Gerrard rues bad luck against “class” Milan

A dejected Steven Gerrard reflected on a night of
disappointment against AC Milan in the Champions League final. Liverpool had
dominated the first half, until a soft free-kick saw the Italian side given a
chance against the run of play. Pepe Reina had no chance when the ball was
deflected in off Inzaghi's hand. Liverpool fought in the second half, but never
had the same flair as they'd shown in that first half. When two teams are close
in ability, sometimes it's the small things that make a difference: "I think the
first goal was massive – I think the timing of it, the bit of luck that AC
Milan got for that goal… I said before the game that the first goal would be very

"After controlling the
first half it was a big disappointment to go in down at half time."

It wasn't sour grapes from Gerrard; he recognised how good a
team the Reds had just lost to: "Milan are a class side. You've got to take
your hat off to them. They've got tremendous players throughout and it was
there tonight"

Milan got their revenge for the way Liverpool mugged them
two years ago. That night saw six goals conceded in all, but last night chances
were limited – Milan scored from both of theirs, Liverpool having time only to
score one from their handful of chances. This didn't surprise Gerrard: "There's
two excellent defences out there, and in a Champions League final…" He paused. "Last
time there were a lot of chance but this time we knew it would be tighter, and
it was all going to be down to small details, and I think Milan got that little
bit of luck tonight."

Liverpool didn't give up. The heads never went down, not
even at 2-0 down: "I think people know with this team we're never down and out,
we kept fighting to the end. The boys can be very proud how they approached the
game tonight and we'll be back. We've got to take it on the chin as men and we've
got to bounce back next season, simple as that."

Last time Liverpool thought that they faced a momentous
task, and a defeat would have been difficult to take but not exactly unexpected
– Rafa's team was still in its early stages of development. This time around
and nobody could really call it in advance, and as a result the Liverpool
players really did feel it was theirs to take. They didn't, and that was a
gutting feeling: "Obviously It's difficult to take at the moment," said the
captain. "It's heartbreaking to lose a Champions League final. As a player you have
ups and down it's all about bouncing back."

Rafa Benítez would have been making ruthless changes to his
squad even if they'd been successful. New owners Gillett and Hicks saw with
their own eyes that we need a few improvements to what is a great squad, just
not quite a good enough squad. They've already promised to support Rafa in his
plans, and that gives so much hope for next season: "We look forward to next
season now and I'm sure the manager will strengthen this team and take us to
the next level. I think the future's bright. Obviously it's sickening at the
moment but we've got to take it on the chin."