By Graham Hunter at the Riazor
RC Deportivo La Coruña made history on Wednesday by becoming the first side to overcome a three-goal first-leg deficit in the UEFA Champions League as they defeated the holders AC Milan 4-0 to seal a staggering 5-4 aggregate victory.
Goals from Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valerón, Alberto Luque and Fran added to this week of Champions League shocks as Milan were overwhelmed by the Spanish club, who reached the semi-finals for the first time in spectacular fashion.
Deportivo had promised to go after the reigning champions like a hurricane from the first whistle and they were true to their word, although it was the visitors who had the first clear-cut chance. Jon Dahl Tomasson, starting in place of Filippo Inzaghi, might have settled the tie on four minutes but his gentle volley was parried by grateful goalkeeper José Molina.
Less than a minute later, the Primera División team's comeback was under way. Pandiani, the author of Deportivo's most famous European fightback when they recovered from 3-0 down to defeat Paris Saint-Germain FC 4-3 in 2001 thanks to the Uruguayan's hat-trick, swivelled on a left-wing cross, turned Paolo Maldini and shot through the Italian's legs to beat Dida. The strike signalled a total onslaught on the Milan goal and a deluge of chances for the irresistible Galicians.
Although he was not among the three first-half goalscorers, it was Víctor Sánchez who most tormented Carlo Ancelotti's side. Throughout the first 45 minutes he was simply brilliant, going close to scoring twice and creating a wonderful opportunity on 26 minutes. His clever one-two with the magnificent Valerón saw the playmaker take Víctor's return pass and force Dida to save brilliantly at his post.
Kaká came closest to stemming the one-way tide with a clear run at the Deportivo defence and a one-on-one chance with Molina. The keeper held his nerve and got to the Brazilian's effort quickly enough to send it spinning across goal for the defence to clear. But in general, the Serie A leaders looked sluggish in movement and thought - and unusually shaky in their defending.
Deportivo's second goal could not have been better timed, arriving ten minutes before half-time, just when Deportivo's pressure needed tangible reward in order to deny Milan a route back into the match. Luque's left-wing surge and cross soared over the mistimed lunge by Dida and Valerón, unmarked, scored a rare header to make it 2-0.
The Riazor was shaking with emotion and, incredibly, Milan seemed to shrink in the face of such aggressive opposition. Immediately before half-time Alessandro Nesta, who missed the first game with injury, also mistimed his approach to a loose ball in midfield. Luque pounced on the chance like a predator, ran 20 metres and drilled a clinical left-foot shot beyond Dida and into the top corner for his fourth goal in nine Champions League matches.
Milan's attitude changed totally in the second half and they could have taken control when Andrea Pirlo released Tomasson, who shot wide from a clear angle. But after Ancelotti brought on Serginho for Pirlo to go to a 4-3-1-2 formation, Fran effectively sealed Deportivo's comeback. The substitute, who had replaced the tiring Luque, added ignominy to the scoreline, while only changing the advantage from away goals to aggregate, by scoring the fourth with a vicious right-foot shot which skimmed off Cafu to beat Dida.