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Champions League Classics: AC Milan vs Liverpool

Get the background on the 50th UEFA Champions League final, then watch it in full on UEFA.tv.

Liverpool’s pursuit of a fifth European Cup looked to be over by half-time in Istanbul, but AC Milan were to feel the tide of history turn against them.

WATCH IN FULL ON UEFA.tv.


Context

Gerrard's group stage stunner against Olympiacos
Gerrard's group stage stunner against Olympiacos

Carlo Ancelotti’s immensely experienced side were billed as favourites, although the six-time European champions were bristling at having missed out on the Serie A title – and struggled against PSV Eindhoven in their semi-final. By contrast, Liverpool were in their first decider in 20 years, not that manager Rafael Benítez doubted their ability, saying: "Maybe Milan are favourites, but we have confidence and we can win."

Key players

Andriy Shevchenko: Author of the winning penalty in the 2003 final shoot-out against Juventus, the 2004 European Footballer of the Year had scored six times en route to Istanbul and felt buoyant: "We are waiting to play the match we have wanted to play all season."

Steven Gerrard: Five days shy of his 25th birthday, the Merseyside-born Reds captain was Shevchenko's favourite Liverpool player: "I like his vision of the game. He always plays direct football and makes everything much easier for the Liverpool forwards."

Best goals: 2004/05 Champions League
Best goals: 2004/05 Champions League

Jerzy Dudek: The Polish keeper made his presence felt throughout the final, but came into his own in its decisive phase. The 'wobbly legs' technique cribbed from Liverpool predecessor Bruce Grobbelaar may have been a key addition to his armoury.

What happened

Paolo Maldini's first-minute volley was the earliest goal in a European Cup final, and Milan appeared to have secured their seventh European Cup by half-time, Shevchenko and Kaká both laying on goals for Hernán Crespo. However, Liverpool rallied in an astonishing seven-minute spell between 54 and 60 minutes, Gerrard and midfield partner Xabi Alonso striking either side of Vladimír Šmicer’s finish.

Milan fought back. Djimi Traoré cleared a Shevchenko shot off the line and the Italian side looked sharper in extra time, Dudek pulling off an astonishing double stop from the Ukrainian in the closing minutes. The Pole shone again in the shoot-out: Serginho missed for Milan, while Dudek kept out Andrea Pirlo and Shevchenko to make up for John Arne Riise’s saved effort. Final score: 3-2 Liverpool.

Reaction

Champions League icon: Steven Gerrard
Champions League icon: Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard, Liverpool captain: "Milan outplayed us first half but ours was a terrific second-half performance. Three-nil 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. This is the best feeling of my life."

Jamie Carragher, Liverpool defender: "That must be one of the greatest cup finals. 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."

Jerzy Dudek, Liverpool goalkeeper: "I don't really know how we did it. With that last save in the last three minutes [from Shevchenko], 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 Grobbelaar, just put them off all the time'. We are in heaven now."

Aftermath

Highlights of Milan's 2006/07 road to glory
Highlights of Milan's 2006/07 road to glory

Liverpool's fifth success meant they were given the trophy to keep, a new version being made for the following year, when Barcelona beat Arsenal in the decider. Benítez's Liverpool faced Ancelotti’s Milan again in the 2007 final in Athens, and this time there was no miracle. Filippo Inzaghi struck twice for Milan, with Dirk Kuyt's late reply failing to spark a comeback.

Subsequent seasons have proved less kind to Milan, while Liverpool won the 2019 UEFA Champions League after losing the 2018 showpiece to Real Madrid. Some of the key players from 2005 are now coaches themselves, with Shevchenko in charge of Ukraine since 2016 and Gerrard well established as manager of Scottish club Rangers.

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