AC Milan hold on to reach final

AC Milan went into their Champions League semifinal match against PSV Eindhoven looking strong and confident.

The Italian team came out of it lucky to be still alive in Europe’s top club competition.

The six-time champions, who lost 3-1 on Wednesday but still advanced on away goals after winning at home 2-0, needed an injury-time header from Massimo Ambrosini to advance to their 10th final on May 25 against Liverpool in Istanbul, Turkey.

“It was a happy end for us, but we were unable to take control of play,” Milan defender Alessandro Nesta said. “Only in the last 20 minutes we realised it was possible to attack and score.”

PSV dominated most of the match, and needing at least two goals to send the series to extra time, the Dutch champions attacked the goal relentlessly.

Park Ji-Sung gave PSV hope with a goal in the ninth minute, and Phillip Cocu made it 2-0 in the 65th with a header, but Ambrosini’s first Champions League goal sent Milan through to the final.

“Everyone has seen the game and we didn’t play particularly well,” Milan defender Jaap Stam said. “PSV played a very good game, had a couple of chances.
In football, everything is possible; they played a very good game and we only had one chance and we scored a goal. It was enough for us.”

Cocu added another goal for the hosts one minute after Ambrosini’s decider, volleying in a headed pass from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, but it still wasn’t enough.

“It was close again, but at the last minute it slipped through our fingers,” PSV coach Guus Hiddink said. “I have a lot of respect for the Italians and how they play soccer, but with respect, I think we dominated.”

Park’s goal was the first that Milan had conceded in the Champions League since losing at Barcelona 2-1 on November 2. The Italian co-leaders had won six of their seven European matches since, with one draw.

“It’s very disappointing because when you’ve played two games better than AC Milan, you deserve to win, but they scored an away goal and that’s the most important thing,” PSV captain Mark van Bommel said. “We were better for 180 minutes of soccer. But in the end, we have nothing.”

PSV nearly scored another in the 28th when Vennegoor of Hesselink headed a free kick off the crossbar. Theo Lucius also had a chance in first-half injury time, but his shot was saved by Milan goalkeeper Dida.

“It isn’t right,” Cocu said. “There was only one team that played to win, and that was us.”

Milan got a scare in the fifth minute when captain Paolo Maldini was kicked in the head as Vennegoor of Hesselink went for a high ball.

Maldini, who has played in six European Cup finals and won four of them, was taken off the field on a stretcher but returned moments later. He was replaced at half-time.

The Italian team’s best chance to score in the first half came in the 11th minute when a dangerous cross floated across the front of the goal, but PSV goalkeeper Gomes was able to keep it out of the net.

“Our plan was to score one goal ... unfortunately, this time we had to wait a lot for it,” Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said.

PSV had another good chance in the 49th minute when Alex sent a rolling cross that Van Bommel let go for Park, but the South Korean couldn’t get a solid foot on the ball.

The Dutch team, which played without the suspended Andre Ooijer and injured DaMarcus Beasley, did a good job keeping Milan forward Andriy Shevchenko off the ball. The Ukraine international has scored six goals in the season’s Champions League and 16 in the Serie A.

Shevchenko’s best chance came in the 58th minute when Kaka made a quick run into the PSV end, but Lucius was there to break up the attack before Shevchenko could control the ball.

Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 on Tuesday to win the two-leg series 1-0 on aggregate.—Sapa-AP

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