From the moment Liverpool faced Graz AK in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League qualifier in August 2004 until Jerzy Dudek saved Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium, manager Rafa Benitez’s men have been through. A remarkable journey that no Liverpool fan will ever forget.
That adventure, which lasted nine months, was full of ups and downs, twists and turns that even a Hollywood movie producer wouldn’t consider coming up with the idea of making a movie. Here are some of the most memorable of those stories…
SHOCKING CHOICE Defeat DEPORTIVO
Liverpool faced Deportivo La Coruna on 3 November 2004 in the fourth crucial match of the group stage. The new Red Brigade won 4 points after the first 3 matches. However, the match at Riazor, many people think that Benitez’s teachers and students will be eaten by more experienced Deportivo than a Liverpool who has only participated in the Champions League twice before.
And more than that, the visitors chose to start with a terrible Igor Biscan in midfield instead of star Xabi Alonso on the bench. But coach Benitez’s shocking selection of the Croatian has brought well-deserved rewards.
It was Biscan’s excellent early-game solo through the home side’s midfield that created the opportunity to score the only goal of the game and give Liverpool the crucial three points in their bid to earn enough points to take the lead. a ticket to the first knockout round.
BENITEZ KEEPING COMPLETELY IN THE THROUGH
In their crucial Group A encounter with Olympiakos at Anfield, Liverpool need to win by at least two goals to qualify for the knockout stages. All that seemed lost, however, as Brazil international Rivaldo scored with a free kick, which was conceded by The Kop seconds before the referee blew the whistle to end the first half.
This means that the home team must somehow score three goals in the second half and not concede another. After the tactical changes in the second half of Benitez, The Kop scored 2 goals, while the game still had 9 minutes to end.
Liverpool needed another goal, and it came when captain Steven Gerrard hit a volley from outside the box that gave Liverpool a 3-1 lead that night, and with a spot in the first knockout round, Anfield was in the water. delirium.
Except for one man who remained calm, it was Benitez. Amidst the cheers, he still scribbled more notes on his pad. Even when a fan jumped over the fence to hug Benitez, he was still deep in thought.
THE KOP FULL OF FAITH
Before the second leg clash with Bayer Leverkusen at Bay Arena in March 2005, the Liverpool manager held an optimistic press conference in which he surprised many by announcing that his team was good enough to make it to the final.
At that time, the Red Brigade was considered the worst club left in the Champions League. Benitez decided to use this risky strategy to bolster his players’ fragile confidence, especially after they conceded a last-minute goal against the Germans in the first leg at Anfield in what appeared to be a match. lost the initiative to Leverkusen.
However, according to The Independent’s Paul Walker, Benitez came out on the pitch the day before the game, telling a stunned press conference: “Last season Porto were champions, So why can’t Liverpool win this season?”
The Spaniard continued: “If we beat Leverkusen we would be two games away from the final and Liverpool have the advantage that any team that faces us, they will have to go to Anfield and face it. with Liverpool as well as our fans.”
And the pre-match tactics worked perfectly, as Liverpool comfortably won 3-1 that night, going on with a 6-2 aggregate scoreline. Before that, most people predicted that the more experienced Germans would beat their opponents at home.
Liverpool entered the quarter-finals of the first leg against 2004 Ballon d’Or winners Juventus’ Serie A champions Pavel Nedved. Earlier, Nedved gave an interview in which he praised The Kop’s fans for being enthusiastic, but also said that he was sorry for them because Liverpool would not be able to overcome the “Old Lady” in the knockout round- out of this.
As a result, the Czech international’s words have been hung on the dressing room wall at Anfield, in an attempt by Liverpool management to encourage and stimulate the players ahead of the clash with Juve. This tactic worked like a dream with the home team tearing apart a stronger opponent from the start.
The away team Juventus did not know what happened to them when they were led 2-0 by Liverpool. It should be known that Juventus was evaluated by experts as the most likely candidate to win the Silver Cup that season, after having eliminated Real Madrid in the first knockout round. However, Liverpool defeated Juventus in a situation that was forced to launch inexperienced duo Anthony Le Tallec and Scott Carson.
PLAN ON THE CHELSEA BRIDGE
In the semi-final first leg between Liverpool and Chelsea, the organizers of Stamford Bridge decided to arrange the noisy Liverpool fans right behind the two goals, as opposed to where they usually arrange for the away team’s fans in the audience. Shed End station as before.
This deliberate scheme is the work of coach Jose Mourinho many dark tricks. The Special One’s dirty blow, however, backfired on himself. Every time “Mourinho got up from the bench to direct the players, all the fans of the Red Brigade also stood up to give the Portuguese coach the loud “shhh” that he used to cause a stir. controversial way in the previous Carling Cup final.
And this has affected Mourinho’s ability to communicate with his players, leaving him frustrated, unable to adjust to a lackluster performance by the Premier League champions in west London, leaving Liverpool alone. control the game.
DON’T TOUCH THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Before stepping onto the pitch in Istanbul for the final against AC Milan, Spain midfielder Luis Garcia warned his teammates not to touch the trophy under any circumstances, because of the unwritten rules in football. is that only the winning team will lay their hands on the trophy when it is presented after the game.
And as if to make the taboo more easily violated, when the two teams entered the field, UEFA decided to demarcate the positions of the two teams by placing the elephant ear trophy in the middle, very close to the bridges. player.
However, while the Liverpool players resisted the temptation to touch the glamorous trophy, Rossoneri stars Gennaro Gattuso and Kaka both broke the taboo by touching the trophy as they passed it. And in the end, as they say, the rest is history…