Filippo Inzaghirepaid AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti for his faith in him by leading Milan to a 2-1 victory over Liverpool Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League final.
At 33, Inzaghi was considered washed up, having scored just two goals this season for Milan in Serie A, but he matched that total with two goals in the final to give Milan its seventh title in Europe's most important club competition.
The first came just before the end of the first half when Andrea Pirlo's free kick deflected off Inzaghi and fooled Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina. Liverpool manager Rafa Benitezsaid the goal was a fluke, but Inzaghi insisted it was a designed play.
"It was something that we rehearsed in training," said Inzaghi. "I scored with it against Empoli. Sometimes it just comes off."
The goal was the turning point of the game for Milan, which was favored to win after trouncing English champion Manchester United but rarely showed the form in the final that it displayed in the semifinals.
Inzaghi, who was uncertain to start the final, scored the second goal in the 82nd minute when Kaka sprung him and he rounded Reina and slotted the ball under the Liverpool into the goal.
"The first goal opened up the game," said Inzaghi, "but the second was certainly better."
Inzaghi came to AC Milan from Juventus in 2001, but he struggled the last four years after scoring 27 goals in his first two seasons at Milan. In 2002-03, he scored 17 goals in league play and added 12 more the Champions League as Milan was crowned European champion. Knee problems kept him sidelined most of the next two seasons, though he regained his form to earn a reserve role on Italy's 2006 World Cup championship team.
"I have a very special relationship with Milan," he said. "A couple of years ago, I missed a lot of games through injury but the club kept faith in me, and when I was fit again they welcomed me back with open arms. They showed real trust in me."
May 23 in Athens
AC Milan (Italy) 2 Liverpool (England) 1. Goals: Inzaghi 45, 82; Kuyt 89.
AC Milan:Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski (Kaladze, 79); Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf (Favalli, 90+2), Kaka; Inzaghi (Gilardino, 89).
Liverpool:Reina; Finnan (Alvaro Arbeloa, 88), Agger, Carragher, Riise; Pennant, Mascherano (Crouch, 78), Xabi Alonso, Gerrard, Zenden (Kewell, 59); Kuyt.
Referee:Herbert Fandel (Germany)