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Luis García on Liverpool's 2005 UEFA Champions League final comeback against AC Milan

The Reds winger says: "At half-time, we thought it was already done; 90 minutes [later], we were lifting the trophy."

Luis García's Champions League memories
Luis García's Champions League memories

Having planned hard for their 2005 UEFA Champions League final meeting with AC Milan, Rafael Benítez’s Liverpool faced disaster at half-time after going 3-0 down in the first half in Istanbul.

Speaking as part of the Gazprom Football Experience ahead of the 2021 UEFA Champions League final in Porto, Reds winger Luis García explains how his side plucked victory from deep within the jaws of defeat in perhaps the most famous comeback of all.

2005 final highlights: Liverpool 3-3 Milan (3-2 pens)
2005 final highlights: Liverpool 3-3 Milan (3-2 pens)

On being selected to play in the 2005 decider

"[Rafael Benítez] told me that it would be a big game for us. Normally, I used to play on the right side, but on this occasion [he told me] I would play a little bit more inside, changing position, to try to use the gaps in between the lines, in between the spaces of AC Milan’s holding midfielders. When he told me that I was going to play, I was, as you can imagine, very happy.

"I'm quite a positive guy, so I started thinking about what I would do during the game, what I will try to do to hurt AC Milan players in those spots, or with those runs that I needed to do. So, I started focusing and planning what to do, trying to see things in my head, that's the way that I used to work in the games."

Liverpool's 2005 road to glory
Liverpool's 2005 road to glory

On going 3-0 down in the first half

"When you’ve been planning a Champions League final for two/three weeks, [like] we had, and suddenly after 50 seconds, you [concede] the first goal, you change a little bit, because you know that you have to go a little bit further forward, and that’s not good because AC Milan had fantastic runners. The only thing we thought was: 'OK, this is just a set-back. Let’s try to keep going. There’s 89 minutes to change this, so let's go for it.'

"The problem was when we [conceded] the second one. That was very painful because, I don’t think we were playing that badly. They were so fantastic with Kaká, with [Andrea] Pirlo and those runs from [Andriy] Shevchenko and [Hernán] Crespo. The first one was difficult to concede, but I think the second one was very painful."

What gives Luis García that #UCLFeeling?
What gives Luis García that #UCLFeeling?

On the half-time team talk at 3-0 down

"I don’t think that any of the other players will tell you that he believed we could do [come back]. We were all quiet in the dressing room. We tried to pay attention [to] what the manager was saying. Small talks between players, trying to understand what was happening, where we [were making mistakes], because, again, I don’t think we played that bad to [concede] three goals.

"The most important [thing] was to try: to go outside and do our best. There was not much inspirational talk about: 'Let’s do [it], we can do this.' It was more about [trying] to focus, concentrate, clear our heads, and get out in the second-half as if it was the first one and try to win it."

Benítez: Istanbul '05 still Liverpool's greatest comeback
Benítez: Istanbul '05 still Liverpool's greatest comeback

On when the Reds started to believe

"The moment we started believing was [Vladimír Šmicer’s goal]. Steven Gerrard [scored] the first goal [and it gave] us hope to continue working. We saw the reaction from [the] AC Milan players [after Šicer made it 3-2], where they were looking around thinking: ‘What happened?’ They were starting to blame each other and I think we [also] used that [to support] us and push and give us that extra boost that we needed.”

"The moment that I saw the referee [blow his] whistle and point to the spot [with the score at 3-2], I ran fast to try to get the ball and say: ‘I’m taking the penalty!’ But Jamie Carragher came to me and said: ‘No, you’re not.’ I looked at Rafa Benítez to see if I was allowed, but Rafa didn’t allow me to take it, and they said: ‘No, no, you’re not taking it, it’s Xabi Alonso.’ It wasn’t the best penalty, but he managed to arrive there the quickest [for the rebound] and scored the goal."

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

On extra-time and penalties

"That save from Jerzy [Dudek from Andriy Shevchenko’s shot], just before [the end], I thought: ‘There’s no way we can lose this game.’

"The penalties arrived, and we were all so tired, and we thought that we had a chance. Jerzy was a good penalty saver, and well, he proved it!

"I didn’t take one because they didn’t let me! I said: ‘Coach, I want to take one’, and he said no – I was too tired. It’s true. I had run so much for the whole 120 minutes, but I mean it’s a penalty – you don’t have to run much to take the penalty. So, I asked him again, and he said: ‘If there’s a sixth, you can take a sixth.'"

Dudek and other penalty shoot-out heroes
Dudek and other penalty shoot-out heroes

On the moment that Dudek saved Shevchenko’s penalty to win it

"I don’t know how to express it. We were tired but there's a fantastic image of us, just running, sprinting towards Jerzy Dudek. Even Harry Kewell who had pulled his groin, he was running fast. You could see people just crying of happiness, of course. They went through everything during those 120 minutes, or two hours, that the game lasted, and it was a very special moment.

"More than [anything] it was the happiness of [having] finally made it. At half-time, we thought it was already done; 90 minutes [later], we were lifting the trophy."