I was in the paper! 2006-2007 Champions League Final on the Drive [Milan – Liverpool]

Abruzzo - June 2006. Courtesy of marc_l'esperance on Flickr.In the spirit of savouring what might be the last week of being unencumbered by work, I headed to Commercial Drive (that’s a cool neighborhood here in Vancouver) recently to watch some football, or soccer if you will.

The match was the big final of this Champions League season, with Liverpool FC again taking on AC Milan, as they had done only two years prior in Istanbul. This year, the game was played in Athens’ cool new Olympic Stadium and Milan was hoping to regain some cool points by making up for losing that last game despite being up 3-0. I was wearing my Milan jerseys one over top of the other, hoping for some of the same.

I chose Abruzzo Cappuccino Bar (1321 Commercial Drive) since it has the best atmosphere and always gets packed for big events in the football world. It did not disappoint – pretty much standing room only by the time the whistle blew for the start of the match. Other Rossoneri (Milan) fans were clearly on hand + a handful of Scousers. After nervously gobbling down some espresso and chinotto, I finally scored a seat at halftime as Milan went up 1-0 thanks to a lucky deflected free kick. Fillipo Inzaghi’s second goal for Milan was more skillful and seemed set to seal Liverpool’s fate. Of course, the game got its necessary dose of theatrics when Liverpool’s Kuyt pulled off a late header to bring the score within one. It was a nail-biter, but Milan thankfully came out on top.

Here are some thoughts I’d had during the game:

  • I thought it very strange that Rafael Benitez (Liverpool’s manager) chose to field Jermaine Pennant and keep some of his offensive firepower safely mothballed on the bench. None of Peter Crouch, Craig Bellamy, or Robbie Fowler were brought on until only 15 minutes remained. By then, Crouch had little chance to contribute to any sort of meaningful comeback.
  • Even stranger were Milan’s defensive tactics. The above-mentioned Jermaine Pennant had the run of what seemed like half the field, with nobody bothering to defend him. Milan’s Czech defender Jankulovski probably should have stayed on the bench or at least replaced by more experienced Kaladze or Cafu earlier than he was.
  • Milan did not seem to want the trophy until quite late in the game and were lucky to come out on top. They were clearly outshot and outrun by Liverpool, who were unfortunate not to get many bounces their way.
  • The game was played fairly cleanly and professionall, with very little overt diving and dirty physical tricks.

And some hypothetical “what-if”s:

  • I have to wonder whether, if Milan still had the services of Jon Dahl Tomasson, Rui Costa, Hernan Crespo and Andriy Shevchenko (all gone since these teams last met in 2005), Liverpool would not have been buried much earlier on. Of course, the English club also no longer have Milan Baros and Djibril Cisse. Looking forward to next year, having the Brazilian Ronaldo back from injuries and [just maybe] Sheva back might put Milan clearly back on top as the odds-on Champions League favourite. Shevchenko is currently being speculated about as contemplating a return from Chelsea to AC Milan, where he had been far more successful. Interestingly, Milan stand to gain GBP 18 million on such a transaction – the rumoured price for him is 12 million, whereas Chelsea paid an amazing 30 million to secure him.
  • If Jerzy Dudek was still Liverpool’s starting goalkeeper, he might have made the same astounding Oliver Kahn -like saves that gave them the trophy two years ago. He has been playing high-level football for over 10 years, whereas the younger Reina has far less experience in such important matches.

One of the coolest moments of the afternoon was the presence of a photographer on assignment from The Province (a big daily newspaper in Vancouver). He tried to capture the important moments of the game and the fans’ reactions. [UPDATE: I ended up in the sports section of The Province newspaper the next day – see my scan of the page above; you can also click through to a larger version].

There was also a fan there who was blind – he was intently listening to the game and asked me something to clarify the second goal. It’s only too bad that the TSN/ESPN commentary he got here in these Northern climes is quite weak. We could really use Sky Sports or ITV here.

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[Newspaper photo credit: Vancouver Province, taken by Jason Payne]
[Headline photo credit: Courtesy of marc_l’esperance on flickr]

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~ by dubesor on June 2, 2007.

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