Two goals in the last three minutes gave AC Milan victory against a valiant Fenerbahçe SK side. Brazilian playmaker Kaká's stunning strike three minutes from time shattered the Turkish champions' resistance before Andriy Shevchenko added a clinching third goal.
The Giuseppe Meazza stadium crowd seemed resigned to a 1-1 draw until Kaká picked the ball up on the halfway line. He proceeded to slalom his way past three tacklers before coolly firing past Volkan Demirel.
The match had been billed as a test of Milan's mental strength as they sought to bounce back from last season's final defeat. Their most pressing concern, though, was the absence of defender Jaap Stam, ruled out with a muscle strain, so coach Carlo Ancelotti opted for Alessandro Nesta and captain Paolo Maldini as centre-backs. At the other end, Christian Vieri was preferred alongside Shevchenko in place of Alberto Gilardino.
Christoph Daum's team, meanwhile, looked to striker Nicolas Anelka and playmaker Alex to dictate the pace against the Italians. The attacking approach paid off as the visitors looked the livelier side early on, with Tuncay Şanli constantly finding space up front.
However, Milan had the first sight of goal when Andrea Pirlo's lofted pass set up Vieri but the veteran misjudged the bounce and the ball landed safely in the arms of a grateful Volkan. Five minutes later Cafu whipped in a smart cross for Shevchenko that the Ukrainian headed just wide.
That jolted Fenerbahçe into action and former Juventus FC midfielder Steven Appiah and Tuncay almost combined to put Anelka through but the Frenchman got squeezed out in front of Dida's goal. But just as the San Siro faithful were having doubts about the psychological state of their team, a splendid Kaká effort gave the hosts a 19th-minute lead. The 23-year-old pounced after the ever-inventive Pirlo back-heeled a pass and, with one touch, Kaká swivelled to his right and arrowed a low drive into the bottom corner.
Determined not to let Milan extend their advantage, Fenerbahçe started the second half more positively. Anelka's pace began to expose Maldini and the visitors nearly exploited Milan's lack of speed at the back when Alex released the forward with a magnificent through-ball. Anelka sprinted past Maldini and Nesta and should have restored parity but was let down by a wayward shot.
Milan hit back
Milan regrouped quickly and Cafu's offensive instincts provided another opportunity after 57 minutes. He intercepted in midfield and found Shevchenko in the box. The striker lost his marker and found room to unload a powerful drive but deflected off a defender and Volkan palmed it away for a corner.
Alex on the spot
With Appiah withdrawn and replaced by Kemal Aslan, Anelka remained the focus for Fenerbahçe's attacking forays. His efforts finally paid dividends when he dribbled his way into the area and was upended by Gennaro Gattuso. Referee Mike Riley whistled for a penalty and a composed Alex sent his compatriot Dida the wrong way with a shot into the left corner.
But it was another brilliant Brazilian, Kaká, officially the best midfielder in last season's competition, who stole the show with his sublime solo strike on 87 minutes. Shevchenko's simple finish then confirmed Milan's winning start as the 2004/05 runners-up showed that they too can triumph in the dramatic conclusion of a match.
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