Historic Matches - Milan 2004

DATE: Wednesday 7 April, 2004

EVENT: Deportivo win 4-0 against AC Milan and survive 5-4 on aggregate

In March 2004 the men of Javier Irureta had eliminated Champions League 2003 finalists Juventus 2-0 on aggregate and were drawn to meet reigning European champions AC Milan in the Quarter Finals. Despite a 0-1 lead in the San Siro stadium this was thrown away in the space of nine minutes as Deportivo lost 4-1. An impossible task remained in Riazor...

It were the days of a magnificent Italian team, leading the Serie A with a distance and hardly leaking goals. The defending Champions League holders had players like Cafú, Maldini, Nesta, Kaká and Shevchenko in their team and showed what they were capable of on that night in Northern-Italy.

For their part, Deportivo had never survived the Quarter Finals in the Champions League and this time their faith seemed to be the same as always. In the Liga the team did well although winning it looked difficult. Three of the four matches were lost in the weeks before the visit to Italy, meaning all eyes seemed set on these European encounters.

What was needed, of course, was a miracle in Riazor. But there was believe in the squad of Deportivo, while Irureta wanted the support of the crowd: "If we are capable of scoring two goals, they will score the third". Winger/striker Albert Luque spoke of "an historic opportunity for the club to get into the Semi Finals and to make the end of the season very emotional. It will be extremely complicated though".


On 7 April, 2004 it was shown once more miracles can exist in football. Irureta welcomed back Ví­ctor Sánchez from an injury and fielded all the artillery he had available while Milan coach Ancelotti didn't want to take any risks and used all of his stars. But as soon as the match started it became evident this round wasn't over yet.

Deportivo were like a hurricane in the first minutes and put a lot of pressure upon Milan, taking an early lead when Walter Pandiani scored. The Uruguayan striker received a cross from the left, turned around Paolo Maldini and shot through the Italian's legs to beat Dida. This was the start that Deportivo wanted and Milan had wanted to avoid.

The Riazor crowd got behind the team and the Galicians went on in a furious rhythm. There was no time to take free kicks or corner kicks in a slow pace and the passion was converted into a deluge of chances. Milan produced one when Kaká had a one-on-one with Molina. But the Deportivo goalkeeper kept his focus on the ball, saved the try of Kaká and send it spinning across goal for the defence to hack away. A vital save because an Italian goal would mean Depor needing to win 4-1 to earn extra-time.

But it was not much Milan showed in the first half. Their movement looked sluggish and, as unusual as it might sound, their defence was shaking under the Galician pressure. The dream scenario of Deportivo became a reality when after thirty-five minutes Valerón headed in a cross from Luque and the Galicians now were just one goal away from a miracle. Riazor went crazy and the stands were about to burst because of the noise and movements produced by the crowd. Meanwhile, Milan seemed to shrink in the face of such aggressive opposition.

Within forty-five minutes the task seemed almost accomplished when Luque used a mistake of Nesta to have a clear run towards Dida. His clinical left-foot shot ended up in the top corner, to leave the Italians astonished. Moments later the referee ended the first half and the Deportivo team ran into the dressing room indicating that they wanted to return as soon as possible.


After the break Milan were already waiting on the pitch, while Deportivo slowly appeared as gladiators in front of their victims. And it had an immediate effect as Milan looked bewildered at the start of the second half. They had a lot of possession but only could create one good chance, missed by Tomasson. And after Ancelotti took off Pirlo it looked like the angle was taken out of the Italian team.

Meanwhile, Irureta reacted too and brought Fran for Luque. A usual substitution that season. Fran's lethal moves were normally meant to finish off the opponent, but this time the gifted midfielder did it himself. His shot from the left was deflected by Milan defender Cafú but enough to beat Dida. There still remained the danger though of Milan reaching extra-time by scoring just one goal, but they looked lifeless and helpless and simply never were capable to save this match.

The amazing come-back of Deportivo also meant that another page of history was added to the Champions League. With the 4-0 victory Deportivo became the first side ever to overcome a three-goal first-leg deficit in this prestigious tournament. Coach Irureta was in troubles though as he had promised to make the sacred route to Santiago de Compostela on his knees if his team was able to eliminate Milan. He would make the journey that summer, but he'll be forgiven that he did it walking together with his technical staff.

Molina - Manuel Pablo, Jorge Andrade, Naybet, Romero - Víctor Sánchez, Sergio (86' Duscher), Mauro Silva, Luque (65' Fran), Valerón (90' Djalminha) - Pandiani
AC Milan: Dida - Cafú, Nesta, Maldini, Pancaro (77' Rui Costa) - Gattuso, Pirlo (59' Serginho), Seedorf, Kaká - Shevchenko, Tomasson (67' Inzaghi)
Goals: 1-0: (5') Pandiani, 2-0: (35') Valerón, 3-0: (44') Luque, 4 -0: (76') Fran.
Referee: Urs Meier (Switzerland). Showed yellow cards to Ví­ctor Sánchez and Pandiani of Deportivo and to Pirlo of AC Milan
Attendance: 30,000 (Riazor).

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