AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (aet, Liverpool won 3–2 on penalties)
2005 Champions League final
Milan's side was packed with Champions League winners and they started as clear favourites. But new Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was hopeful of masterminding an upset: "Maybe Milan are favourites, but we have confidence, and we can win". Mind you, nobody would have been betting on that outcome at half-time...
Paolo Maldini (1)
Hernan Crespo (38, 44)
Steven Gerrard (54)
Vladimir Smicer (56)
Xabi Alonso (60)
Champions League final,
May 25, 2005
Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Referee: Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez, Att: 70,024
Liverpool conceded three goals in a one-sided first half and a positive outcome seemed remote, until the Reds pulled off one of the most miraculous comebacks in sporting history.
Steven Gerrard struck shortly after half-time and two minutes later substitute Vladimir Smicer reduced the deficit to a single goal. Then Gerrard was upended in the box and up stepped Xabi Alonso. Although his penalty was saved, he rammed home the rebound to draw Liverpool level.
Extra-time came and went with no further goals, meaning an astonishing match would be settled by penalty kicks. Serginho, Pirlo and Shevchenko all missed for Milan as the Reds ran out 3-2 winners to become champions of Europe for a fifth time.
Often culpable due to lapses of concentration, the Polish keeper proved the star of the night as a brilliant double save from Andrei Shevchenko in normal time, plus some penalty heroics, earned Liverpool a fifth European Cup. His 'spaghetti-legs' routine in the penalty shoot-out – echoing Bruce Grobbelaar's antics in the 1984 final – were enough to distract Serginho, who fired his spot-kick over the bar. And it was Dudek's save with his right foot from Shevchenko that ensured Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties.
A first-half substitute for the injured Harry Kewell, Smicer made his mark on this match with Liverpool's second goal, just two minutes after Gerrard had pulled one back for the Reds. He scored again in the penalty shoot-out, setting the scene for Dudek's last-gasp save.
Although Gerrard grabbed himself a goal and, as captain, lifted the Champions League trophy, it was another midfielder who deserved the plaudits. Jamie Carragher explains: "The best thing the manager did on the night was bringing on 'The Kaiser' (Hamann). What a performance. When he wasn't there in the first half Kaka caused us all the problems. We couldn't control him when he just kept breaking at our defence, but Didi sorted him out."
Did You Know...?
This was Liverpool's first appearance in the European Cup final since the Heysel Stadium disaster 20 years earlier.
Liverpool's 2005 triumph came 15 years after their previous domestic league title in 1990. This is the longest time any Champions League winner has gone since previously winning their league.
Approximately 500,000 fans turned out to welcome the team back on their open-top bus parade around the city.
What Happened Next
Much of the build-up to the final had focused on Steven Gerrard's future, with many believing he would leave to join Chelsea. After winning the match, though, Gerrard committed himself to Liverpool, saying: "How can I leave now?" But he almost did just that after a "breakdown in communication" between himself and chief executive Rick Parry. Eventually, after claim and counter-claim, Gerrard signed a new four-year contract on July 8.
However, other heroes from that squad were not so lucky. The following season, Jerzy Dudek was replaced by Pepe Reina, Igor Biscan was sold to Panathinaikos, Vladimir Smicer to Bordeaux and Milan Baros went to Aston Villa.
As Liverpool had finished outside the top four of the Premier League, UEFA were confronted with the embarrassment of potentially having a Champions League-winning team not being able to defend their trophy. UEFA later changed the rules to ensure that the holders would qualify for the next season's competition automatically in future.
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