An incredible final between the then four-time European champions Liverpool FC and Spanish surprise package Deportivo Alavés swung back and forth before being decided by a Delfi Gelí own goal late in extra time.
Liverpool FC 5-4 Deportivo Alavés (aet)
(Babbel 4’ – Gerrard 16’ – McAllister 41’ (p) – Fowler 73’ – Gelí (og) 116’ – Alonso 27’ – Javi Moreno 48’ & 51’ – Cruyff 89’)
They were an odd couple, Deportivo Alavés and Liverpool FC. The former had not a single domestic title to their name; the latter, the largest trophy cabinet in English football. Together they were the perfect match.
Or rather the 2001 UEFA Cup final they contested seemed like the perfect match. Europe had seen nothing like it since the 1950s when Real Madrid CF were making hay and headlines. The only pity was that it had to be won and lost so cruelly: the ‘golden goal’ separating the sides was, in fact, an own goal scored by the Alavés full-back Delfi Gelí four minutes from the end of extra time. Enough to give Liverpool a 5-4 victory and a third UEFA Cup.
The Merseysiders, resurgent under French coach Gérard Houllier, had come through a tough draw with only one blemish to their name – a 1-0 home defeat by AS Roma. Yet they had already won 2-0 in Rome, so Italy’s champions-elect joined an A-list of victims that included Olympiakos CFP, FC Porto and FC Barcelona. Meanwhile, Alavés had stunned Italian watchers by knocking out FC Internazionale Milano at the San Siro in the fourth round. The Basque club had already shown themselves to be no respecters of reputation by rising out of Spain’s third division under the charismatic leadership of coach José Manuel Esnal ‘Mané’.
Now they were European iconoclasts as well. Something 1. FC Kaiserslautern learnt to their cost in the semi-finals, where Alavés put nine goals past them. However, Liverpool were a bit more durable than the German side. So while Iván Alonso, Javi Moreno (twice) and Jordi Cruyff scored for the team in yellow and blue, Markus Babbel, Steven Gerrard, Gary McAllister and Robbie Fowler registered for the reds.
“Walk on, With hope in your heart .. You’ll Never Walk Alone..” #YNWA