(2-3 pens) – Fi­nal, 2004-05

Australian Four Four Two - - FEATURES -

“You couldn’t write the script” is sport’s stu­pid­est cliché – it would be rel­a­tively sim­ple to write the script – but the Mir­a­cle of Is­tan­bul, as it must be legally re­ferred to at all times, re­mains Euro­pean foot­ball’s most im­plau­si­ble and cin­e­matic smash. It could not com­pletely be billed as an un­der­dog story: Liver­pool were well-drilled and had tal­ent in their XI. But this was a side with Djimi Traore at left-back against a side who had Paolo Mal­dini at left-back; a gleam­ing Mi­lanese XI con­tain­ing Pirlo, Nesta, Gat­tuso, See­dorf, Cafu and Shevchenko up against Steve Fin­nan, Harry Kewell and Mi­lan Baros – in a Liver­pool squad that had fin­ished 37 points be­hind Chelsea that year. What truly set this show­down apart was the raw shock of the come­back. Af­ter Mal­dini had scored from Mi­lan’s open­ing at­tack, Her­nan Cre­spo added two more and Kaka ran amok. The hu­mil­i­a­tion of the Reds and the ela­tion of their de­trac­tors dur­ing half-time ap­peared to­tal (just imag­ine if Twit­ter had ex­isted). They were toast: the ex­traor­di­nary ren­di­tion of You’ll Never Walk Alone at the in­ter­val was de­fi­ance, not hope. But then the mad­ness kicked in: Didi Ha­mann muf­fled Kaka, Steven Ger­rard gal­loped for­ward, and in six min­utes – thanks to Ger­rard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso – Liver­pool were level. As the shootout neared, the ten­sion ratch­eted un­bear­ably, but there were still many snap­shots to en­joy: Jerzy Dudek’s point-blank save to deny Shevchenko, Ger­rard’s de­monic drive and Jamie Car­ragher’s cramp-rav­aged war­fare. Fol­low­ing Dudek’s Bruce Grobbe­laar-in­spired spaghetti-leg nos­tal­gia, and his sav­ing of that fi­nal spot-kick at 12.29am lo­cal time, the script was com­plete. The vol­ume of the trav­el­ling Kop was in­sane. Liver­pool had their fifth Euro­pean Cup and a lo­cal hero in Ger­rard to be­at­ify. The Cham­pi­ons League had its great­est ever game.

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