Steven Gerrard and Cafu on the 2005 UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan
Thursday, May 25, 2023
The former Liverpool captain and Milan right-back recall their teams' epic tussle in the 'Miracle of Istanbul'.
Article top media content
In this piece, presented by Turkish Airlines, Milan right-back Cafu and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard talk through the 2005 UEFA Champions League final, perhaps the most dramatic decider in the competition's history, and maybe the ultimate game of two halves.
Milan took a 3-0 lead in the first half only for the Reds to strike back three times after the interval. Extra time was goalless, setting up a decisive shoot-out; Serginho missed for Milan, and Jerzy Dudek saved from Andrea Pirlo and then Andriy Shevchenko as the Reds ran out 3-2 winners from the spot.
Half-time: Milan 3-0 Liverpool (Maldini 1, Crespo 39 44)
Steven Gerrard: "You look at their team to our team, it's a bit of a mismatch. We got off to the worst possible start. I feel like a game plan's gone, and we sort of were second best for the whole first half. We couldn't get close to them. [We] couldn't work out their system, their formation. And, obviously, the half-time team talk was going to be key because you are 3-0 down."
Cafu: "It was a real chance for me to win the Champions League for the first time – the only trophy I had yet to win – playing against that powerful, superb Liverpool team. In the first half of the game, Milan were impeccable. The team was absolutely flawless: 3-0 up at the break. We calmly head into the dressing room, and I think, 'Well, I guess my time to win the Champions League has come.'"
Gerrard: "You've been preparing for weeks. You have a game plan and then your game plan is sort of rattled. We gave the ball away. I had to hold my hands up – I wasn't good in the first half. This is when you think the dream is over? But, as the captain of the team, you have to have the right body language, remember to keep the belief and just get in at half-time. Keep the damage at three [goals]."
90 minutes: Milan 3-3 Liverpool (Gerrard 54, Šmicer 56, Alonso 60)
Gerrard: "We've gone onto half-time and Rafa [Benítez] and it's well known what Rafa said: listen to the fans, go out there and cherish it. He got calm in the dressing room. He got everyone's eyes and he spoke really clearly. With clarity, he made a couple of alterations, some changes. Dietmar Hamann was the key substitution because he allowed us to be more aggressive to get back into the game."
Cafu: "We come back for the second half. Just ten or 12 minutes in, they pull one back: 3-1. A little later, 3-2. As Liverpool score the second goal, our team begins to think, 'Hey! We'd better step up because they are a dangerous team!' Liverpool then level the game 3-3."
Gerrard: "You can see my position on the pitch is a lot closer to the goal – that's where the first goal comes from. [John Arne] Riise has two attempts at a cross and I'm actually just stretching my neck onto it. And that gave us a little bit of belief. We got the crowd with us again, and it gives us a small bit of hope.
"When the second goes in, you're back in the game. If you look at this goal, Vladi [Šmicer] strikes it and Milan Baroš gets out of the way – so close. The emotion. You're sort of, like, 'This is another chance.' We thought it was gone.
"The body language of the team and their performance changed. We were super confident now. We're having more possession. You can see we're pushing forward and pushing forward. I remember Carra [Jamie Carragher] playing the forward pass. I ran and I felt a little bit of contact, and I just went down: penalty. Then, it's all in Xabi Alonso's hands. It's all in Xabi's hands.
"Rafa picked the penalty takers. We had full confidence in Xabi – a fantastic ball striker. Carra's actually trying to get a red card for their player because he'd stopped a goalscoring opportunity. A fantastic save by the goalkeeper [Dida], and the finish [on the rebound] is high up into the net, a fantastic second finish. And now it was, like, 'Here we go.'"
Cafu: "Liverpool levelled the game, but because our side was so experienced and so confident, we managed to keep our cool. 'No way [we're going to lose]; we're going to score the fourth goal any time now – it's possible!'"
Gerrard: "We knew that we had them where we wanted them. Then it became a bit of a game of basketball: attempts at our goal, attempts at their goal. Then it was about just trying to get to penalties because we were running on empty; the energy was going, we were tired. They were getting a bit stronger into the extra time. Jerzy [Dudek] makes the save [from Andriy Shevchenko]: world-class save, best save ever. You can see Shevchenko's reaction: his head in his hands. Then, obviously, into penalties we go."
Cafu: "Shevchenko had a last-minute chance at the end of the game, where the keeper opens up his arms and the ball hits his chest. I just thought, 'We're not beating Liverpool tonight!'"
Cafu: "We head into the penalty shoot-out, and I say, 'It can't be possible!' First taker misses, second taker misses... 'I guess I'm not winning this trophy tonight.'"
Gerrard: "Then you're thinking, 'Come on, boys. Just do your job, focus, make sure you do everything right.' I'm preparing myself mentally for the fifth penalty. Thankfully, I didn't have to take it because Shevchenko takes their fifth penalty and decides to dink it down the middle, and Jerzy stays big for us. We managed to get over the line. Then it's, like, 'Wow! Here we go!' The best night of my life."
Cafu: "We lost the final but, for me, that was an incredible game. Liverpool beat us in the penalty shoot-out, but they earned that win. I'm not one to whine or point fingers. We conceded three goals in a Champions League final and deservedly lost to Liverpool."