Liverpool beat Milan to UCL in 2005: One night in Istanbul remembered

Ten years ago today, one of the greatest matches in the history of football was played as Liverpool came back from 3-0 down at half-time in the 2005 Champions League final against AC Milan to win 3-2 on penalties.

Goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso saw the Reds come back in Istanbul before goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek turned hero in the shootout. Here, ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers revisit that day.

Sum up your memories of that day

Dave Usher: I watched it in Liverpool city centre with some friends. I've never once regretted not being in the Ataturk Stadium because the atmosphere in town was incredible.

It had been buzzing after the wins over Juventus (quarterfinals) and Chelsea (semifinals), too, with thousands of fans heading straight from Anfield to celebrate in town, but the night of the final itself was something else.

After the game, people poured out of whatever bars they'd been in and the streets were full of tens of thousands of delirious, almost disbelieving but wildly celebrating fans. It was incredible. Regardless of what Liverpool may win in the future it is doubtful there'll ever be scenes like that again.

Steven Kelly: It was my second day out in Istanbul and the only possible regret was not seeing more of what was clearly a beautiful city. The stadium itself was out in the middle of nowhere so it soon began to feel like a pilgrimage, especially when you witnessed thousands of fans struggling across a gigantic wasteland with the Ataturk in the background.

Once inside and with the ground full up, it was obvious it already meant more to Liverpool than Milan, with a 70/30 split in the support. Now all it needed was the players to do the business.

So what were your thoughts at 3-0 down, then?

DU: Believe it or not I remember trying to convince a total stranger that it wasn't over. Alcohol consumption no doubt played a part in that bravado, but the logic was sound. Although the Reds could have conceded more than the three goals they did, there were numerous opportunities that they didn't make the most of.

One of Milan's goals came on a quick counter-attack after Luis Garcia had been brought down on the edge of the penalty area. Had the referee given that it would have been a completely different game. I can't explain where the hope came from, but it was there.

SK: I'm glad someone was convinced it wasn't over because the mood in the ground was initially one of amazement and concern for the second half. There'd also been a lot of gloating before leaving home about Everton's recent 7-0 thrashing at Arsenal and how Liverpool would make their fourth place irrelevant by winning the final.

Gradually the fans began to realise they surely hadn't come all this way just to be humiliated and at least tried to inspire some courage in the team with an ear-splitting rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" at half-time.

I can't recall now if anyone even mentioned Milan's habit of going "AWOL" in certain games. For such an outstanding side, they'd bewilderingly been thrashed by Deportivo La Coruna in 2004 and almost blew their semifinal with PSV Eindhoven in 2005, too. The main concern was simply to restore some pride.

When did you start to believe you might win?

DU: Probably after Smicer's goal. Even though Milan still had their noses in front you could tell they were wobbling and momentum had shifted massively in Liverpool's favour.

When it got to 3-3 it looked like the Reds would win it in normal time but the Italians regained their composure and it was backs-to-the-wall time again.

Doubts crept in again at that point but when Dudek made that astonishing save from Andriy Shevchenko and then just looked skywards as if to say "Yeah, you've got my back here big man," most of us felt there was no way Milan were winning it.

SK: Yes, Smicer's goal coming so soon after Steven Gerrard's first cranked the atmosphere up several notches, if that were possible. The score at 3-1 felt like consolation but 3-2 felt like Liverpool had finally woken up.

The Dudek save gave the night an extra sense of the miraculous but it wasn't really until Liverpool were 2-0 up in the shootout after two penalties that the ultimate victory was truly considered within reach.

What was that shootout like?

DU: They're horrible things to watch even when it's a preseason friendly! Even afterwards when you know you've won there's still something unnerving about re-watching them. When there's so much at stake it's even worse and strange things tend to happen.

Players you think will score don't; while those you'd never back to score become heroes. Alan Kennedy in Rome in 1984 was the best example.

John Arne Riise was someone I'd expect to score from a spot kick, so it was surprising when he missed. Smicer, on the other hand, wasn't someone who would normally inspire confidence. His penalty is my abiding memory of the shootout, actually.

He knew he was leaving the club and his last act as a Liverpool player would be that penalty. When he scored and then kissed the badge, it was an iconic moment. He had his critics at Anfield but for him to go out like that was superb as he was widely regarded as one of the nicest men you could ever wish to meet.

SK: Milan just seemed to fall apart; Liverpool had the momentum. There was still trepidation when Djibril Cisse and Smicer strode up to take one and I wasn't as confident as you were in Riise, Dave. Milan's goalkeeper Dida saved Alonso's penalty in normal time only for the Spaniard to ram it back past him for 3-3, so nothing was taken for granted after a roller coaster of a night.

It was a concern when Kaka got it back to 2-2 but Smicer showed no fear. To this day Shevchenko's penalty is baffling; it was like he thought there was no point trying as the gods were clearly on Liverpool's side that evening.

There are some who think Liverpool are the worst winners of the Champions League ...

DU: Steady on! It wasn't a great side, of course, they only finished fifth in the Premier League that year and were even below Everton. Worst ever winners, though?

That's probably one for the neutrals to decide as it's difficult for any Liverpool fan to make that assessment about a side that contained Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia, Alonso and Didi Hamann at the peak of their powers.

Of course you had Harry Kewell and Djimi Traore in there, too, admittedly ...

SK: Jealousy would be a factor there. Worst team to win it, or best team to never win it? Ask Liverpool fans what they'd rather have. Ask Arsenal fans, too, while you're at it. A team that got the better of an XI that contained Dida, Cafu, Maldini, Nesta, Stam, Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka, Crespo and Shevchenko has nothing to be ashamed of -- quite the opposite in fact.

That first half tends to colour memories of Liverpool's whole 2005 campaign but it was preceded by two matches each with Juventus and Chelsea where they only conceded once. Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez had a ton of European experience and between them helped fashion a side that would prove in following seasons this was no fluke.

So what was the greater achievement: Istanbul or Manchester United in the Nou Camp?

DU: Definitely Liverpool in Istanbul. United left it late but they only came from one goal down. Besides, they were one of the best sides in Europe and most expected them to beat Bayern anyway. Liverpool were big underdogs who few thought had much of a chance, and they were 3-0 down at half-time. To win from that position was an almost unbelievable outcome.

SK: Opinion on 1999 vs. 2005 will only divide on club lines, obviously. Older Liverpool fans can recount both experiences in successful European Cup finals: the natural outcome of being the best team on the continent and the outlandish win against the odds in the Ataturk.

The latter felt best because it was the most recent. The heady mix of triumph and superiority in the 1970s and 1980s may never come back but it stays in the mind forever. Even if that feeling returned, though, it would still be nigh-on impossible to emulate Istanbul. Ten years ago? It still feels like yesterday.