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
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf