Turkey, May 25, 2005. The 50th Champions Cup final is underway at Ataturk Olympic stadium in Istanbul. It is the thirteenth final since the competition was renamed “Champions League.” AC Milan and Liverpool take positions and wait for the whistle. Both teams have prestigious histories. There are 10 Champion’s Cups on the field, 6 won by AC Milan and 4 won by Liverpool. Ancelotti’s AC Milan is returning to the final two years after its victory over Juventus. The team is extremely optimistic. Both sides are experienced and convinced of their capabilities. The English team made it into the final after an exhilarating run that started all the way back in the preliminary matches. Liverpool hadn’t qualified for a Champion’s final for twenty years. Its most recent appearance was on May 29, 1985 against Juventus. During that match, 39 people died, crushed against a fence by a tide of English fans at the Heysel stadium in Brussels.
With a victory, Liverpool would redeem an entire nation and cancel a dark day from its history. For the first 45 minutes the match was one-sided. Maldini, AC Milan’s captain, scored a goal at the end of the first minute. Then Crespo scored two more. AC Milan was up 3 to nothing at the end of the first half. The team’s fans went wild. The second half started. Between the ninth and the fifteenth minute Liverpool attacked relentlessly, resulting in goals by Gerrard, Smicer, and Xabi Alonso. In 6 minutes the game was tied 3 to 3! The game remained tied throughout the rest of the half. Tension remained high well into overtime. The game went to penalties. Liverpool’s goalkeeper Dudek performed a wild, disconcerting dance between the posts before each AC Milan kick. He would become a hero, saving 3 penalties and helping Liverpool win their fifth, and most extraordinary Champion’s Cup. It was a devastating defeat for AC Milan. Two years later the two teams would meet again in the final. AC Milan got its revenge, beating Liverpool 2 to 1 in Athens on May 23, 2007.