FC Bayern München and AC Milan, two teams with ten European Champion Clubs' Cups between them, had last come face to face in 2002/03. That season AC Milan conquered the UEFA Champions League having won both first group stage encounters 2-1 to put Bayern out at an unaccustomedly early round.
Milan did not repeat that score as they drew 1-1 in the Fußball Arena München, which was only a sketch on an architect's blueprint when the previous games took place. But having ended Bayern's run of 15 victories in all competitive matches played at their new stadium, the Rossoneri can feel they hold the edge in this first knockout round tie. Since Milan have gone on to lift European trophies every time they have been drawn against Bayern, hopes will indeed be high for the return in a fortnight.
No Milan fan will need reminding that they clinched the trophy in Manchester three years ago with a penalty struck by Andriy Shevchenko. And on an occasion that seemed to be slipping away from them in Munich, it was the Ukrainian who again kept his nerve from the spot. Milan had been fortunate to be only one down at half-time, but were more comfortable after the break, and while the spot-kick came out of the blue from a handball by the otherwise assured Valérien Ismaël, the confidence of Shevchenko's finish was far more predictable.
Shevchenko's role in this match had been augmented by his inheritance of the captain's armband from Paolo Maldini, out with a knee injury. Not only did the forward relish his leadership role, dropping back into midfield to help out when things were going against Milan, but the visiting defence, reshuffled out of necessity in the absence of Maldini and Cafu, looked a unit as tight as any Rossoneri rearguard.
Alessandro Nesta was joined by Kakha Kaladze in the middle, and the quality of their performance was shown as Bayern strikers Roy Makaay and Claudio Pizarro were both withdrawn, neither their usual threatening selves. Serginho and Jaap Stam on the flanks also held their own while Australian Zeljko Kalac, given his UEFA Champions League debut in goal at the age of 33 when Dida left on a stretcher midway through the second half, ensured there were no late shocks for Milan.
Kalac was not the only goalkeeper to make his bow in this competition in Munich. The saga that had gripped the local media in recent days, Oliver Kahn's battle with a bruised thigh, was only resolved in the half-hour before kick-off when his name was replaced by Michael Rensing's on the team sheet.
The 21-year-old had always impressed before for Bayern, but this was a challenge of a different order. There was little he could do about the Shevchenko penalty but a save the German Under-21 international made from the Ukrainian in a one-on-one situation soon after could yet prove invaluable in this tie.
Kahn's armband passed to the man who already captains the Germany side, Michael Ballack, and like his fellow stand-in skipper was his team's goalscorer. It was a cracker, a 20-metre half-volley of such power that Dida's dive could only be described as fruitless. The Arena exploded in noise, the fans convinced a 16th straight win was in sight. That was not to be, but such notice of Ballack's brilliance ensures this may not be the new stadium's last glimpse of UEFA Champions League football this season.
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