To defy the odds and win the European Cup against AC Milan, the Reds performed “the greatest comeback in sport anywhere in the world.”
The Champions League final in 2005 will be remembered as one of the all-time great games in football history, particularly in Liverpool, where the Reds won their fifth European Cup in the most unlikely of circumstances.
AC Milan went into the game at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul as heavy favourites to win the cup against a team that finished fifth in the Premier League.
3-3 in 90 min of play
The Italians seemed completely justified as they stormed into a 3-0 halftime lead thanks to goals from Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo, who scored twice.
However, in one of the most spectacular comebacks in history, the Reds came roaring back into the game in the second half, scoring three times in six minutes.
Steven Gerrard, whose energetic performance earned him the Man of the Match award, grabbed the ball back first, and as the Serie A side wobbled, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso took advantage to bring the Anfield club back into the game.
The game went to penalties, and Liverpool shot-stopper Jerzy Dudek saved from Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko in the shoot-out to seal a surprise Premier League triumph for the Reds.
Liverpool’s victory was greeted with astonishment, notably from manager Rafael Benitez, who admitted at the conclusion of the match:
“My problem is that I don’t have words to express the things that I feel at this moment.”
Liverpool’s comeback is largely recognised as one of the greatest in football history, and it was this incredible feat that helped them win their fifth European title.
Television pundit and former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen said:
“It wasn’t just the best comeback in a European Cup final; it wasn’t just the best comeback I’ve seen in football; it was the best comeback I’ve seen in sport anywhere in the world.”
No less a figure that Diego Maradona was similarly awestruck:
“Even the Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup could not have staged a comeback with Milan leading 3–0…The English club proved that miracles really do exist.”
The day after the final, Liverpool celebrated their win by parading the trophy around the city on an open-top double-decker bus. They were cheered on by approximately 1 million supporters, with an estimated 300,000 fans gathered around St George’s Hall, the parade’s ultimate destination.
According to business experts, one in every five workers took time off after the triumph. It was also reported that 10,000 bottles of champagne were consumed by Liverpudlians following the event, with grocery giant Sainsbury’s stating:
“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We would normally anticipate to sell as much champagne throughout the holiday season”