history17 September 2020


Rino and Nelson, corner flags and great saves

Arms in the Champions League. When they're used at the end of the tournament, in a moment of joy, you're lifting the trophy. But before you get to the final and that moment of exaltation, there's a long road to travel... It was so especially in the 2002/03 season when, before reaching the final at Old Trafford to take on Juventus, AC Milan had to play 18 matches.

The third of these matches, the first in the group stage after two qualifying rounds, saw the Rossoneri head to San Siro on 18 September 2002 against Lens - one and a half years after their elimination against Deportivo La Coruña. After the Rossoneri's second goal, arms came into play. More specifically, those of Rino Gattuso that wildly waved the corner flag in a salute to the fans.

A goalkeeper using his arms is decisively more normal, however. But one year on from Rino's celebration, Nelson Dida, the current first team goalkeeping coach, excelled on that mythical European night on 16 September 2003. In the first game since the final in Manchester, the Rossoneri found themselves with a slim 1-0 lead. Van der Vaart's shot then came flying towards the top corner in the dying moments of the game.

An Ajax equaliser? 'This'll be seen by everyone', the Brazilian must have told himself as he began to dive. It was more than a save, it was like his arm extended on its own. Nelson's arm seemed like a bar, like a piece of wood. Nothing Ajax could do about it, it was a great save and an AC Milan win.

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