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AC Milan were two goals to the good coming into their 2004/05 UEFA Champions League semi-final decider against PSV Eindhoven. Could the Dutch hopefuls make a game of it?WATCH ON UEFA.tv
A 2-0 scoreline did not tell the full story of the first leg, AC Milan coming under immense pressure at San Siro as they made it seven consecutive UEFA Champions League games without conceding. Gazzetta dello Sport wrote: "Carlo Ancelotti has won the first round but knows that PSV deserved a vital away goal." In the 2003/04 quarter-finals, Milan had beaten Deportivo La Coruña 4-1 at home then bowed out with a 4-0 loss in Spain. Would they suffer another disaster to miss out on the final?
Massimo Ambrosini: At 27, the midfielder was a relative youngster in Milan's hugely experienced side, but wobbly form and niggling injuries had prevented him making a bigger impact. A substitute in the first leg, he made a telling contribution in Eindhoven.
Park Ji-Sung: Quick and busy, the South Korean midfielder had left an immensely positive impression in his first two seasons in Europe since joining PSV from Kyoto Purple Sanga. His form in 2004/05 would earn him a summer move to Manchester United.
Phillip Cocu: Closing on 35, the midfielder was back at PSV following a six-year spell at Barcelona, where he had twice bowed out of the UEFA Champions League in the semi-finals. "Milan are beatable," he told UEFA.com on the eve of the decider.
Park Ji-Sung smashed in PSV's opener inside ten minutes and Paolo Maldini – the fulcrum of Milan's defence – was taken off with an injury at half-time. The hosts' pressure told on 65 minutes when Phillip Cocu's header made it 2-0, cancelling out Ancelotti's side's first-leg advantage and leaving the game on a knife-edge.
The players seemed to be preserving their energy for an extra 30 minutes, but that proved unnecessary after Massimo Ambrosini was left unmarked in front of goal a minute into added time to glance in Kaká's cross. Cocu volleyed a rapid response, but time was against the Dutch champions, and Milan survived a frantic last few seconds to book their trip to the final in Istanbul.
Mark van Bommel, PSV midfielder: "When you play two games better than AC Milan you deserve to win, but they scored the away goal, which is the most important thing. We were the best team. It was a sucker punch."
Guus Hiddink, PSV coach: "We were very, very close until the last minute and then we threw it all away. I'm only disappointed about the manner in which our Champions League run was ended."
Jaap Stam, Milan defender: "We didn't play particularly well. We only had one chance and we scored and that was enough for us. PSV dominated the game for almost 90 minutes and that is not the way we need to play. Over the two semi-finals they played very well, but they got knocked out."
Elsewhere that night
Liverpool booked their final place the previous night, levering out Premier League rivals Chelsea 1-0 on aggregate after Luis García scored the only goal at Anfield. Meanwhile, on the night of the PSV-Milan game, Newcastle prevailed 3-1 at Fulham for their first Premier League away win since November.
Milan were spared a repeat of their La Coruna debacle of the previous season when they took on PSV, but a much worse fate awaited them in the final, as they racked up a 3-0 lead against Liverpool in Istanbul but still managed to lose the game on penalties. "The match was in our hands and we let it slip away," lamented striker Andriy Shevchenko.
PSV's trip to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals combined with excellent domestic form, as they clinched the first of four consecutive Eredivisie titles and also lifted the Dutch Cup. Qualifying for the group stage of the next season's UEFA Champions League, they were dispatched by Lyon in the round of 16.