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All that is great about the game

Milan: The producers of soccer coaching videos could save themselves some time and money by simply offering young players a 90 minute cassette of the Champions League match between AC Milan and Real Madrid, won 1-0 by the Italian side on Tuesday.

The result may mean the match will rest longer in the memory of Milan supporters but the fact that the highly partisan San Siro crowd were applauding the attacking moves of their Spanish opponents should be enough of an indicator of the quality of football that was displayed by both teams at one of the game’s great venues.

Everything that is great about the game was on display for the 75,000 lucky enough to witness it — crisp passing, expert control, powerful, well-directed shooting, outstanding goalkeeping, expertly-timed tackles and all played without rancour in a spirit of relaxed, yet highly competitive, sportsmanship.

There was not a sign of the fear that has restricted so many Italian sides in recent years as the textbook of defensive ‘catenaccio’ was cast aside by Milan.

That positive approach was exemplified when in the 80th minute of a high-speed encounter, with the Italian side just a goal up, Milan’s veteran centre-half Alessandro Costacurta set off on a long overlap down the right flank hoping to benefit from a counter-attack.

The credit for that attacking spirit must be given to Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti, who after the game, said what some in Serie A would consider blasphemy — attack is the best form of defence.

French midfielder Zinedine Zidane is not the kind of player you want to allow space to run at your backline and twice he forced Dida into saves with goalbound shots at the end of classy counter-attacks.

Perhaps had a below-par Luis Figo been able to prompt some more of those breaks the result might have been different — but he was well-marked throughout and when, once, he did manage to get round the back of the Italian defence he was outpaced and then robbed by Paolo Maldini.

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