Last-gasp Ambrosini eases Milan's malaise at PSV

PSV Stadion, Eindhoven – 04/05/2005 – Semi-finals
PSV
PSV
Park Ji-Sung 9 Cocu 65, 90+2
3 - 1
Milan
  • Ambrosini 90+1
Milan
Edge of the seat

"Milan suffered La Coruna syndrome again but the goal by Ambrosini was the perfect antidote." Gazzetta dello Sport

2004/05

• AC Milan's 3-0 advantage against Liverpool FC was the biggest half-time lead in a UEFA Champions League showpiece. The 3-3 score at the end of the game made it the highest scoring final in the competition's history.

• Arsenal FC's Cesc Fàbregas became the competition's second youngest scorer, aged 17 years and 218 days, with a goal against Rosenborg BK, the same opponents when Olympiacos FC's Peter Ofori-Quaye set the record in 1997.

• Deportivo became the first side in UEFA Champions League history to go through the group stage without scoring, though Javier Irureta's charges did restrict eventual winners Liverpool to a goalless draw at Anfield.

Few entertained the idea AC Milan's progress to the 2005 UEFA Champions League final was anything but routine after a dominant 2-0 first-leg win. Yet lurking beneath their hardened veneer was real fragility, a nightmare the Italian side desperately wanted to supress – PSV Eindhoven very nearly reawakened it.

It was, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport, "La Coruna syndrome", an affliction that traced its origins to 12 months earlier. Leading 4-1 after the first leg of their quarter-final tie, Milan suffered a crippling seizure and, with their defences down, RC Deportivo La Coruña were over them like a rash, a 4-0 win completing the mother of all comebacks. "The symptoms," said the Gazzetta, "are weak legs, terror in the eyes and inability to do what you normally do."

For Carlo Ancelotti those afflictions were soon all too apparent in Eindhoven. Emboldened by a strong end to the first leg the home side began with real purpose and Milan were soon looking vulnerable. They could ill afford the temporary loss of Paolo Maldini for treatment on a head injury and so it proved as Park Ji-Sung raided smartly from midfield, exchanged passes with Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink before smashing a left-foot shot beyond Dida.

It was the first goal the Brazilian had conceded since Matchday 4 but it looked only a matter of time before he was breached again – PSV's energy and endeavour was enthralling. Still Milan showed no urgency, inviting pressure in the hope of leaving space for Andriy Shevchenko to exploit. It was a dangerous tactic as Vennegoor of Hesselink headed against the bar and Wilfred Bouma and Phillip Cocu also threatened to restore parity.

PSV did just that on 65 minutes. Vennegoor of Hesselink poked the ball to Lee Young-Pyo who galloped to the byline and whipped in a cross that Cocu headed in. The comeback was complete, and the players seemed to be preserving their energy for an extra 30 minutes when, from nowhere, acting Rossoneri captain Massimo Ambrosini appeared in front of goal a minute into added time to glance in Kaká's cross.

Although Cocu scored again almost immediately with a fine volley, time was against the Dutch champions as the relieved visitors booked a meeting with Liverpool FC. "Milan suffered the syndrome again," said Gazzetta, "but the injury-time goal by Ambrosini was the perfect antidote." The malaise would return again in the final, however – with spectacular consequences.

Star players

  • Cocu

    A versatile midfielder as comfortable shielding his own defence as he was punching holes in opposition's, Cocu was an ever-reliable presence for over two decades after emerging at AZ Alkmaar. He played over 200 games for FC Barcelona, winning the 1998/99 Liga championship, but enjoyed more success at PSV Eindhoven. The third Netherlands player to reach 100 caps, he won four Eredivisie titles and two Dutch Cups in two spells with his hometown club.

  • Shevchenko

    Ukraine's record scorer (at almost a goal every other game in over 100 caps), the prolific Shevchenko made his name at FC Dynamo Kyiv, claiming five titles and three cups. He joined AC Milan in 1999 where a haul of 173 goals had made him the second-highest marksman in Rossoneri history; he also converted the winning penalty in the 2003 UEFA Champions League final. The 2004 Ballon d'Or victor, he returned to Dynamo after a frustrating spell at Chelsea FC.

  • Van Bommel

    A title-winner in Spain, Germany, Italy and his native Netherlands, Van Bommel's midfield tenacity brought almost as much success as talks with referees. The Dutch international won four championships with PSV Eindhoven before moving to FC Barcelona and helping them to 2006 UEFA Champions League glory. On to FC Bayern München, where he enjoyed two league and cup doubles; within six months of moving to AC Milan he had a Scudetto to his name too.

What happened next?

• AC Milan's fragility was exposed again in the Istanbul final three weeks later. Trailing 3-0 at half-time, Liverpool FC mounted a comeback to make it 3-3 and eventually force penalties where they won 3-2.

• Milan exacted revenge on Liverpool in the 2007 final in Athens with a 2-1 victory, Filippo Inzaghi scoring twice. Carlo Ancelotti was again at the helm, with seven of the 2005 starting XI included from the off.

• By the end of the summer five of the PSV Eindhoven XI that started the second leg had left (Johan Vogel to Milan), but only after completing the domestic double with a Dutch Cup triumph.

• Level with Juventus going into the final four rounds, Milan lost to their title rivals and then suffered three draws as the Bianconeri finished top. Juve were subsequently stripped of the championship.

• Guus Hiddink and Ancelotti went on to manage Chelsea FC, the Dutchman leading the Blues to 2009 FA Cup glory before handing the reins to Ancelotti who guided them to the 2009/10 double.

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