Liverpool beat AC Milan: Memories of the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ by those who were there

Steven Gerrard lifts the Champions League trophy after the Reds became champions of Europe for a fifth time

It is exactly 15 years since the greatest comeback in Champions League – or European Cup – final history.

On 25 May, 2005 at the Ataturk Stadium in Turkey, Liverpool were 3-0 down at half-time to a star-studded AC Milan side, but recovered to force extra time and, eventually, win on penalties.

Reds fans call it the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ and this is how it is remembered by the players, pundits and supporters who were there.

The fan – radio presenter Colin Murray

It is estimated that around 50,000 of the 69,000 fans inside Ataturk Stadium were Liverpool supporters

I was there as a fan in the home end, well the end that was meant to be the Liverpool end. All the neutral areas were almost entirely red, and if you listen to the 5 live commentary now, it sounds like it is at Anfield, not in Istanbul. You can hear the silences when Milan score.

What I remember more than anything is, when the teams came back out for the second half, the trophy was there at the end of the tunnel and the AC Milan players walked past it like it was theirs. Some of them even touched it. It made the comeback all the more sweet.

Listening back, you remember the important players who maybe don’t get the credit as the story is told year after year. Didi Hamann for sure, John Arne Riise, Vladmir Smicer, even Djibril Cisse.

Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek kept out an Andriy Shevchenko header then recovered to somehow block the AC Milan striker’s follow-up shot moments after this photo was taken

And Jerzy Dudek of course. That double save of his late in extra-time, that was right in front of me, and I loved hearing the commentary of it years after the event – Mark Lawrenson just cannot let it go – he comes back to it a couple of minutes later to say how he cannot get over how good a stop it was.

The co-commentator – 5 live’s former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson

Looking back now, the whole thing was just incredible. It was at the time too.

Dudek was not exactly known for his consistency, and he had made a few howlers in his time, but it was his night.

Liverpool’s starting XI against AC Milan – back row (l-r) Djimi Traore, Xabi Alonso, Sami Hypia, Jerzy Dudek, Jamie Carragher and Harry Kewell – who was injured and replaced by Vladimir Smicer after 23 minutes. Front row (l-r) Steve Finnan, Milan Baros, Luis Garcia, Steven Gerrard and John Arne Riise

It was not the greatest Liverpool team that has ever won the Champions League or European Cup, as everyone knows. That is all part of the story, but the delicious irony for me is with Rafa Benitez’s tactics.

He went into the final thinking he could stop Milan, and he had picked a team to do that, but that plan went totally out of the window in the first half. They were a little bit hard done by – they should have had a penalty just before Milan scored their second goal – but at 3-0 it was all over.

The key Liverpool change saw Didi Hamann brought on at half-time with the job of stifling Kaka, who had been instrumental for Milan in the first half. His introduction in midfield allowed Steven Gerrard to roam further forward, giving him a freedom he would soon make the most of

Then Rafa goes out for the second half on the attack and suddenly they look like a different team. Whatever he told them at half-time he must have been thinking the score could get embarrassing – instead, within 15 minutes it is 3-3.

The thing that I forgot is how quickly Liverpool score their three goals – it is in the space of six minutes.

54 minutes: 1-3 – Steven Gerrard heads home from John Arne Riise’s cross. Liverpool have hope…
56 minutes: 2-3 Didi Hamann feeds Vladimir Smicer, who lets fly home from the edge of the area. Milan keeper Dida gets a hand to his shot but cannot keep it out. The flag had gone up for a Liverpool offside as they attacked less than 20 seconds earlier but, to Milan’s fury, play continued
59 mins: Penalty to Liverpool – Jamie Carragher bursts forward and feeds Milan Baros, whose flick finds Steven Gerrard bursting into the area unmarked. The Liverpool skipper is hauled back by Gennaro Gattuso (r) and referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez points to the spot
60 mins: 3-3 With the Liverpool players and bench raging that Gattuso should be sent off, Xabi Alonso steps up to take the penalty… which is brilliantly saved by Dida, low to his right. However, Alonso is first to the rebound – just ahead of Milan defender Alessandro Nesta, who had encroached so much he was practically level with him when he took his penalty

Then, at 3-3, there was that long spell where nothing happened and I started to fancy Milan again.

Even when it went to penalties, I thought the same, but what happened just shows how you never know what is going through a player’s head when they take a penalty in that situation.

The hero – former Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek

Every time [during the shoot-out] I went with the ball to the player, I looked in their eyes, gave them nicely the ball – and then asked them if they’re going to go the same as always. Then I turned my back to the goal.

I think Shevchenko wanted to put the ball to my right but he knew I’m going there. Then he wanted to score in the middle of the goal but I was there as well.

Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek saves Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty to clinch a 3-2 shoot-out victory for the Reds. Serginho had fired Milan’s first penalty over and Dudek denied Andrea Pirlo before Jon Dahl Tomasson and Kaka both scored for the Italian side… but this was the save that clinched victory for Liverpool

When I stopped it, in the first milliseconds, I thought maybe it’s not over yet but when I saw the guys running at me, I said ‘oh my god’ – this is it, this is finished, that’s the moment of your life.

The Liverpool players sprint to congratulate Dudek – the Reds’ three substitutes – Hamann, Djibril Cisse and Smicer – were their scorers in the shoot-out. Risse saw his penalty saved

Everywhere I go during the last 15 years, when people see me they are always asking: ‘are you Jerzy Dudek?’ They always remember this final.

I’m very grateful because we did it in a special way. We gave everything, we showed our Liverpool character – we always fight to the end, we never give up.

Dudek gets his hands on the Champions League trophy

I think that day we deserved it more than everyone in Europe because of this fantastic support. They are motivating us and they put us back on the right track.

I know it’s 15 years, but it feels like it wasn’t even more than a year ago.

You can hear more from Dudek in ‘The Miracle of Istanbul’ – a special Sportsworld show on the BBC World Service on Saturday 30 May at 17:00 BST.

The player left out – Former Liverpool full-back Stephen Warnock

Around 750,000 people turned out to see Liverpool parade the Champions League trophy around the city in 2005, but not all of their players made the bus

When I hear it described as being one of Liverpool’s greatest ever nights, it leaves a very sour taste. It still hurts now, actually – the way it was handled was absolutely shocking.

I was in the original squad when the team sheet up was put up at the training ground a few days before the game, and I was absolutely ecstatic.

Then a couple of hours later, I got a call from Rafa Benitez’s assistant, Pako Ayesteran, saying there had been a mistake. Josemi was in instead.

Even that was poor – the fact that Rafa did not have the bottle to ring me himself. He did speak to me briefly on the pitch after the game, but I was not in the mood at all, I was still seething.

I had been the same during the game. Don’t get me wrong, it was never to the point where I wanted them to lose, because Liverpool were my club and they were my team-mates out there.

But it hurts when you are not involved and I was sitting there in the stands thinking about it the whole time. You almost switch off from what is happening in the game.

If you look at the celebrations afterwards, a lot of people are on all the different photos but I am nowhere to be seen. I couldn’t bring myself to stand there, it just did not feel right – you feel like you have been let down.

The worst thing was the flight home, though. They put the wives of those who had played on the plane, ahead of some players who had made key contributions in Europe that season, which was just shocking.

We got back to John Lennon Airport on a later flight to the team and, when we landed, the victory parade had already started. You could not get to the bus because of the crowds, so I just went home.

That was the moment I made my mind up that I had to leave the club.

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