Liverpool’s amazing Champions League victory over AC Milan was undoubtedly one of the most memorable matches in footballing history.
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Upon looking back at their road to the final, and it’s incredible to remember how they almost didn’t even get beyond the group stages. Starting their road to glory in August 2004 against Grazer AK, the Reds scraped past the Austrian outfit 2-1 after losing the second leg in disappointing fashion.
Placed into a group with Olympiacos, Deportivo La Coruna and AS Monaco, they made hard work of qualifying despite winning their first match comfortably 2-0 over Monaco. Following that opening day win, Liverpool then lost to the Greek giants and drew with Depor to leave them in an unsatisfactory position with three group matches left.
A win over Depor then appeared to set them on the right path, but a 1-0 loss to Monaco put them in a precarious position to qualify ahead of their must win clash over Olympiacos. Needing to defeat the Greek team by two or more goals to progress, Rivaldo’s early free kick was a huge setback. Consequently requiring three goals to go through, Rafa Benitez’s team produced a sensational second half to win 3-1, with two goals in the last 10 minutes securing their passage.
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A much more straightforward Round of 16 tie then followed, as the Reds ousted Bayer Leverkusen 6-2 on aggregate having won both legs 3-1.
Up next came Juventus in the quarters. And the Reds impressively got past the Turin giants, winning 2-1 on aggregate as first leg goals from Sami Hyypia and Luis Garcia were enough to move into the semis.
Standing in their way of making the final stood Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. In a fiercely fought and competitive tie, Liverpool overcame the Blues courtesy of Luis Garcia’s controversial goal in the second leg.
Facing a star studded AC Milan in the final in Istanbul that consisted of the the likes of Kaka, Andrea Pirlo, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Andriy Shevchenko, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso, Cafu and Hernan Crespo, Liverpool got of to a terrible start. Finding themselves 3-0 down at half time, Benitez then made some changes at the interval, including crucially bringing on Dietmar Hamann, as Liverpool made an inspirational comeback. A 54th minute goal from Steven Gerrard got the ball rolling, before Vladimir Smicer scored two minutes later.
Xabi Alonso then levelled things up in the 61st minute to get the score back to 3-3. With both teams unable able to find the back of the net in normal or extra time, the match headed for penalties, where Liverpool eventually prevailed after Jerzy Dudek saved Shevchenko’s spot kick.
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Named the Miracle of Istanbul, the efforts of this Liverpool will rightfully go down in history, as their astonishing comeback will never be forgotten in the world of football.