Ottmar Hitzfeld praised Bayern Munich’s fighting spirit after Daniel Van Buyten’s last-gasp goal secured a 2-2 draw with Milan in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
Bayern fell behind twice, initially to a goal by Andrea Pirlo and late on to a highly debatable penatly converted by Kaka, but the German champions snatched a draw at the San Siro thanks to two goals by the Belgian defender, the second in the final minute of injury time.
“It really was a great match. There was a lot of excitement, a lot of unforeseens,” said Hitzfeld.
“Milan were definitely the better team in the first half and (Michael) Rensing showed what an excellent goalkeeper he is by saving a series of shots.
“There were moments when our passing wasn’t as precise as it could have been, but I think we really deserved the draw. We fought right until the end.”
Bayern were outplayed in the first half and at the start of the second but began to push forward in the final 20 minutes after Hitzfeld introduced Christian Lell and Claudio Pizarro in place of Willy Sagnol and Lukas Podolski.
“One thing I was sure about, was that Milan wouldn’t be able to keep up their pace in the second half,” said Hitzfeld.
“I knew there would be chances, especially as we are a team that specialises in making up ground in the second half of matches.
“With the two substitutions I was hoping to make up a bit of pace that we had lost and that worked well. We were really excellent in the second part of the second half.”
Bayern’s night was spoiled slightly by a knee injury to captain Willy Sagnol, which French threatens to keep the defender out for the rest of the season.
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti admitted that the draw had left Bayern in pole position.
“It caught us cold. The team deserved to win for what they did. We’re very disappointed, but we hope to do just as well in the return leg,” he said.
“Bayern clearly have a better chance of qualifying now. But I think tonight we were the better side.
“We just tired ourselves out. We had to push very hard in midfield. In the final part of the match we maybe didn’t have the necessary clarity to finish off attacking moves.
“It will be an uphill battle, but we can draw strength from the quality of our performance tonight, which overall I thought was excellent,” Ancelotti added.