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The British press are reflecting on a night of broken dreams after Liverpool FC failed to produce a second UEFA Champions League final miracle against AC Milan.
Rafael Benítez's men went into last night's Athens showdown as underdogs, yet their heroics in Istanbul in 2005 - the Reds recovering a 3-0 half-time deficit to draw level and win on penalties - had led some to believe they were invincible. However, despite a late rally, Liverpool's eventual 2-1 defeat has shown that faith to be misplaced.
'No way back'
The Mirror wrote: "In recent years, we have grown blasé about English teams producing absurd last-gasp comebacks like Manchester United [FC]'s in Barcelona and Liverpool's in Turkey. When Dirk Kuyt pulled a goal back one minute from the end, it seemed confirmation that another great escape was on the way. But this time there was no way back."
Filippo Inzaghi's opener, a deflection from a free-kick, left most papers pondering on the cruelty of the fates - or the fact Liverpool were due a bit of bad luck after their triumph two seasons ago. The Sun summed it up with a classical allusion: "The gods, who have made such a name for themselves in Athens, decided the score had to be evened." The consensus in the morning editions, though, was that the Merseysiders had nothing to be ashamed of. "There was no disgrace in defeat," wrote the Sun, with the Mirror equally generous. "Even if Liverpool fell short, it was not for want of effort. Liverpool did everything Benítez had asked of them - except the most vital task of all."
Not a classic
Broadsheet newspaper the Guardian added: "No one would claim this was one of the great European [Champion Clubs'] Cup finals. The side that finished third in the Premiership was beaten by the side that are fourth in Serie A, and quite often it showed. But for [Paolo] Maldini and Inzaghi, and for what they have given to the game, even the harshest judge would have to make an exception." Meanwhile, the Mail chose the moment of Liverpool's loss to underline the club's inability to compete with the best in the Premier League. "Liverpool have had the excuse that they overachieve in Europe to compensate for their deficiencies back home ripped away," it wrote. "This time the Premiership's European royalty hit the deck and stayed there."
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