AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties)
Champions League Final 25th May 2005, Ataturk Stadium
Greatest European Cup Final ever?
The final of the Champions League in 2005 is widely regarded as the greatest of all time – contested by two of Europe’s most successful and prestigious clubs, with some of the world’s best players on show.
AC Milan packed with world stars
AC Milan went into the match as the bookies’ favourites, and understandably so as they had won the competition two years earlier beating Italian rivals Juventus in a penalty shoot-out, after the 90 minutes and extra time did not produce a goal for either side.
Their manager Carlo Ancelotti was a highly regarded tactician and well respected across Europe. They had just completed a respectable domestic season in Serie A, finishing as runners up to Juventus.
They also boasted some of the game’s best players amongst their ranks. Seasoned international campaigners Jaap Stam, Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo provided the experience and know how, and the South American flair and quality came from Cafu, Kaka and Hernan Crespo.
Their captain was Paolo Maldini, a veteran who had made his debut nearly twenty years earlier and had already won the Champion’s League five times with his beloved club.
Andriy Shevchenko, the former European player of the year, completed a devastating team.
Liverpool, however, had struggled domestically and could only achieve a fifth placed finish in the Premier League, being beaten to the fourth spot by their local rivals Everton. This had more significance than just the local bragging rights.
The fourth spot gave Everton a place in the following year’s Champion’s League and with it the vast sums of money available to teams competing with Europe’s elite.
Liverpool had caused an embarrassing problem for UEFA by progressing to the final and being potential European champions, but not automatically qualifying for the competition the following season.
If they were to win the trophy, it created the possibility of the European champions not being able to defend their crown the following year because they had not qualified. UEFA swiftly moved to sanction Liverpool’s place should they win the final.
Managed by Rafa Benitez, in his first season at the club after success with Valencia in Spain, Liverpool had a team full of internationals with experienced and consistent professionals such as Sami Hyypia, Dietmar Hamann and Harry Kewell.
Local boy Jamie Carragher in the heart of defence really was Mr Liverpool and a favourite with the fans but the only player with true ‘star quality’ was their captain and leader Steven Gerrard.
The England international was the heartbeat of the team, the driving force and most gifted player.
Liverpool supporters take over Ataturk
The game itself was played on a wet and windy night in the Turkish capital, Istanbul. The Ataturk stadium was full with more than half the 65,000 fans donning Liverpool’s colours.
The teams were as follows, AC Milan with Dida in goal, a back four of Cafu, Stam, Nesta and Maldini, in midfield Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf and Kaka, and Shevchenko and Crespo up front.
Liverpool with Dudek in goal, a back four of Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia and Traore, a midfield four of Riise, Alonso, Gerrard and Garcia with Kewell playing behind the lone striker Baros.
Hamann left on bench
Some were surprised that the experienced German Dietmar Hamann was only named amongst Liverpool’s substitutes, with a view that his ability to break up opponents attacks and control the pace of a game from midfield would be key in a game against such an outstanding opposition.
The Milan team oozed class with top quality players in every position. Looking at the names on their team sheet, it was easy to see why they were overwhelming favourites to win the final.
Looking at the names on the Liverpool team sheet, it was hard to see how they even got to the final.
Milan too much for Liverpool – Read more