That Night In Istanbul

Ever wondered why Football is called the beautiful game? Its just 22 people kicking a ball around, trying to get it into the goal at the opposite end of the pitch. Why does it drive us crazy? What gets our adrenaline rushing? Why do people spend an asinine amount of money to watch these games?

Welcome to the match that got me hooked onto football.

It was a clear night in Istanbul. On the 25th of May, 2005 the world witnessed one of the greatest matches ever played. It was the night of the Champions League final. The Champions League boasts the elite level of competition in Europe, with only a few spots allowed from every league, the competition to enter this tournament is cutthroat.

Champions League Final - Wembley - The Trophy

Source: Gary Etchell on Flickr

The Final was contested between six times champion AC Milan and 4 times champion Liverpool. What makes this match special?

First Half:

Lets kick off, 69,900 fans had barely made it into their seats when captain Paulo Maldini scored an outstanding volley from an Andrea Pirlo free kick, giving Milan the lead in the very first minute.

European Football - UEFA Champions League Final - Liverpool v AC Milan

Source: Collinson_Family on Flickr ;Photo by: Collin Lane.

Liverpool were fighting back when in the 39th minute when Crespo scored an easy tap in for Milan after some fantastic footwork and passing from kaka and Shevchenko.

European Football - UEFA Champions League Final - Liverpool v AC Milan

Source: Collinson_Family on Flickr ;Photo by: Collin Lane.

Suddenly Liverpool looked shaky, it was a moment of utter chaos in the 44th minute when Liverpool’s defense was broken yet again with a fantastic pass to none other than Crespo, one on one with the keeper, this was child’s play for him, finding the back of the net and giving Milan an even bigger lead.

European Football - UEFA Champions League Final - Liverpool v AC Milan

Source: Collinson_Family on Flickr ;Photo by: Collin Lane.

3-0 at halftime. Liverpool fans were shell-shocked, head in their hands, tears rolling down their cheeks, it wasn’t the night they predicted. Nowhere even close to it.

Second Half:

The players made it out onto the pitch for what was seeming to be an embarrassing night for Liverpool, Milan continued dominating the game however Liverpool weren’t going to back down, showing some sparks of brilliance, trying to break away at every chance they got. In the 54th minute John Arne Riise crossed the ball into the Milan penalty box, a cross that was met by the captain of Liverpool, Steven Gerrard, an unstoppable header found its way into the goal, the reds finally had some hope, with the scoreline at 3-1.

European Football - UEFA Champions League Final - Liverpool v AC Milan

Source: Martyn Jones on Flickr; Photo By: Colin Lane

Liverpool were rejuvenated, however Milan were sitting on a comfortable 2 goal lead… for almost two minutes when Vladimír Šmicer fired a long range shot which ended up in the bottom left corner of the goal. 56 minutes gone and the scoreline was now 3-2.

European Football - UEFA Champions League Final - Liverpool v AC Milan

Source: Martyn Jones on Flickr; Photo By: Colin Lane

Having squandered a huge lead AC Milan were trying desperately to get a grip on the game when Steven Gerrard made yet another bursting run into the box, forcing Milan’s Gattuso to pull him back giving Liverpool a penalty in the 60th minute.

European Football - UEFA Champions League Final - Liverpool v AC Milan

Source: Collinson_Family on Flickr ;Photo by: Collin Lane.

Liverpool’s dead ball specialist Xabi Alonso set the ball down and got ready to take one of the most important penalties of his life. The hopes of countless Liverpool supporters were on his shoulders. Alonso’s penalty was a firm one, right into the bottom left corner where it was met by the Milan keeper Dida’s hands, however Alonso snapped up the rebound smashing the ball into the net, bringing Liverpool right back into the match and drawing level with Milan at 3-3.

European Football - UEFA Champions League Final - Liverpool v AC Milan

Source: Martyn Jones on Flickr; Photo By: Colin Lane

Extra time

Extra time was thoroughly contested. Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek was forced to make a double save, two saves in the span of a second! However, either team failed to score in extra time, taking the match to the Russian roulette of football, the dreaded penalty shootout.

Penalties

The players were lined up and ready, Liverpool keeper Dudek was in goal as Milan winger Serginho stepped up to take his penalty. Unfortunately for him the penalty was way off target not even challenging Dudek.

Hamann stepped up for the reds as Dida took his place in goal, firing a shot in the bottom left corner, liverpool were leading the shootout 0-1.

Italian legend Pirlo stepped up to the spot as Dudek got ready for the next penalty.Pirlo struck the ball into the bottom left corner where it was met by Dudek’s right hand, denying milan a chance to equalize the shootout score.

Up stepped Cissé while Dida manned the goal. An easy shot to the right hand side of the goal while Dida guessed wrong and jumped the other way. Liverpool were leading the shootout 0-2.

Tomasson struck an unconvincing shot which found its way in the back of the net as keeper Dudek guessed wrong and jumped in the opposite direction. Milan were catching up, trailing in the shootout at 1-2.

John Arne Riise the man who started it all with his cross to Gerrard stepped up for the reds.A clinical finish into the bottom left corner was stopped by Dida at full stretch. The scoreline stayed 1-2.

The Brazilian magician Kaká who has been causing all sorts of problems for Liverpool stepped up with the chance of causing another one. Being his usual self, he fired a shot to the left hand side while Dudek guessed wrong and jumped to the opposite side. The scoreline was now level at 2-2.

Goalscorer Šmicer stepped up for his shot. They say history repeats itself,well it did, Šmicer scored as Dida guessed wrong. The reds were now leading 2-3.

Milan’s Shevchenko stepped up with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Miss and the match, the tournament and the trophy all were lost. He fired towards the center while Dudek jumped to his right, however he managed to get an outstretched arm to the ball, denying Shevchenko the penalty and denying Milan the match.

Liverpool were champions and the dream was now complete.

 

European Football - UEFA Champions League Final - Liverpool v AC Milan

Source: Martyn Jones on Flickr; Photo by: Collin Lane

A couple of my favorite photos from the match, one where captain Steven Gerrard is distraught and looking down at the pitch and the other where he is standing with the trophy in his hands.

European Football - UEFA Champions League Final - Liverpool v AC Milan

Source: Martyn Jones on Flickr; Photo by: Collin Lane

Pure euphoria for him and his team. Just goes to show how fast your luck can change in this crazy game.

As a blogger starting out, feedback is extremely important with me, please feel free to share your opinions with me, share this blog so that more people know about the beauty of this game, it’s time to give back to the sport that gave us so much.I would like to thank all the users on Flickr without whom my blog wouldn’t have photos and wouldn’t be half as appealing, I would like you to visit their pages as well.You can contact me via email on abhinav1990@live.com. Follow me on twitter @thebarcaway. An instagram page is going to be up soon.

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