Experience told as clinical AC Milan scored twice in the space of four first-half minutes to claim an impressive 4-2 aggregate victory over FC Bayern München, and a semi-final against Manchester United FC.
Daniel Van Buyten's late equaliser at San Siro had swung the initiative in Bayern's direction and the Bundesliga outfit started at the Fußball Arena München where they had left off. However, with more than 600 UEFA Champions League appearances between them, Milan were unfazed, kept their shape and then pounced midway through the opening period. Clarence Seedorf broke the deadlock on 27 minutes and Filippo Inzaghi quickly added a second. Bayern may have made a habit of comebacks this campaign but tonight's was a deficit too far.
The game had begun very differently as Bayern bossed the early stages. With Owen Hargreaves the ever-dependable defensive foil, Mark van Bommel was given freedom to roam and almost fashioned the breakthrough after seven minutes when his cross was turned goalwards at the far post by Christian Lell. With Dida beaten, Milan were grateful for Massimo Oddo's goalline clearance though it sparked a brief spell of frenetic pressure by the home team.
Roy Makaay scuffed a weak effort past the post before Lukas Podolski tested Dida with a powerful low strike, and the Bayern fans' pre-match confidence seemed well founded. They had kicked off by unfurling a giant banner proclaiming "Glänzende Aussichten" (Bright prospects) beneath a likeness of the Acropolis, a reference to May's final in Athens, and Milan were offering little to counter the argument as too often passes went astray.
By contrast, Bayern's midfield gleefully stroked the ball around as they made light of the absence of the injured Bastian Schweinsteiger. Yet all it took was for the German side to momentarily let their guard down and Milan were in. A mix-up between Lell and Podolski in the centre allowed the visitors to swiftly turn the ball to Seedorf, who wrong-footed Van Buyten and fired low past Oliver Kahn. Four minutes later Seedorf was the provider, adroitly flicking a pass through the middle into the path of Inzaghi who made it 2-0 with aplomb.
Bayern were reeling. They managed to steady the ship before half-time, however, and coach Ottmar Hitzfeld gave a glimpse of his intentions for the second period by bringing on attack-minded Roque Santa Cruz for Andreas Ottl. Yet when Gennaro Gattuso nipped the ball from Hasan Salihamidžić with a majestic challenge inside the penalty box two minutes after the restart, the suspicion that it was just not Bayern's night merely grew. Right-back Salihamidžić switched places with left midfielder Lell, and Claudio Pizarro soon entered the fray but Milan held firm.
Marshalled by the industrious Gattuso, Milan's midfield dropped deeper, enabling Van Bommel and Salihamidžić to pepper the goal with long shots. At the other end, Kahn stood up well to deny Kaká in a rare excursion from their own half by the Italian outfit, though it mattered not as the Rossoneri booked a date in Manchester on 24 April for the first leg of their semi-final.