AC Milan are through to their eleventh European Champion Clubs' Cup final after overturning a first-leg deficit against Manchester United FC with a memorable 3-0 win in the UEFA Champions League semi-final at San Siro.
First-half goals from Kaká and Clarence Seedorf, and Alberto Gilardino's 78th-minute strike were enough to end United's dreams of a second treble in eight years. Instead the Serie A giants completed their third semi-final success in the competition against their English visitors and set up a repeat of the 2005 UEFA Champions League decider against Liverpool FC in Athens on 23 May.
The torrential rain, thunder and lightning which had broken out shortly before kick-off made for a fittingly dramatic stage upon which two of Europe's most renowned sides were to contest the continent's most coveted prize. The Rossoneri wasted no time in taking to the conditions and Seedorf set his sights as early as the second minute, stepping inside his marker on the D before forcing Edwin van der Sar to tip his shot over the bar.
Milan, trailing 3-2 on aggregate, had made known their intent and they claimed the lead on ten minutes with a beautifully-worked goal. Seedorf showed exceptional vision to head Massimo Oddo's long ball back into the path of Kaká, and as he has done nine times already in the tournament this season, the Brazilian scored with an unstoppable low drive into the corner from 20 metres. United, now behind on away goals, needed to find a way through themselves and were almost gifted the chance when Alessandro Nesta misdirected a header to the feet of Ryan Giggs on 19 minutes, but the Welshman's low strike was clutched by Dida at the second attempt.
Andrea Pirlo and Seedorf were combining well in midfield and it was Milan's No10 who doubled the hosts' advantage on the half-hour after a defensive mix-up. Surprised by Gabriel Heinze's risky pass, Nemanja Vidić lost his footing in his own area and Pirlo dispossessed him before crossing from the right. Although United cleared the immediate danger, Seedorf controlled the loose ball, flicked it past Darren Fletcher and Vidić before firing a fantastic shot from the inside limit of the box. United appeared frozen as Milan surged upfield again, Oddo crossing five minutes before the break for Filippo Inzaghi to blaze wide.
Gennaro Gattuso then epitomised the dominance of Carlo Ancelotti's men with a crunching tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo, celebrated by a punch in the air. Kaká could have enhanced their supremacy early in the second half as he broke clear and cut inside Vidić yet Van der Sar saved. Requiring at least two goals for survival, the English Premiership leaders finally began to push forward, carving out their first noteworthy opportunity on 62 minutes when Wayne Rooney played in Fletcher only for the midfielder to blast wide from 12 metres.
Milan, though, were irresistible and, of the two teams, always looked the likelier to score on the counterattack. Substitute Gilardino, on for Inzaghi, did just that as he raced on to Massimo Ambrosini's measured throughball from deep before curling a shot around the advancing Van der Sar. Tempers flared late on as Gattuso and Ronaldo were booked for clashes with Paul Scholes and Seedorf respectively, but that will not matter to Milan as they eye a mouthwatering rematch with Liverpool.
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