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An extraordinary second-half comeback saw Liverpool FC wipe out a three-goal half-time deficit to force extra time before prevailing on penalties in a dramatic UEFA Champions League final against AC Milan in Istanbul. Paolo Maldini opened the scoring for Milan before two goals from Hernán Crespo put the Rossoneri into a commanding lead. But three goals in seven minutes from Steven Gerrard, Vladimír Šmicer and Xabi Alonso, following up his own missed penalty, ultimately took the game to spot-kicks. Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko, who had seen a point-blank effort kept out by Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek in the closing stages of extra time, was denied by the Pole again as the shoot-out was settled.
Rafael Benítez, Liverpool manager
I don't have words to express what I feel at the moment. You concede in the first minute, you lose Harry Kewell, players go down with cramp and it's very difficult. We tried to change things at half-time and said it would be different if we scored - and it was. But the players believed and we won. Steven Gerrard is a key player for us, he has the mentality.
Carlo Ancelotti, Milan coach
I think Milan played a marvellous final. The defeat was not deserved but we have to accept it. The team should be proud. There is a bitterness after having lost the match this way. But in the dressing room I told my players that I wasn't disappointed in them. After this Champions League season we can hold our heads high and say that we are not inferior to anybody in Europe. Penalties are always a lottery so it just shows that it's more to do with psychology than technique. The three best penalty takers all missed penalties, so what can you do? Milan deserve the trophy this season because of their good performances throughout but I don't think it's the end of a cycle. Milan were the better team tonight and the cycle can continue.
Steven Gerrard, Liverpool captain
Milan outplayed us first half but ours was a terrific second-half performance. 3-0 down at half-time and I thought I was going to be in tears at the final whistle but every one of us deserved this. We were all gone in extra time, cramping up, but we kept going and I'm just on top of the world. The fans are the 12th man, they deserve this as much as the players. All credit to Benítez, he wouldn't let us put our heads down. He told us the game wasn't over and we knew if we got an early goal, we were back in it. This is the best feeling of my life. How could I think about leaving Liverpool after a night like this?
Jamie Carragher, Liverpool defender
I don't believe it. That must be one of the greatest cup finals of all time. We were all deflated at half-time, but we knew we had to score the first goal and we did so and built on that. People will be talking about that game in 20 or 30 years' time. And the save Jerzy [Dudek] made from [Andriy] Shevchenko at the end was just unbelievable.
Jerzy Dudek, Liverpool goalkeeper
I don't really know how we did it. With that last save in the last three minutes, someone up there saved us. All the people that came to support us were fantastic. Before the penalties Carragher came up to me and said 'Remember [Bruce] Grobbelaar, just put them off all the time'. We are in heaven now.
Andriy Shevchenko, Milan striker
I am demoralised because I just saw some of the highlights of the game. The match was in our hands and we let it slip away because of those seven minutes.
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