Thursday, 26 May 2005
Liverpool FC's astounding victory against AC Milan in the 50th European Champion Clubs' Cup final evoked an era when open and attacking football dominated the continental game with regular high-scoring matches.
Last night's tie, which ended 3-3 after extra time before Liverpool won the penalty shoot-out 3-2, proved the greatest comeback in a final in the competition after the English side had trailed 3-0 at half-time. The turnaround surpassed two other famous fightbacks which highlighted the romance and appeal of the European Cup as it gradually captured the imagination of fans all over Europe.
The first was in the opening final in Paris in 1956 when Stade de Reims Champagne established a 2-0 advantage against Real Madrid CF inside the opening ten minutes before losing 4-3. Madrid went on to win the next four editions too. The only other showpiece which involved a team winning after trailing by two goals took place in Amsterdam in 1962, and this time Madrid lost after twice leading against SL Benfica.
Ferenc Puskás, who two years before had scored four goals when Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden Park, struck after 17 and 25 minutes against the Lisbon club. Benfica, the defending champions, pulled level at 2-2 within eight minutes. Puskás then put Madrid back in front before half-time but ended as the only man to score a hat-trick in the final and lose after further goals from Mário Coluna and two from a young Eusébio gave Benfica a 5-3 victory.
Wednesday's 3-3 draw is the highest scoring final since and Hernán Crespo became the first player since Puskás in 1962 to score two goals in the fixture and still lose. The match also helped rewrite the history books in many other ways, not least by giving Liverpool their fifth European crown and their first since 1984 - making England the most successful nation in European club competition with 28 trophies, followed by Italy and Spain on 27.
Paolo Maldini's first-minute goal - which made the 36-year-old the oldest player to score in such a game - was the fastest since Enrique Mateos did likewise for Madrid in another final against Reims in 1959. The Milan captain also moved alongside Alfredo di Stéfano in playing seven finals, one behind another Madrid great, Francisco Gento - the only player to have appeared in eight European Cup deciders.