Liverpool’s Istanbul miracle in 2005

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

It has been christened as one of the best football finals of all time. For AC Milan and Liverpool fans it was 120 minutes of nail biting torture; for the neutrals it was fantastic viewing with the game having all the necessary ingredients to hold the mantle of a true classic.

The Champions League Final at Azaturk Stadium in 2005 heralded the return of Liverpool to the pinnacle of European football after a 20-year absence. Buoyed by talismanic captain Steven Gerrard, the four-time winners of Europe’s premier prize defied the odds as they progressed to the final, knocking out Juventus and Chelsea on the way.

Their opponents were AC Milan and it took the Italian side less than a minute to surge into an early lead. Just under 45 minutes later Carlo Ancelotti’s side were in a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead.

At half time the Liverpool anthem, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, bounced around the stands of the stadium. It was a rendition by the fans that was filled with morose undertones. It appeared the hurdle AC Milan now presented was just one too far for the courageous English side.

Many will argue they predicted the outrageous turnaround, few are telling the truth.

Six frenetic minutes changed the outcome of the match. Liverpool were driven forward by the determined Steven Gerrard. The skipper nodded John Arne Riise’s cross past Dida to give Liverpool a foothold in the match.

Gerrard’s goal revitalised the team. Vladmir Smicer’s long range effort snuck past Milan’s Brazilian keeper to leave the scores at 3-2. The comeback was well and truly on.

Carragher ventured into the oppositions half, spotting Gerrard on another of his driving runs. He streaked past the Milan defence only stopped by Genaro Gattuso. The referee duly awarded a penalty which Xabi Alonso converted at the second attempt.

In extra time, Jerzy Dudek’s unbelievable save will be forever cherished by the Reds fans. Andrei Shevchenko was presented with a golden opportunity to win the match for the Rossoneri, but his shot was stopped by a save which Dudek knew little about: call it instinct or divine intervention.

The game trickled into a penalty shootout. Once again the Polish keeper excelled along with some calm precision penalties from Liverpool.

When Andrei Shevchenko stepped up, it was evident to all he seemed unconfident. His strike was poorly hit and easily blocked by Dudek. Cue pandemonium on the pitch and in the stands.

Liverpool seized the European trophy for a fifth illustrious occasion.

Gerrard described the moment he held the trophy above his head as ‘the best feeling ever’.

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