“LFC Encore” is a series that relives the club’s significant moments from its recent past.
Flashback: May 26, 2005
A day when Liverpool made morning headlines after a European final, again.
If God exists, he resides in the Kop.
Only then can one begin to comprehend, even six years later, the events of one special night in Istanbul. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ resonated inside the Ataturk stadium throughout half-time as the fans, somehow, gathered the energy and the courage to make one last prayer.
And a few moments later, they had received more than what they had asked for.
In six minutes, Liverpool had managed to turn a dead European Final on its head. In six minutes, those who believed in logic alone, started believing in god. In six minutes, three goals were scored against one of the meanest defences in European football. And in six minutes, Liverpool had transformed from the laughing stock of Europe to the most respected club in the world.
Today, the largest city in Turkey is but a symbol of the club’s undying spirit and incredible achievement in the football world. The Ataturk Stadium stands as a testament to a night when Liverpool quenched their desperate, 21-year long thirst for their favourite trophy after achieving the most phenomenal comeback in European history.
The world acknowledged that the match was no longer just another European final and as reporters struggled to describe the enormity of Liverpool’s achievement, it came to be known as the “the miracle of Istanbul”.
It was portrayed as a story of extraordinary grit in New Zealand, an inspirational feat in Congo and a day to forget in Italy. Even the Americans, usually obsessed with their own sports, made space for Liverpool on the front page. India’s largest-selling newspaper – the cover page of which would always be dominated by crimes, political debates and Cricket-worshipping stories – made space for a large, flashy red photo of Steven Gerrard lifting the cup; the first occurrence of a football club-related front page news.
While the Irish admired Liverpool’s recovery, Spain made manager Rafael Benitez the ‘King of Merseyside’. Reports of cab drivers in Liverpool jerseys did rounds of the Turkish media. Movies and documentaries began to take ship in Britain. And closer to home, even Manchester Evening News couldn’t stop itself from giving a ‘Well done’ to Liverpool.
The club had simply captured the imagination of the world like none before it, after trailing 3-0 at half-time. An Italian journalist perfectly summed up the scene at half-time – “The game was over, but for the god.”
And it certainly was, but for four instances of divine intervention.
First, it was almost written in stone that Steven Gerrard – a Liverpool local, an inspirational captain and a symbol of the football club – would score the first goal to lift his team. Second, Vladimir Smicer, a player who would not have featured in his last game for the club but for an injury to Harry Kewell early in the first half, scored Liverpool’s second. Third, the special six minutes were capped off by Xabi Alonso, whose penalty was saved but, with a full semi-circle of angles to move into, the ball chose to land at the feet of the penalty taker.
And finally, the moment that truly summed up an extraordinary night of football – Jerzy Dudek, a goalkeeper renowned for his mediocrity, pulled off arguably the most incredible double save in football history with his eyes shut!
What followed was a nerve-wracking penalty shootout that ended in defeat of the mighty AC Milan and Liverpool were crowned the Champions of Europe for the first time since 1984.
But there was a little part of the world that wasn’t celebrating just a European triumph. A six-minute recovery was sensational, but it was a little piece in the bigger picture.
Merseyside was celebrating a long-awaited redemption since the infamous 1985 European Final in Heysel – a dark hour in the club’s history that resulted in deaths of Juventus supporters due to the behaviour of a handful of Liverpool fans. Consequently, a five-year ban abruptly ended Liverpool’s era of European domination, left the club in European obscurity and worse, stamped an everlasting stigma on the club’s supporters.
On May 26, 2005, Liverpool and its supporters, once again, made headlines around the world after a European Final; but this time as an epitome of spirit, a benchmark of loyalty and a way for every club and its supporters to be.
Heysel may never be forgiven, or forgotten. However, two words can go a long way in erasing Liverpool’s darkest past. Only two words.
Click here to relive the famous match.
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