The comeback to end all comebacks and Steven Gerrard, Captain Fantastic, was at the centre of it all!
No-one in football will ever forget that night in Istanbul. The Turkish capital was the site of mission impossible. Liverpool were trailing and Gerrard, leading by example, brought his team back to life to lift the European Cup for his boyhood club. It will go down in football folklore as one of the greatest European finals, and one of the most memorable comebacks in sport history.
On the 25th May 2005, Steven Gerrard and his team mates faced the biggest challenge of their careers. A first 45 minutes of football dominated by AC Milan, left Liverpool trailing by 3 goals to nil (3 – 0) at half-time.
Most of the Liverpool players went into the second half looking to salvage some pride and spare further embarrassment. But one player wasn’t ready to give up just yet. Steven Gerrard was the source of inspiration which led to European Glory, and Liverpool’s fifth European title.
On the 54th minute of the match, Gerrard leaped into the air and fired in a header from a Riise cross. His celebration; a war cry to the travelling Kop. NEVER SAY DIE!
56th minute, Smicer beats Dida with a long-range effort. One more goal, and it’s all tied up with time to spare.
60th minute; the equalizer. Gerrard is fouled by Gennaro Gattuso. Xavi Alonso from the penalty spot; a Dida save, a follow up shot, GOAL!
Over 6 minutes Liverpool, led by Steven Gerrard, had transformed an embarrassing European Final defeat into a real, nail biting contest. One which would be decided in a penalty shoot-out.
It went to the wire. Liverpool had scored 3 of the 4 penalties taken; Milan had only scored 2. The pressure lay with Ukrainian International Andriy Shevchenko. Only Jerzy Dudek stood in his way; and that he did! A penalty save from the Pole, and Liverpool were European Champions once more! 3 – 2 winners in the shoot-out. Mission Impossible: complete!
After an unbelievable European final, Gerrard had his hands on old Big Ears!
A humble player, Gerrard has always recognised the work of his team mates, his manager in Rafael Benitez and the Liverpool supporters for the victory in Istanbul. Gerrard himself has stated that his header, and Liverpool’s first goal, would not have been scored had Didi Hamman still been on the bench and if Riise hadn’t crossed the ball.
Winning the European Cup was a personal landmark for Gerrard. In doing so, he became the second youngest captain to lift the European Cup, aged 24. The youngest is, Frenchman, Didier Deschamps who won the European Cup in 1993 with Marseille.
His heroics on the night, brought unforgettable glory to his boyhood team. It will never be forgotten by the Liverpool faithful or neutral fans alike.
Steven Gerrard was the embodiment of the Kop on that magical night in Istanbul, and his legend will forever be engraved in football folklore.