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Hero spurred by 'special' Milan

Filippo Inzaghi was delighted to repay the trust of his coach Carlo Ancelotti after he scored twice to fire AC Milan to UEFA Champions League glory once again.

Filippo Inzaghi was delighted to repay the trust of his coach Carlo Ancelotti after scoring twice to fire AC Milan to victory against Liverpool FC and UEFA Champions League glory yet again.

Call for Gilardino
Aged 33 and supposedly slowing down, Inzaghi had to listen to Milan president Silvio Berlusconi suggesting Alberto Gilardino should be the man to sit atop the Rossoneri's 4-3-2-1 formation in Athens. "If it were up to me, I would put Gilardino in from the start because of his physical strength," the former prime minister had said at the weekend. Ancelotti stood firm, informed his players on Monday who would be starting and could afford to watch with more than a hint of self-satisfaction as Inzaghi struck at the end of each half to secure the win before Dirk Kuyt's 89th-minute reply for Liverpool.

'Special relationship'
"When I moved to Milan [in 2001] I never thought I could repeat my success at Juventus, never thought I could win two Champions League titles," said Inzaghi, a winner in 2003 before injury ruled him out of the 2005 loss to Liverpool. "It's difficult to take in but my relationship with Milan is special. I've spent a year out before but no one doubted I would be back. When I returned, everyone welcomed me with open arms. The fact the club has so much faith in me has helped me do so well here."

Predatory finish
Rafael Benítez felt Inzaghi's opener - a deflection from an Andrea Pirlo free-kick - owed to good fortune yet the player disagreed: "It was obviously something we've practised with the coach, and every now and then we manage to do it, such as against Empoli [FC] last year." There was no disputing his second, Inzaghi beating the offside trap and then Pepe Reina with a trademark predatory finish. "It's deeply rewarding for me to be voted man of the match, but the most important thing is to have won the cup," he said.

It was fitting that Inzaghi should prove decisive last night, having done exactly the same when Milan kicked off their UEFA Champions League adventure with a 1-0 home victory against FK Crvena Zvezda last summer. "We started this campaign on 9 August in qualifying," said the Italian international. "And now we've lifted the trophy, many of us for the second time as a team. We can be proud of the players, the coach, the fans and the club because we've worked closely together to achieve our goals, and we wouldn't have done so had we not been so close."