Milan 'lost a cup they had won'

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The Independent Football

Milan's owner, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said his team had outclassed Liverpool in the Champions' League final and defended his coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Asked whether he might sack Ancelotti, Berlusconi said: "Poor guy, no. I never sack anyone." He went on: "Milan played much better throughout. We created move after move while they didn't create one move worthy of the name. What a shame." He watched the game in the stadium and cameras focused on him in the stands, his beaming smile in the first half turning to dismay in the second.

"Soccer is like politics," he said. "You think you have won, and then you haven't," he said, possibly thinking of the string of punishing local election defeats he has suffered in recent months.

Dignitaries in the stands crowded around Berlusconi during half-time to congratulate him on Milan's explosive start to the game, but he said afterwards, "I didn't accept the compliments to avoid bad luck falling on us. I know extremely well that football is strange," he said.

Italian newspapers also found the defeat hard to take. "Milan throws away the cup," La Stampa newspaper said in the front page, while the splash headline in the leading sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport, was: "Milan in a nightmare." The paper went on in an editorial: "Incredible. Milan lost on penalties a cup they had already won. They lost it badly, very badly," it said in a commentary. Papers put much of the blame for the defeat on Milan's European player of the year, Andrei Shevchenko, who missed the final penalty, and Brazilian goalkeeper Dida, who was criticised for letting in two of Liverpool's three goals.

"All it needed was a moment of sleepiness on Dida's part," Corriere della Sera wrote. "Perhaps not even Agatha Christie would have been able to think up such a perverse plot," the paper added.

Liverpool's Spanish contingent has increased the club's profile there, and after an unusually barren season for Spanish teams in Europe, Liverpool's win was celebrated as if it was one of the country's own.

The daily El Pais said much of the credit for Liverpool's triumph should go to Rafael Benitez, "the King of Merseyside", while the sports daily AS said: "The Spanish Reds were in heaven last night."