UEFA Cup Final 2000/01: Liverpool prevail in nine-goal thriller

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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.

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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’)
Westfalenstadion, Dortmund.

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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

 

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UEFA Champions League Final 2004/05: Liverpool belief defies Milan

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Trailing 3-0 to AC Milan at half-time in the UEFA Champions League final, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Liverpool FC, but what followed in Istanbul was a legendary comeback which made the reds five-time European champions.

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AC Milan 3 – 3 Liverpool FC (aet, Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties)
(Maldini 1’ – Crespo 39’ & 44’ – Gerrard 53’ – Šmicer 56’ – Alonso 60’)
Atatürk Olimpiyat, Istanbul.

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Liverpool FC returned to the top of European football in thrilling style with a remarkable UEFA Champions League final victory against AC Milan. Trailing 3-0 at half-time in Istanbul, Rafael Benítez’s side stormed back in the second half with three goals in seven minutes to set up a dramatic penalty shoot-out triumph. Andriy Shevchenko, scorer of the winning spot-kick in the 2003 final against Juventus, was this time denied by goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek to give Liverpool a famous victory.

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Paolo Maldini’s fastest ever goal in a UEFA Champions League final and two from Hernán Crespo looked to have secured Milan’s third UEFA Champions League crown, but second-half goals by Liverpool’s talismanic captain Steven Gerrard, Vladimír Šmicer and Xabi Alonso wiped out Milan’s seemingly unassailable half-time advantage.

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Just reaching the final had had Liverpool fans pinching themselves in disbelief. Their side had been defeated by Grazer AK at Anfield in the third qualifying round and then looked to be on their way out in the group stage until a thunderous, late Gerrard strike gave them the 3-1 victory against Olympiacos CFP they needed to advance. Bayer 04 Leverkusen were brushed aside in the Round of 16 to set up an emotional meeting with Juventus FC in the quarter-finals. The tie marked the first time the two sides had met in a competitive match since the Heysel Stadium tragedy on 29 May 1985 when 39 people lost their lives at the final of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup in Brussels.

After a 2-1 victory at Anfield, a superb defensive performance by Liverpool saw off Juve in Turin. Suddenly, Reds fans dared to believe. Chelsea FC were up next in an all-English encounter which Liverpool narrowly won thanks to Luis García’s strike at Anfield, the only goal of the tie. Benítez, a UEFA Cup winner the year before with Valencia CF, had led Liverpool to the final for the first time in 20 years, but few tipped them to overcome Milan in Istanbul.

After finishing top of their group, the Serie A champions had convincingly defeated Manchester United FC and city rivals FC Internazionale Milano without conceding a goal to reach the final four. PSV Eindhoven pushed them hard in the semi-finals, winning the second leg 3-1 but bowing out on the away-goals rule, but Milan still went into the final as favourites. That billing looked set to be confirmed when Maldini scored after just 52 seconds. But Liverpool had other ideas as they struck back to claim the European Champion Clubs’ Cup trophy for the fifth time.

Walk on, With hope in your heart.. You’ll Never Walk Alone..” #YNWA

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