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SA Players Excel Abroad 25/04/03
SASoccer365 reader James Loose takes a look at the impact made by South Africans on the Champions League quarterfinal second leg matches which took place this week in Manchester and Milan.

The two remaining European Champions League semi-final places were filled on Wednesday as Manchester United with Quinton Fortune and Ajax with Steven Pienaar narrowly lost out to Real Madrid and AC Milan respectively.
United, 3-1 down from the first leg in Madrid, looked to be heading out when early in the game Brazilian ace Ronaldo gave Real a 1-0 lead on the night, and 4-1 on aggregate.
From then on the balance of power continually shifted, with United pushing forward, before Real again asserted themselves. With the score standing at 3-3 in the 81st minute, Quinton Fortune came on for an ineffective Roy Keane and set the game alight.
Right from the word go he went at the Madrid players, giving away a dubious freekick within a minute and arguing with the referee over another controversial decision.
His introduction brought an upturn in Uniteds effort and luck, as David Beckham gave them the lead and a glimmer of hope with a goal that was scrambled over the line following good build up play from the midfield.
With four minutes left Fortune made a dazzling run at the Madrid back line, slaloming past several players before sliding the ball to Ruud Van Nistlerooy, who shot just wide.
Deep into injury time as the end of the game beckoned, Fortune showed real commitment, still playing as if United could still win the tie.
Desperately searching for a fifth goal he clattered in to Makalele from behind, and was subsequently booked.
This challenge brought an angry reaction from the Real players, and a fight was only avoided when the referee separated the two groups.
At the final whistle Fortune was visibly upset and angry, and after possibly the most important game hell have this year, it is easy to see why.
Now finally back following a lengthy stint on the sidelines, he will be looking for more game time in the season run-in to put him in good stead for next season, or at least just put him in the shop window for any prospective buyers.
Meanwhile, Pienaar and the rest of the young Ajax team were fighting what many had seen as an uphill battle against a much more experienced Milan after a goalless first leg in Amsterdam.
Determined defending and goalkeeping kept the Milan side out for most of the first half, until Lobont in the Ajax goal was finally beaten.
The tie was levelled when Jari Litmanen pulled a goal back for the visitors in the 63rd minute. However, the score was level for only 90 seconds as Milan pilled the pressure on the Ajax defence.
With the score at 2-1 many teams would have given up against such a great side. But Ajax battled bravely, and pulled level through a hard won Pienaar goal.
This looked to give the dream end to an impressive night for both Ajax and Pienaar, whose tireless running had kept hopes alive for the Dutch. Sadly though there was to be one final twist to the game as Milan scored in the second minute of injury time to put the game just beyond Ajax.
It was the end of a dream campaign for the midfielder, who has won the praise of many a player and manager for his performances during the gruelling competition.
Few will forget the way he handled French star Patrick Vieira in the 1-1 draw against Arsenal at Highbury, while he also showed his class against the likes of Valencias Pablo Aimar and Romas Francesco Totti.
However, having now firmly established himself in the Ajax line-up, he knows the trick will be to repeat the magic in his second season, always a tougher prospect as opposition players and coaches are now so much more aware of whet you are capable of.
So, despite their respective teams exiting the competition, both Fortune and Pienaar can hold their heads high after showing the kind of football that would earn them a place in any side in the world.
Providing they both avoid injury, they could give the South African national team a cutting edge in their up coming fixtures against the Ivory Coast and Burundi, providing they get the call from Shakes Mashaba.

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