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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Why it was the greatest cup final
By Frank Keogh

Eleven reasons why Liverpool's dramatic Champions League comeback win over AC Milan was the greatest Cup final ever.

The Invincibles of Istanbul

Down, out, and downright embarrassing. Liverpool's dreams looked shattered at half-time as gloomy talk of a drubbing ensued.

But this is a team who somehow have overcome all the hurdles placed in their Champions League path - four minutes away from being knocked out by Olympiakos and going on to triumph despite being rated underdogs against top sides like Juventus and Chelsea.

The way the gritty Reds fought back was fitting for a side who were Clark Kent in the league, and supermen in Europe.

From agony to ecstasy, the zeroes became heroes. For once, every cliche seemed to fit the bill.

Sensational start

It was billed beforehand as an austere affair - the 'boring' Brits facing the defensively astute Italians. Fifty seconds in, we were all wrong.

That strike in the first minute, 3-0 up by half-time, and a goal dubiously disallowed. Sumptuous football from one of the most stylish sides in Europe. After 45 minutes, it was set to be the most one-sided final of all time.

Cue captain fantastic Steven Gerrard. He hadn't read the script. He was too busy writing it.

The joy of six

It wasn't just the scale of the comeback, it was the speed too.

Within the space of six minutes the three-goal deficit had been sensationally overcome.

Has a game ever been turned around in such a short space of time?

Few words could sum it up. So they were short and sweet: Incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable. And some that are just plain unprintable.

Everyone who watched it seems to have had the same sense of utter disbelief.

Dudek's double save

There's a minute to go and a keeper who has been, er inconsistent shall we say, somehow repels Europe's best player from point-blank range.

Not once, but twice. Even Gordon Banks only made one sensational save from Pele back in 1970.

Dudek may have known little about Shevchenko's strikes. He may have got lucky. So what?

Take a goalkeeping curtain call alongside Aston Villa's one-off 1982 Euro star Nigel Spinks and Tottenham's 1984 Uefa Cup shoot-out stopper Tony Parkes.

The Kop Cup

A fifth win means the famous giant trophy is Liverpool's forever.

The Anfield faithful can rightly sing 'It's just like watching Brazil' as Pele's calypso kings claimed the World Cup as their own after winning the competition for the third time in 1970.

After punching below their best for the past decade or so, Liverpool are off the canvas and back as one of Europe's heavyweights.

Fan-tastic

The dark chapters of Heysel and Hillsborough are permanent reminders of torrid times which scarred the Merseyside club's trophy-laden history.

But despite a massive police presence, sparked by fears of anti-English feeling among their Turkish hosts and Italian opponents, it appears to have been a largely trouble-free night in Istanbul.

It's a hard-hearted person who cannot be moved by 40,000 supporters belting out the ultimate anthem - You'll Never Walk Alone.

Calm down, calm down

Wednesday 25 May, 2005, was the night when many Britons became honorary Scousers.

Suddenly, and slightly surreally, neutral fans were transformed into passionate supporters.

They partied like it was 1999. Well, maybe not exactly like Manchester United, but you get the drift.

There were even a few followers of rivals Everton cheering on their local rivals. Possibly.

Penalty shoot-out

Who cares if they are fair or not when you get something approaching the Keystone Cops meeting Tarzan.

Penalty shoot-outs provide the best, nerve-jangling entertainment in sport.

And we even had a Brucie bonus. Dudek somehow managing to upstage the spaghetti legs of his 1980s penalty predecessor Bruce Grobbelaar.

One Italian newspaper reckoned Jerzy was breakdancing, and it was certainly an eye-popping, body-popping treat.

Local heroes

Gerrard and Jamie Carragher - the homegrown Mersey heartbeat of their local side.

Skipper Gerrard actually slept with the cup as he emulated the likes of Keegan, Dalglish and Souness - great names who thrived when Stevie was in red nappies.

He led like a general, inspired the fightback and waved his arms in a frenzied effort for the fans - his compatriots - to turn up the decibel level.

Carragher even defied cramp - in both groins according to one TV pundit - and let's face it no final could be great without stricken players crippled by cramp.

Against the odds

For a proper final, you need a team to defy those who supposedly know best - the bookmakers.

Liverpool were rated 100-1 no-hopers at half-time. Remember, this is in a two-horse race.

On the computer betting exchanges, they were even bigger, with faithless punters offering prices of up to 350-1 on the most unlikely of comebacks.

Irish betting outfit Paddy Power was left with a 150,000 headache after being forced to refund bets as part of a cashback offer should the game go to penalties.

The bookies out of pocket - priceless.

For Crazy Horse

The victory celebrations evoked memories of Liverpool's epic European glory nights of the 1970s and 80s.

And the late great Liverpudlians of yesteryear, from Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley to John Lennon and John Peel, must have been smiling down from their bench in football heaven.

Chief among them would surely have been Emlyn Hughes - the cheery skipper who lifted the huge European trophy twice.

Hughes, who died last year after suffering a brain tumour, was an archetypal Red.

He was affectionately known as Crazy Horse. And on a crazy, crazy night, there were tears among the cheers and beers.




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