On this day in 2005, Liverpool conquered Europe for the fifth time with one of the greatest comebacks in football history.
In one of the most remarkable turnarounds in history, though, the Reds came roaring back into the game in the second half, scoring three times in the space of six minutes. Steven Gerrard, whose dynamic performance won him the Man of the Match accolade, got the first back and as the Serie A side uncharacteristically wobbled, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso took advantage to draw the Anfield club back on terms.
The penalty shootout was also a memorable affair, with Milan missing their first two kicks through Serginho and the normally reliable Andrea Pirlo. Liverpool raced into a 2-0 lead but John Arne Riise had his effort saved by Dida after Jon Dahl Tomasson had got one back. Kaka and Smicer exchanged goals but the cup was sealed when Andriy Shevchenko, then regarded as the finest centre-forward in the world, had his kick stopped by Jerzy Dudek.
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.”
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.”
From the other side of the fence, there was an equally profound reaction, as Pirlo explained in his autobiography ‘I Think Therefore I Play’: “We sat like a bunch of half-wits in the dressing room… We were bloodthirsty zombies faced with an unseen problem – the blood was ours and they had drunk every last drop. We couldn’t speak, we couldn’t move. They had mentally destroyed us. Insomnia, rage, depression, a sense of nothingness. We’d invented a new disease with multiple symptoms: Istanbul syndrome.”