By Adam Szreter at Atatürk Olympic stadium
There will be a new incarnation of the European Champion Clubs' Cup next season as Liverpool FC became only the fifth team to win it outright after the most astonishing comeback in the 50-year history of these finals led to extra time and then a dreaded penalty shoot-out victory against AC Milan.
Serginho fired Milan's first penalty over before Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek saved Andrea Pirlo's spot-kick. Dietmar Hamann and Djibril Cissé nervelessly converted their spot-kicks and, although John Arne Riise's kick was blocked by Dida, Andriy Shevchenko - who scored the winner in Milan's shoot-out win against Juventus FC in the 2003 final - was denied by the Polish goalkeeper to give Liverpool a famous victory.
Three goals down at half-time, within 15 minutes of the second half Liverpool had hauled themselves back on level terms. In taking their fifth European title, and their first for 21 years, the English club joined Real Madrid CF, Milan themselves, FC Bayern München and AFC Ajax in being awarded the trophy to keep.
Paolo Maldini's fastest ever goal in a UEFA Champions League final and two from their Argentinian striker Hernán Crespo looked to have secured Milan's third UEFA Champions League crown, but second-half goals by Liverpool's talismanic captain Steven Gerrard, substitute Vladimír Šmicer and Spanish international Xabi Alonso wiped out Milan's seemingly unassailable half-time advantage.
There was no time for either side to settle before Milan had taken the lead. Just 52 seconds were on the clock when Maldini's right-footed volley connected with Pirlo's free-kick and sailed past Dudek. Kaká had won the free-kick, drawing a foul by Djimi Traoré, but the goal failed to settle Milan's nerves completely. After Gennaro Gattuso had struck a free-kick from midfield straight into touch, Liverpool's captain Gerrard created chances for Riise and Sami Hyypiä.
Crespo, preferred in attack to Filippo Inzaghi and Jon Dahl Tomasson, almost scored with a near-post header at a corner in the 14th minute but a combination of the post and Luis García on the line prevented Milan from doubling their lead. Liverpool's cause was hardly helped when Harry Kewell, a surprise selection to partner Milan Baroš in attack, pulled up and had to be replaced by Šmicer after just 23 minutes. Milan were playing with assurance, Pirlo pulling the strings from midfield and Kaká running with purpose.
Liverpool then enjoyed their brightest spell of the opening half, but six minutes before the break they were caught on the counterattack. After García had had claims for a penalty against Alessandro Nesta waved away, Milan surged upfield, Kaká found Shevchenko sprinting through the inside-right channel and there was Crespo to tuck away his strike partner's astute square pass.
Kaká then produced a moment of magic to seemingly finish Liverpool's hopes before half-time as he swivelled away from his marker before threading a perfect pass through for Crespo to become only the third player to score twice in a Champions League final.
Gerrard on target
Hamann came on Steve Finnan for the second half and Liverpool did not have long to wait to open their account. After a Shevchenko free-kick was spectacularly tipped to safety by Dudek, at the other end Gerrard rose to head imperiously in from Riise's cross on 54 minutes.
Two minutes later Šmicer, playing his last game for the club, finished off a move involving Alonso and Hamman with a sweetly struck right-footed shot that Dida could only help into the far corner. Liverpool were on an irresistible wave and it came as no surprise when they equalised on the hour, Alonso scoring at the second attempt after Dida had saved a penalty given for a foul by Gattuso on the marauding Gerrard.
After such a spurt it was almost inevitable that Liverpool would tire, and Traoré had to clear off the line from Shevchenko before Jamie Carragher's last-ditch tackle foiled Kaká. Gerrard shot over the bar at the other end to suggest Liverpool were not a completely spent force.
Late substitutions had seen Cissé come on for Baroš, and Tomasson and Serginho replacing Crespo and Clarence Seedorf, so there were at least some fresh legs for the additional 30 minutes. Milan's two substitutes came closest to contriving a breakthrough in the first period but Tomasson just failed to connect with the Brazilian's cross.
Liverpool, with Gerrard now very deep, were content to punt long passes up to Cissé, who made little headway. Milan continued to look the more likely scorers in the second period, and almost snatched victory with two minutes left, but Dudek produced an amazing double save to thwart Shevchenko from point-blank range and take the final to penalties.