RC Deportivo La Coruña players were united in applauding the "ruthless" nature of AC Milan's victory.
By Graham Hunter in Milan
RC Deportivo La Coruña players were united in graciously applauding the "ruthless" nature of AC Milan's brilliant 4-1 UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg victory, which put Carlo Ancelotti's side within touching distance of the last four. The holders have now scored eight goals in their last two Champions League outings and their form at the San Siro is imperious.
According to the Deportivo goalkeeper José Molina, the key to Milan's victory was a startling three-goal burst in the seven minutes immediately after half-time which ended the match as a contest. "Milan are a great team and they gave evidence of that tonight," said the shot-stopper. "At the start of the second half they had three chances and scored all of them. There is no doubt that if there is a goal then errors must proceed it, but you cannot dispute the ruthless way in which they took advantage of every mistake."
Although team-mate Alberto Luque was angry at Deportivo's ability to self-destruct, he too admired the Italian side's devastating form. "It was a bad time to lose both the equaliser, just before half-time, and then the second goal," the striker said. "As far as I'm concerned, losing three goals in seven minutes meant that we threw away our chances in this tie. We had a great result in the 1-1 scoreline and still some hope at 3-1, but 4-1 is too much against this team."
Deportivo had played an intelligent, disciplined game for almost all of the first half and took the lead through Walter Pandiani - but Kaká levelled the scores just before the break and the Rossoneri were soon at their mesmerising best. "The key was that we went so quickly from 1-1 to 3-1," said Milan midfield player Clarence Seedorf. "Deportivo were very well prepared for this game and imposed their style on us for long enough. But they made one or two errors after half-time and Andriy Shevchenko pounced on them. Once it was 3-1 the game was won."
It was the Ukrainian, with his third in two Champions League games, who put Milan ahead and after Kaká and then Andrea Pirlo, with a brilliant free-kick, had put the match out of Depor's reach there was little left to argue about. Paolo Maldini said: "It was a bit of a shock to go behind but we always stay calm because it has happened several times this season. We know how to come from behind and win."
However, Irureta lamented the fact that his team took nothing more from the game having gamely tried to create some chances to add to Pandiani's eleventh-minute goal. "Scoring a goal was our aim but I never thought Milan could put four past us," said the Spanish side's coach, who watched Pandiani spurn two second-half headers. "We could have scored a second goal and at 4-2 our chances of progressing would have greatly improved."
Ancelotti was delighted with the rush of goals at the start of the second half. "At half-time I told them to press Deportivo's ball possession much more," he revealed. "Neverthless, it was incredible to score three so quickly. This gives us a firm advantage but we have to go to Spain and play football as we did tonight. Conceding a goal came from our own mistake but we never lost our composure, that was key."