2005 UEFA Champions League Final

Liverpool (England) vs. AC Milan (Italy)

Venue: Atatürk Olympic Stadium

Road to the Final

The 2005 UEFA Champions League final provided arguably the most exciting and dramatic match in the history of the competition. The tournament featured the modern extended format of the competition, which saw both finalists entering the tournament in the third qualifying round.

Liverpool scraped through the round with a 2-1 aggregate win that saw them lose their second match to Austrian minnows Grazer AK. The pool stages saw Liverpool struggle against relatively minor opposition, losing matches to Olympiakos and AS Monaco.

Despite dour performances the Reds did enough to finish second in their group and qualify for the knockout stages, where they overpowered German side Leverkusen 6-2 before edging out top Italian side Juventus 2-1 on aggregate. With big wins behind them Liverpool had the confidence to claim a tight tie over fellow English side Chelsea in the semi-finals.

AC Milan entered the competition in the group stages and dominated their pool, losing only a single match against group runners-up Barcelona. In the first knockout round Milan showed their class by knocking out a powerful Manchester United side, 2-0. They then demolished Milanese rivals Internazionale 5-0 in the quarterfinals before running into a determined PSV Eindhoven in the semi-finals. Eindhoven held Milan to a 3-3 aggregate draw that featured a 3-1 second leg win. The Milanese were fortunate to advance to the 2005 UEFA Champions League final on the away goals rule.

The Final

The 2005 UEFA Champions League final got off to a scorching start with Paolo Maldini scoring for Milan in the 52nd second – the fastest goal in a Champions League final. A second Milan score was ruled out in the 29th minute, before Hernan Crespo scored another two goals to give Milan a virtually unbeatable 3-0 half-time lead.

The second half of the 2005 UEFA Champions League final witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in tournament history as a determined Liverpool did the unthinkable by pulling back three goals in a period of 10 minutes as Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Vladimír Šmicer all found the back of the net.

The game went into extra time, and an exhausted Liverpool side were rescued by the steady hands of goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, who saved two goals to force the game into a penalty shootout. Dudek once again proved to be the difference between the teams in the penalty shootout, saving two shots to hand Liverpool their fifth UEFA Champions League title.