A Look Back On The 2005 Champions League Final

Published by Chris Jenkins
08th Mar 2023

A fixture that needs no introduction, the UEFA Champions League Final in Istanbul is known for being one of the most remarkable football fixtures of all time, let alone in Europe. In our latest post, we will look back on the 2005 Champions League Final and what led to the miraculous comeback.


The Miracle Of Istanbul:

On the 25th of May, under the lights of the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, football fans witnessed what is commonly known as the Miracle of Istanbul. This name was given following the events that transpired throughout the 120+ minutes of football - becoming one of the go-to underdog case studies across sports. For most football clubs, being able to win the Champions League is a dream that very rarely becomes a reality given its competitive nature. So when one of the best teams in the world at the time, AC Milan were set to play a hungry yet inexperienced at the top level side in Liverpool - most fans and pundits alike thought it would be a simple win for the Italian giants.

Alas, despite Carlo Ancelotti’s side going 1-0 up in the first minute followed by an additional two goals being scored by AC Milan - no one could have expected the turnaround that Liverpool was about to produce in the second half.

Before we highlight the comeback, it is important for us to provide the context in terms of comparing both sides' quality on offer:


Liverpool vs AC Milan 2005 Line-Up:

In the early 2000s’ AC Milan was blessed with having one of the greatest sides in world football. With the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, and Jaap Stam among many others within Carlo Ancelotti’s side. As for the whole starting XI, this was the complete side:

  • GK: Dida
  • RB: Cafu
  • CB: Jaap Stam
  • CB: Alessandro Nesta
  • LB: Paolo Maldini
  • CDM: Andrea Pirlo
  • RM: Gennaro Gattuso
  • LM: Clarence Seedorf
  • AM: Kaka
  • ST: Andriy Shevchenko
  • ST: Hernan Crespo

With the complete line-up in mind, it’s apparent to see why this AC Milan side is considered to be one of the best sides in world football at the time. With one of the best goalkeepers in Dida, some of the best defenders in Jaap Stam, and some hall-of-fame midfielders with the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Kaka.

This lineup left Liverpool fans apprehensive about the upcoming game, although, most fans were still believing in the fact that anything can happen in football - especially given that it is a game of two halves.

As for the Liverpool players under the extremely tactical Rafa Benetiz, the line-up of the Reds was as follows:

  • GK: Jerzy Dudek
  • RB: Steve Finnan
  • CB: Jamie Carragher
  • CB: Sami Hyypia
  • LB: Djimi Traore
  • CM: Xabi Alonso
  • CM: Steven Gerrard
  • LM: John Arne Riise
  • RM: Harry Kewell
  • ST: Milan Baros

Comparing both sides, it is apparent that minus 1-2 individuals, the overall talent from the Italian side was far superior. So what actually happened throughout the cup final to make it one of the most iconic football games? Let’s explore:


The Miraculous Comeback:

Kick-off couldn’t have started any better for AC Milan as within the opening minutes the Rossoneri found themselves 1-0 up following Paolo Maldini’s strike against Dudek. This dropped Liverpool fans' heads, although, things would get considerably worse for the Reds as within five minutes (between the 39th and 44th minute) Ancelotti’s side scored another two goals thanks to a brace by Hernan Crespo.

Going into the tunnel at half-time, it seemed all but over for Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool side, having to score at least three goals against one of the best football teams in the world without conceding a fourth. Rafa made his second substitution following his initial change of Valdimir Smicer for Harry Kewell in the 23rd minute as he made a half-time change for Dietmar Hamann to replace Steve Finnan - allowing more of an attacking threat whilst still maintaining a defensive shape.

This seemed to worry fans further as most expected Rafa to set up shop in order to concede fewer goals. Although things took a turn for the better as within less than 10 minutes (54th-61st minute) viewers witnessed one of the most miraculous comebacks in football history. This started with club captain, Steven Gerrard who scored a thunderous header from deep in the 54th minute - providing iconic imagery of the scouser rallying the fans to cheer the players on.

This momentum increased all the more as two minutes later, substitute Vladimir Smicer found the bottom corner with a wonderful strike - leaving Dida and the AC Milan faithful nervous about their current situation. Their concerns rang true as in the 61st minute, Xabi Alonso scored from a rebounded penalty which sent the Anfield faithful into rapturous applause - this marked a monumental comeback but the work was not finished yet.

Djimi Traore made a goalline clearance to prevent AC Milan from taking the lead, in addition to Jerzy Dudek making one of the most baffling saves anyone could have made within the game of football. All of these feats led to one thing - extra time and penalties. Speaking of iconic saves that are debatably surrounded by controversy - Jerzy Dudek’s winning saves will go down as one of the all-time saves from the penalty spot because of the controversy. Speaking about the save, Dudek was quoted as saying “When I saved the penalty, I knew I was off the line so I said to myself “If you look at the referee, he will cancel it.” I turned around to the supporters, I was cheering and everything was ok”.


The Legacy Of The Istanbul Final

Following this iconic fixture, this resulted in Liverpool lifted the illustrious trophy for a fifth time, becoming the most decorated English football team in Europe. To witness Liverpool compete in UEFA Champions League games, you can buy Liverpool tickets with Football Ticket Pad today. We offer a secure and guaranteed platform for an extensive selection of football tickets including the Premier League and other domestic cups competitions such as the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.