"I was sitting there and my head was in my hands: I thought it was over." Steven Gerrard
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"I was sitting there and my head was in my hands, I thought it was over."
Even Liverpool's talismanic, never-say-die captain Steven Gerrard thought the writing was on the wall when his side trudged into half-time 3-0 down against AC Milan having been out-passed, outclassed and outwitted. Then came the Miracle of Istanbul.
Gerrard's Rossoneri counterpart, Paolo Maldini, had given his side a dream start when he volleyed in Andrea Pirlo's whipped free-kick from near to a penalty spot which would be the focus of attention aplenty later in the evening.
The night had long since drawn in when Liverpool first found themselves chasing shadows, none less productively than that of Kaká. At his effortless, silky best, the Brazilian maestro was, at times, untouchable.
His blink-and-you'll-miss-it counterattack was the catalyst for Hernán Crespo to double Milan's lead six minutes before the interval, before a sublime pass from his own half teed up the clinical Argentinian marksman to dink past Jerzy Dudek with a delightfully languid first touch.
With the sound of a defiant half-time rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone still ringing in his ears, nine minutes into the second period Gerrard wrenched his head from his hands and on to John Arne Riise's cross. From on that now familiar penalty spot, the England midfielder's sheer will generated sufficient power to beat Dida.
The Milan keeper could not keep out a low drive from Vladimír Šmicer – an early replacement for the injured Harry Kewell – two minutes later either. The travelling Liverpool hordes suddenly believed; so, crucially, did Gerrard.
Rampaging forward in inimitable style, he was hauled down by Gennaro Gattuso on the hour. Denied by Dida from THAT spot, Xabi Alonso beat Alessandro Nesta to the rebound. Six minutes, three goals, one remarkable turnaround.
Milan rallied, Shevchenko rebuffed by Djimi Traoré's goal goal-line clearance and Dudek's astonishing, point-blank double save in extra time, but penalties, from you-know-where, now seemed inevitable.
Imitating Bruce Grobbelaar's spaghetti-leg antics from the 1984 European Cup showpiece, Dudek kept out Pirlo after Serginho had blasted over, before repelling Shevchenko to complete Liverpool's very own Lazarus act.