Deportivo's dream night stuns holders

Deportivo La Coruña 4 Milan 0 Deportivo win 5-4 on agg
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The Independent Football

Defending champion AC Milan was spectacularly dumped from the Champions' League last night as Deportivo La Coruna staged a 4–0 comeback win to advance to the semi-finals for the first time.

Deportivo overcame a 4–1 first leg deficit to advance 5–4 on aggregate over the six–time European champion.

"There was always hope," Deportivo coach Javier Irureta told Spanish national TV. "It was a sensational first half and we knew how to play the second half with care."

Porto also reached the final four with a 4–2 aggregate win over Lyon. Nuno Maniche scored twice for Porto in the 2–2 second leg quarterfinal draw in Lyon. Porto won the first leg 2–0.

Porto is the only team remaining to have won the European Cup after the unlikely pair of Monaco and Chelsea won through to the semi-finals on Tuesday.

Monaco shocked nine–time European champion Madrid 3–1 to advance to the semifinals on away goals, while Chelsea eliminated London–rival Arsenal after winning 2–1.

In A Coruna, Deportivo was 3–0 up by the end of the first half. Walter Pandiani scored after five minutes as Deportivo pushed forward. Milan goalkeeper Dida misjudged Alberto Luque's floated cross which allowed Juan Carlos Valeron to head into an empty net for Deportivo's second goal in the 34th.

Worse came for Carlo Ancelotti's team in the 44th minute when normally dependable defender Alessandro Nesta failed to control Molina's clearance and allowed Luque to race past Cafu and sidefoot a rising shot which gave Dida no chance.

Milan, nine points clear in the Italian league, could have then advanced with a goal of their own, but despite switching to a more defensive style, Deportivo scored again through Fran Gonzalez in the 76th minute.

Deportivo was knocked out in its two previous Champions League quarterfinal appearances.

"If Deportivo continues to play this way it will be a worthy successor to Milan as European champion," Ancelotti said.

"I felt at half time we still had a chance but Deportivo was also very strong in the second half."

Porto, which won its only Champions Cup title in 1987, stayed alive for a possible treble. The Portuguese league leaders have also reached the final of their domestic cup. It won the UEFA Cup last season.

Deco set up both goals for Maniche, who one–timed his first goal past Lyon goalkeeper Gregory Coupet. The next strike came from a volley from 10 yards after another Deco pass.

Luyindula, who had a goal called back for offside in the fourth minute, scored for the hosts off a Florent Malouda cross.

Both goalkeepers were tested as the match drew to a close, and it was Elber who headed in the late equalizer off a Malouda cross but refused to celebrate.

"We had five or six occasions," Lyon coach Paul Le Guen told Canal Plus television after the end of the first half. "It's frustrating not to have scored more goals."

The hosts finished the match with 10 men as Edmilson got two yellow cards in just five minutes, the latter in the 74th.

The semi-finals are played April 20–21. The Champions Cup final is scheduled for May 26 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

Deportivo La Coruña (4-4-2): Molina; Pablo, Andrade, Naybet, Romero; Victor, Sergio (Duscher, 87), Mauro Silva, Luque (Fran, 66); Valeron (Djalminha, 90), Pandiani. Substitutes not used: Munua (gk), Tristan, Capdevila, Hector.

Milan (4-4-2): Dida; Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro (Rui Costa, 77); Gattuso, Pirlo (Serginho, 60), Seedorf, Kaka; Tomasson (Inzaghi, 67), Shevchenko. Substitutes not used: Abbiati (gk), Costacurta, Laursen, Brocchi.

Referee: U Meier (Swit).