PHOTO | Montreal Impact hosts Italian club AC Milan

One can only imagine what it would have been like had this game really meant something. A crowd of 47,861, clearly in party mode and obviously aware of how superbly the beautiful game is played elsewhere in the world, witnessed Italian champion AC Milan conquer an international friendly 4-1 over the Impact at Olympic Stadium Wednesday night. Despite a walk-up crowd of almost 10,000 during the final hours before game time, attendance fell short of the 55,571 who watched the Impact defeat Mexico’s Santos Laguna 2-0 in the opening game of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal last year. That was the third-largest crowd to see soccer at the Olympic Stadium behind the 71,617 – a Canadian record – for the gold medal final between East Germany and Poland at the 1976 Olympics and the 58,543 who saw the Montreal Manic defeat the Chicago Sting in the quarterfinals of the defunct North American Soccer League on Sept. 2, 1981. AC Milan, a seven-time Italian champion, began its three-game North American tour a week earlier with a 3-2 loss to the MLS’s D.C. United before 30,367 at RFK Stadium in Washington. A crowd of 20,356 saw the MLS’s Chicago Fire fall 1-0 to the Italian Serie A powerhouse Sunday. Brazilian Ronaldinho and Dutch teammate Clarence Seedorf promised a show for the club’s many supporters here and both delivered, along with their teammates. With the absence of at least seven players – who joined their national teams to prepare for the World Cup, which starts next week in South Africa – AC Milan’s big three on this night were Ronaldinho, Seedorf and Pato. And each scored. Ronaldinho, for whom cheers echoed through the stadium most of night, netted the last on a penalty kick in the 81st, beating Srdjan Djekanovic, who came off the bench in the second half to replace starter Matt Jordan, after being hauled down inside the penalty area by defender Adam Braz. AC Milan was first on the scoreboard as Pato converted a short pass from Seedorf near the top of the penalty area and beat Jordan from 12 metres in the 12th minute. Jordan got a piece of it with his right foot, but it wasn’t enough and the goal signaled a successful return of sorts for the 20-year-old, who played here in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007 and joined AC Milan later that year. While many expected AC Milan to score first and often, the Impact stunned its guests five minutes later when midfielder David Testo got the better of ’keeper Roberto Colombo from 22 metres directly in front of the box. Testo, who had yet to score for the club this season, took a cross from midfielder Leonardo di Lorenzo and fired a waist-high, right-footed shot that took one bounce before finding the back of the net. Striker Filippo Inzaghi, who won a World Cup title with Italy in 2006, broke the tie with a spectacular effort in the 25th. Near the goal line at the corner of the Montreal goal, he bent the ball over a defender and back to himself before burying the shot. Seedorf had made an equally good effort just to keep the ball in play and out of Jordan’s hands near the touch line – after taking a pass from the right side of Ronaldinho’s foot and as he appeared to be going in a different direction with a pass. Striker Roberto Brown and midfielder Rocco Placentino misfired on superb chances in the 31st and 32nd. Brown came up short on a header into a wide open net, while Placentino sent a sharp-angle attempt wide and into the side the net as he appeared to rush his shot following a perfect set up from the opposite wing by Leonardo. Placentino also came away empty-handed in the 44th, on a breakaway where he tried to loop a shot over Colombo’s head, but the ball sailed high over the crossbar. At the other end, Jordan was tested by with a hard shot from Seedorf in the 34th and another from 25 metres by Ronaldinho. The Impact outshot AC Milan 7-4 through the first 45 minutes. The loudest cheers were reserved for Ronaldinho – even before the game. The 30-year-old Brazilian, long regarded as one of the most gifted magicians with the ball of his generation, dazzled the early arrivals to the stadium with some fancy footwork during the pregame warmup. He responded with a smile and put a hand to his ear as if to further encourage the crowd. It wasn’t needed and as he exited to change into his game jersey, he gave his practice one to a young fan. He re-entered a few minutes later walking side-by-side with Impact defender Rocco Placentino and the love-in with one of the world’s most recognized players was on.
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Hanno contribuito: Anna Maria Barone, Frank Verrillo, Margherita Rainone, David Verrillo
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