AC Milan playmaker Kaká may not always be mentioned in the same breath as modern Brazilian greats Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Roberto Carlos, but in scoring a stunning goal to help his side to a 3-1 win against Fenerbahçe SK last night, he reminded the world that his talents cannot be ignored.
With the losing 2004/05 UEFA Champions League finalists drawing 1-1 against their Turkish visitors after an Alex penalty had cancelled out Kaká's 18th-minute opener, the 23-year-old waltzed through a tiring Fenerbahçe defence with three minutes remaining to register a terrific - and decisive - goal for Carlo Ancelotti's team
Immediately, football supporters' minds drifted back to the 1986 FIFA World Cup when Diego Maradona struck with similar panache against England. Kaká was pleased with the comparison. "They said my goal was almost like the one Maradona scored and I am very happy with the comparison," he said. "He was a great player who made history and I hope to do the same with Milan."
However, despite the extra attention, it was the result that was paramount for the Brazilian. "For me, the most important thing was that we won the game," he said. "We still lack some concentration but we have just started and can only improve. It was very important to start our Champions League season with a win. On a personal level, I feel I am continuing to improve and that I have an important role in the team."
European Footballer of the Year for 2004 Andriy Shevchenko completed the victory with a third goal for Milan in the 89th minute to open his seasonal account. Yet the Ukrainian was not altogether convinced by his side's display. "We should have killed the game earlier but we wasted a few good opportunities," he said. "We were a bit tired in the second half but we really wanted to start with a win and pushed forward until the final whistle."
Following the trauma of losing last season's final after leading 3-0 at half-time, it was important that Milan got back to normality in Europe as soon as possible. Now Shevchenko hopes the memories of the Istanbul defeat will not cast a shadow over Milan's latest assault on the continent's top club prize. "It is impossible to forget last season's final but we just have to focus on the present," he said. "The final against Liverpool [FC] is history - we have to focus on this new campaign."
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