ISTANBUL 2005: Miracle at the Atatürk

Ahead of this weekend’s UEFA Champions League Final, FromTheSpot have recapped one of the most iconic games in the competition’s history, as AC Milan took on Liverpool Football Club at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium – the venue for this year’s final.

ACM: Dida, Cafu, Stam, Nesta, Maldini, Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf, Kaka, Shevchenko, Crespo

LIV: Dudek, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Alonso, Garcia, Gerrard, Riise, Kewell, Baros

It was far from a great start for Liverpool in 2005, as they went behind in the first minute under the lights of the Atatürk, as Milan captain Paulo Maldini volleyed in an Andre Pirlo free-kick to set the tone for much of the match. Emotions were running high in Istanbul on that night, as Harry Kewell was forced off with an injury midway through the half. He was replaced by Vladimir Smicir, in what would be his last game for the club.

Argentine Hernan Crespo doubled AC Milan’s lead six minutes before half-time, tapping the ball home from just outside the six-yard box having received a pass from Andriy Shevchenko. For many Liverpool fans, the game was put further out of reach as Crespo scored again to increase the lead just before the interval, chipping the ball over Jerzy Dudek.

But yet the atmosphere inside the Atatürk was buoyant at the break, with the travelling Reds singing their famous songs in a bid to motivate their team ahead of a crucial 45 minutes. Knowing changes needed to be made, Rafael Benitez opted to introduce Dietmar Hamann at the expense of Steve Finnan.

In the 54th minute, Steven Gerrard was able to claw a goal back for Liverpool – connecting with John Arne Riise’s cross to thump a header past Dida. Moments later, Smicer fired a speculative effort from outside the box that somehow beat the ‘keeper at the near post, and hopes of a comeback were well and truly alive.

AC Milan simply couldn’t believe it when Gerrard was hauled down inside the box by Gattuso, leaving the referee with no choice but to award a penalty. Xavi Alonso’s effort was initially saved by Dida, but the Spaniard was able to slam the rebound home – and Liverpool’s super seven-minute comeback was complete.

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With Liverpool’s third goal, the goalscoring was over and the game would head to extra time. Milan had the better chances, with Dudek forced into action twice in quick succession to deny Shevchenko. A spirited defensive performance from Jamie Carragher – and the Liverpool team in general – ensured the game headed to penalties.

Milan were up first from the spot, with Serginho stepping up to take the opening penalty. Serginho blasted high over the crossbar though, succumbing to Dudek’s distractions to put the advantage in Liverpool’s hands. Dietmarr Hamann converted his effort, firing comfortably past Dida to put the Reds in the driving seat.

But Dudek’s masterclass continued, as the ‘keeper dived low to save Andrea Pirlo’s effort. Djibril Cissé was up next for Liverpool, and the Frenchman sent Dida the wrong way – Liverpool’s advantage now sat at two goals.

Dudek was bound to falter at one stage or another, and it was Jon Dahl Tomasson’s strike that was unstoppable. John Arne Riise prepared to take Liverpool’s third in a bid to restore their two-goal advantage, but much like Pirlo’s effort, his low shot was saved well by the ‘keeper.

Unfazed by Dudek’s antics, Kaka stepped up next. The Brazilian smashed his rifling effort into the back of the net, piling the pressure onto Smicer. The Czech midfielder rose to the occasion, thumping the ball to the right and ensuring Liverpool retained their lead.

The fifth penalty could prove decisive. Shevchenko simply had to score to keep the game alive, though AC Milan would taste defeat if Liverpool scored their fifth effort. Yet, Rafael Benitez’s side never needed to take that fifth shot – as Milan’s Ukrainian forward blasted his effort down the middle, and straight into the grateful arms of Dudek.

Liverpool were down and out at half-time, and if it wasn’t for the fans, they may well have suffered a mauling in the second half. The travelling contingent played a huge role in Liverpool’s sensational comeback, with Dudek the ultimate hero in the penalty shootout.

As the UEFA Champions League Final returns to Istanbul once more, will Manchester City be able to replicate an iconic win against a Milanese giant – or will Simone Inzaghi claim revenge for the defeat inflicted on his brother’s side thirteen years ago?

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