20 April 2017
The 14th anniversary of Superpippo's goal against the Amsterdam team is approaching: "I still imagine what happened was all just a dream..."
"Inzaghi! Inzaghi! It's AC Milan's most important goal of the season! Also Tomasson had a touch on the ball but it's Superpippo's goal! It's not up for debate". These were Sandro Piccinini's words on 23 April 2003, almost 14 years ago, while commentating on the second leg of the Champions league quarterfinals AC Milan v Ajax, at San Siro, after the 0-0 in Amsterdam, in the first leg. But to hear those words that today still give goosebumps to all the Red and Black fans, the Rossoneri had to play a thrilling match, to say the least. It was time to give everything and even more to make it to the semis: giving even only one percent less would have meant going out.
PLAY WITH HEART
In 2002-03, AC Milan were off to a good start and after the first half of the season, the Rossoneri had a great record with 39 points. Not only that, Ancelotti's side had defeated Bayern Munich, reigning world champions, twice and won against the Real Madrid with Zidane and Ronaldo, making it trough to the quarterfinals in February, after a playoff and two group stages. When spring came, AC Milan were struggling with fatigue, both psychologically and physically. In the first 12 matches of the second half of the season, those before the match against Ajax, the Rossoneri had recorded only 16 points having a hard time against teams lower down in the league but with two important wins against Juventus and Inter at San Siro. The same happened in Europe, with the win in Moscow against Lokomotiv, on 25 February, which was the last one before the defeats against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, though we had already made it through to the next round, and the goalless draw in the first leg of the quarterfinals in Amsterdam. And the Red and Blacks were about to face the second leg against Koeman's side having to make do with Pirlo and Seedorf's absence, the two "brains" of AC Milan, together with Rui Costa.
INZAGHI'S GOAL: "I STILL IMAGINE WHAT HAPPENED WAS ALL JUST A DREAM"
Four days before the match against Ajax, AC Milan lost to Empoli, in the league. The Rossoneri were out of the race for the title and Ancelotti's side had to pour all their efforts into the Champions League. Inzaghi scores and with the ref blowing for half time we were through. Then Litmanen equalises, and seconds later Sheva scores, but Pienaar in the 78' beats Dida leaving San Siro shocked. And now what? It's 2-2, we're out. But in the 90'... Pippo Inzaghi has vivid memories of what happened that night, at that exact moment:
"It all happened in such an incredible way. When the score was 2-2, I was thinking about many things, I was thinking about our fans. It was as if a great adventure was about to slip out of our hands. It would have been awful. But Paolo Maldini put in a great cross, Massimo Ambrosini headed it on and I really wanted to get onto that ball. It meant that we all believed we could do it. Those final minutes of the match had to be in our favour, after until that moment luck had turned its back on us. Think about what would have happened if Ambro had touched that ball differently... if Chivu hadn't slipped... and even today I still imagine that what happened was all just a dream. Each and every goal we scored on that night had a great impact on me. For instance, the goal for 2-1, it was really important to score immediately. When they levelled it once again it felt like we had been knifed, we couldn't cope with the thought that they had scored the goal for 2-2. But we bounced back, we showed the spirit of this team".
HIS LAST GOAL BEFORE MANCHESTER
Fate decided that the goal against Ajax would be Inzaghi's last one in that historic Champions League that saw the Rossoneri lifting the trophy. Pippo, who was fresh from three braces against Lens and Bayern Munich, the hat-trick against Deportivo La Coruna and the winning goal in Dortmund against Borussia, would not find the back of the net again, neither in the semifinals nor at Old Trafford. As if no other beauty deserved to share a place in the history of football. The decisive goal, the watershed of AC Milan's history. As to say, I've done my part, now it's up to you boys. Or even better, it's up to you, Sheva. And so it happened.
AC MILAN - AJAX 3-2
AC MILAN: Dida, Simic (85' Tomasson), Maldini, Nesta, Costacurta, Brocchi, Rui Costa (85' Redondo), Ambrosini, Kaladze (80' Rivaldo), Inzaghi, Shevchenko. Coach: Carlo Ancelotti.
AJAX: Lobont, Trabelsi, Pasanen, Chivu, Van Damme (46' Litmanen), Yakubu, Sneijder, O'Brien, Pienaar (84' De Jong), Ibrahimovic, Van der Meyde (89' Bergdolmo). Coach: Ronald Koeman.
Referee: Mejuto Gonzales (Spain).
Goals: 30' Inzaghi, 63' Litmanen, 65' Shevchenko, 78' Pienaar, 90' Tomasson.
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