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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 22:51 GMT 23:51 UK
Ancelotti finally delivers
By Nada Grkinic

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti
Ancelotti has silenced his critics with victory at Old Trafford
AC Milan's Champions League victory over Juventus on Wednesday was a triumph for the Rossoneri in general - and for much pilloried coach Carlos Ancelotti in particular.

The win, on penalties, ensured that Ancelotti finally delivered the goods and silenced the Milan fans who increasingly questioned his judgement as the Italian league slipped away from his team.

At the start of the 2002-03 campaign Ancelotti had just unveiled his plans to restore Milan to their once dominant position in Serie A.

Ancelotti's new era would see the emphasis fixed firmly on attacking, creative football - reminiscent of the great Milan team of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In came Rivaldo from Barcelona, and the Brazilian took his place in the team alongside Filippo Inzaghi, Andriy Shevchenko, Rui Costa, Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo.

It was a bold move by a coach not renowned for high-risk strategies.

He had of course dispensed with the services of Gianfranco Zola at Parma and turned down the offer of Roberto Baggio on a free.

But Ancelotti's new-found sense of adventure at the San Siro paid handsome dividends in the early part of the season.

Milan were challenging at the top of the Serie A table, had set the pace in the Champions League group stages with impressive wins over Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and were scoring for fun.

A winter of content for Ancelotti, or so he thought.

The mid-season Serie A break proved to have a jarring effect on Milan's momentum.

The autumn-winter collection was replaced by a more conservative style in the new year.

It was not well received in Italy's fashion capital and Ancelotti's reputation as a choker resurfaced. He has finished runner-up in Serie A three times, once with Parma and twice with Juve.

Meanwhile, Ancelotti's successor at Juventus, the returning Marcelo Lippi, has successfully steered the Bianconeri to another league title this season, and his fifth scudetto at the Stadio Delle Alpi.

Milan skipper Paolo Maldini lifts the European Cup
Ancelotti's team celebrate victory

Ancelotti, who won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 with Milan, was subjected to constant criticism by the unforgiving Italian media.

The only way he could respond to the taunts of loser was to deliver Milan's first European Cup since 1995 - and he has done just that.

Ancelotti negotiated a nerve-wracking semi-final with fierce rivals Inter Milan en route to Old Trafford.

And although Milan's free-flowing attacking football that caught the eye in the early part of the season was only seen in glimpses in the final at Old Trafford, Milan return to Italy as champions.

"Satisfaction, joy - I'm feeling all these things equally at the moment," said Ancelotti after the final - and who could blame him.

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