Liverpool need to summon the spirit of Istanbul

Sam Wallace recalls that night against Milan when Benitez's men showed how to recover a lost cause

The task: recover from 3-0 down at half-time. The result: Liverpool 3 Milan 3 (Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties), 25 May 2005, Champions League final, Istanbul.

Steven Gerrard came back into the dressing room at half-time "enraged" by his own performance and vowing to avenge "that smirk" on the face of Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso. Jamie Carragher was plagued by the thought of "going home a laughing stock". Outside, in the Liverpool end of the Ataturk stadium "You'll Never Walk Alone" was sung as a dirge rather than a celebration.

Rafael Benitez had picked a risky team: Harry Kewell up front with Milan Baros, Gerrard back in centre-midfield alongside Xabi Alonso and, critically, no Dietmar Hamann. In his autobiography, Carragher remembers Gerrard's voice "quivering with disbelief" when he told him earlier in the week that Kewell would be starting as a striker.

The result was a first-half disaster. Without Hamann, Kaka ran the centre of midfield. Kewell came off after 23 minutes with a torn muscle in his groin. Paolo Maldini scored in the first minute and by half-time Hernan Crespo had added two more. In the dressing room, Benitez, then not having mastered English, tried to re-organise and galvanise his players.

The accounts of how Benitez did it – from Gerrard and Carragher – vary on the details but both agree the Liverpool manager thought quickly on his feet. He originally wanted to replace Djimi Traoré with Hamann but an injury to Steve Finnan meant Traoré stayed on. It was also Benitez's intention to bring on Djibril Cissé at half-time – until someone pointed out that would mean Liverpool fielding 12 men.

Carragher remembers the coach Alex Miller telling the players as they left the dressing room to score one for the fans. "That was the mindset we had," Carragher said, "Get one and pride might be restored." What happened after that, he reflected, was that Liverpool "entered the Twilight Zone".

In that miraculous second half in which Gerrard, Alonso and Vladimir Smicer brought the score level there are details often overlooked. Jerzy Dudek (pictured) made crucial saves at the start of the half just as in extra-time he saved Andrei Shevchenko's header from six yards.

"Looking back on the moments after Jerzy's save [from Shevchenko's final penalty] is like trying to recall pieces of a dream," was Gerrard's lyrical take on the defining moment of the penalty shoot-out that won Liverpool their fifth European Cup.

On the flight home, the players passed the trophy down the plane to family and friends. At the back, I sat next to Pako Ayesteran, then Benitez's assistant, who turned down the offers of champagne and opened his laptop. What the hell was he doing? "Planning the pre-season training," he said. The only people who did not seem able to compute winning in such a chaotic style was the master-strategist Benitez and his team of assistants.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Getty
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor