously never won in 22 Champions League games, but managed to take the lead, causing huge problems for Milan’s confidence. Milan again suffered a huge blow as they lost Dida to a knee injury, as he joined the growing injury list of Nesta, Gattuso and Serginho. However, they did take satisfaction out of the fact that they were guaranteed a Champions League spot in the knockout round, due to Lille and Anderlect drawing 2-2. Man of the Match: Sorrentino

6 December 2006: Milan 0-2 Lille
Milan's worst run in many years continues as their 2-0 loss to Lille proved it. The players came on knowing that they didn't need to win, but a win could have done wonders for their confidence. Odemwingie opened the scoring 7 minutes in only to start a night of horror for Milan. Kieta later added a second to kill off Milan, and for Lille to book their place into the round of the last 16. Man of the match: Odemwingie

16 December 2006: UEFA Draw for Knockout round
Milan drew Celtic in the round of the last 16 as they manage to avoid Barcelona and Real Madrid. The results of the draw were as follows:

Champions League: -First Knockout round
FC Porto (POR) v Chelsea FC (ENG)
Celtic FC (SCO) v AC Milan (ITA)
PSV Eindhoven (NED) v Arsenal FC (ENG)
LOSC Lille Métropole (FRA) v Manchester United FC (ENG)
AS Roma (ITA) v Olympique Lyonnais (FRA)
FC Barcelona v Liverpool FC (ENG)
Real Madrid CF (ESP) v FC Bayern München (GER)
FC Internazionale Milano (ITA) v Valencia CF (ESP)

20 February 2007: Celtic 0-0 Milan
Milan do just enough to secure a sound result to take home to the San Siro, and finish the game there. Boruc in goal for Celtic had a solid game, pulling off one or two impressive saves.
Man of the match: Kaka

7 March 2007: Milan 1-0 Celtic
Celtic kept the game tight and looked content to send the game to penalties. Normal time ended with the game ending 0-0. But once again, a magic moment by Kaka saw Milan grab the lead one-minute into extra time. Kaka got hold of the ball in his own half and shrugged off all the defenders to place the ball past Boruc. A classic match winner goal, to see Milan through to the quarter finals to meet Bayern Munich.
Man of the Match: Kaka

3 April 2007: Milan 2-2 Bayern Munich
After last year's thrashing of Bayern Munich Milan were confident going into the game. Milan started well controlling the game to their own tempo, and soon found the opener through an unlikely Andrea Pirlo header. Gilardino later found an opening and placed the ball into the back of net only for it to be called offside, Gila got booked and would therefore miss the next game in Germany. Van Buyten later found the back of the net 12 minutes from time to give Milan some trouble.However, Milan made a quick reply through Kaka who won a penalty, and slotted it back home,to put Milan into the lead once again. After a few minutes of chaos Milan couldn't hold their nerve and conceded 6 seconds from time to another Van Buyten goal. All was left was for Milan to win in Germany
Man of the match: Van Buyten.

11 April 2007: Bayern Munich 0-2 Milan
Milan came into the game knowing exactly what had to be done, and they did it in fine fashion. They controlled the game from the start which saw Clarence Seedorf grab the first goal with a sublime strike. And four minutes later Seedorf supplied a neat back heel to Pippo Inzaghi who placed the ball at the back of the net. Milan won 4-2 on aggregate sending them to join Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United in the semi-finals, leaving them the only non-English team left in the final.
Man of the match: Clarence Seedorf

2 April 2007: Manchester United 3-2 Milan
Manchster United came into game as favourites after their 7-1 thrashing of Roma, but they were also facing an injury crisis in defence. Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to make a make shift defence against Kaka and co. But Manchester United proved that offence is the best way of defence as Ronaldo found the back of the net 5 minutes into the game. However, that wasn't to stop the brazil-iant kaka as he latched onto a Seedorf pass to slot it past Van Der Sar. 15 minutes later Kaka kept a cool head as Manchester United’s defence had a miss understanding, and he slotted home another precious away goal for Milan, and more important a lead. But the story wasn't going to end, as Manchester United have the strongest attack in the premiership and they proved that again, as Rooney caught on to a clever little flick to beat Dida once again. Giggs caught onto a careless Brocchi misplaced pass, and passed to Rooney who scored in the last minute to give Man Utd the lead for the second leg of the semi-final tie.
Man of the match: Rooney

2 May 2007: Milan 3-0 Manchester United
Milan found themselves in a similar situation like they did with Bayern Munich, and they knew what had to be done, as it meant the final, and a possibility to revenge their loss in Istanbul to Liverpool. Milan started the game attacking, unlike the traditional Italian style, and started to find space from the begining. It wasn’t too long when Milan found themselves in the lead from a Clarence Seedorf goal, and later Kaka added to the joy of the rossoneri bringing them 2-0 up. Man Utd looked out of sought and Milan never looked like they were going to give up just yet, and they didn't! Subistute Alberto Gilardino latched onto a through ball from Ambrosini to bend it around the advancing Van Der Sar, to net his second Champions League goal, and for Milan to progress to the final in a repeat of the 2005 in Istanbul. Man of the match: Gattuso

Now all is left is for Milan to leave their footprints in the road, as they take on Liverpool and will we will hopefully see Milan lift the trophy once again. The road for Milan hasn't been a steady one, but that wouldn't make it that extra bit special if it wasn't for the pot holes and steep hills. FORZA MILAN!


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