Continuing the three-part mini-series of my top eleven matches watching Liverpool in the Champions League. Click here for part 1.
4. Liverpool 2-1 Juventus
Having progressed to the quarter-final stage of the 2004/5 Champions League, Liverpool were given the toughest possible route to the final.
A potential semi-final would involve taking on the runaway league leaders of either the Premier League or the German Bundesliga.
However, Liverpool first had to get past Serie A leaders Juventus, who had conceded just two goals on their way to the quarter-final, and knocked out Real Madrid in the last 16.
Fabio Capello was well aware of what Liverpool were capable of on a European night at Anfield, having twice seen his Roma team exit European competitions at the ground.
But even he would have been stunned by Liverpool’s start to the match, in which a 2-0 lead was established in the opening 25 minutes, firstly thanks to a close range strike by Sami Hyypia and then to Luis Garcia’s dipping 25-yard volley.
It was an important advantage to hold at such an early stage of the tie, though Juventus were powerful opponents with enough time to get back into the tie, and made for a nervy finale once Fabio Cannavaro had bundled in a consolation goal midway through the second half.
Liverpool deservedly held on for victory, and against all odds managed to keep a clean sheet in the second leg to set up an all English semi-final with Chelsea
5. Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea
Beaten twice by Chelsea in the league, and also in the League Cup Final at Cardiff, Liverpool were given little chance in a two-legged semi-final against Jose Mourinho’s expensively assembled Chelsea side who had already secured the Premier League title.
Neither manager took any risks in a first leg which ended goalless, so it was all set up for a tense evening at Anfield.
The stadium was packed out an hour before kick off for arguably Liverpool’s biggest home match in a generation, and the atmosphere reflected the occasion.
Decibel levels were raised higher still when Milan Baros was brought down in the area by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, but Luis Garcia played on and grabbed what ultimately proved to be the controversial winning goal.
From that moment, it was an exercise of attack versus defence, and for all of Chelsea’s superstars, they simply couldn’t find a way through – until injury time, that was.
Five minutes into a tortuous six minutes of added time Eidur Gudjohnsen was gifted a golden chance to equalise in front of a crowded Kop goal, which would have put the visitors into the final on the away goals rule. Fortunately for the majority inside the ground, Gudjohnsen scuffed his wide, and the 97th minute finally gave a cue for the start of the home celebrations.
6. Milan 3-3 Liverpool
So much has been written about the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ that it’s almost impossible to come up with something new.
Every aspect of the incredible journey, of Taksim Square’s ‘red sea’, or the fans festival outside the stadium has been documented a thousand times already.
I was in Istanbul only for the day, leaving in the early hours of Wednesday 25th May, 2005, and ultimately returning on a flight at around 8.30am the following day. Fans awaiting flights after being bussed directly from the stadium to the airport spent the night camped outside the compact Sabiha Gocken airport – situated on the Asian half of Istanbul.
The match itself is pretty well-known, too. Milan dominated the first half, and with their side 3-0 up at the break, Milan’s supporters celebrated what seemed like the inevitable success which would be coming their way.
Liverpool had other ideas though, and Rafa Benitez’s combination of players who had underachieved over the last couple of seasons along with some influential signings managed to claw their way back into the game and three second half goals for Liverpool turned the match on its head.
The one stand-out moment from a personal viewpoint was the second part of Jerzy Dudek’s double save from Shevchenko in the second period of extra time. Watching from high in the top tier, almost perfectly in line with the goal-line, the moment when Shevchenko’s outstretched leg shaped to volley the ball past Dudek from only a couple of yards out was a moment when time itself seemed to freeze, only restarting once the ball had rebounded off Dudek’s arms and was heading towards the sky.
If there was any one moment in the match when the cup looked destined not to be going back to Italy, that was it.
Dudek was again the hero in the ensuing penalty shoot-out, his final save again being from Shevchenko – and Liverpool had indeed won it five times.
7. Barcelona 1-2 Liverpool
When considering Pep Guardiola’s achievements with Barcelona over the last four years, it’s easy to forget that the team Frank Rijkaard had put together.
La Liga and Champions League winners in 2006, Barcelona looked every bit like a side capable of being the first to successfully defend the trophy in the Champions League era.
With a side consisting of an attacking line-up of Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Messi and Deco, Barcelona were the benchmark for every other club in Europe, and massive favourites against Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool team who were still struggling to compete with Chelsea and Man United for the domestic title.
Deco put Barcelona ahead on the night, and the Catalans looked good value for their lead until Craig Bellamy levelled the score at the end of the first half.
Liverpool grew in confidence and were rewarded when John Arne Riise added a second goal to end Barcelona’s long unbeaten home run in the Champions League, and also extend Liverpool’s impressive record in the Camp Nou to four games without defeat.
Qualification was not a straightforward affair, however, and Barcelona’s win in the second leg at Anfield meant that Liverpool only made it into the last eight on away goals.
8. Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea
A surprisingly comfortable quarter-final win over PSV Eindhoven set up a second semi-final against Chelsea in the space of three years.
As in 2005, Liverpool had the advantage of the second leg being at Anfield. But unlike 2005, they failed to earn a draw at Stamford Bridge, and would have to win – potentially by two goals if Chelsea were able to net an away goal.
Daniel Agger provided the breakthrough for Liverpool, who were unable to make any further impression on the scoreline, despite dominating the match.
Dirk Kuyt hit the crossbar with a strike from long-range, and Chelsea, who posed almost no threat throughout the match, would have been happy not to be eliminated long before the game went to penalties.
Liverpool had won a Champions League and an FA Cup on penalties during the two previous seasons, and Chelsea were added to the list of Liverpool’s penalty shoot-out victims without even getting an opportunity to take their final two kicks.
Leading 3-1 after three spot kicks each, Dirk Kuyt’s accurate strike into the corner of Petr Cech’s goal sparked more wild celebrations on the Kop – and a visit to Athens for a Rafa Benitez’s second Champions League final in only his third season at Liverpool.