It is incredible to think that that night in Istanbul was ten years ago. Whether it be Steven Gerrard leaping and guiding the header into Dida’s top corner, or Jerzy Dudek throwing his left hand out to deny Andriy Shevchenko, or Gerrard leaping once again as he lifted the trophy, the defining moments from the Champions League final against AC Milan seem so clear even today.
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Our manager on that famous night – as well as the wonderful run that took us to Turkey – Rafa Benitez revealed in an interview with the Liverpool Echo how he felt the moment the Polish keeper made the save that clinched our fifth European Cup.
“It is a difficult feeling to express in words. You think about your family, friends, players, staff, fans, everyone. You realise that it was the most important game in football at club level and you are there, in the middle of this stadium, just enjoying the moment,” he said.
Having gone 3-0 down on the night, Benitez had the daunting task of convincing his players at half-time that they still had a chance of catching the side that he called, “the best team in the competition.” He suggested that he had to convince himself it could be done if he wanted to make the team believe that we could do it.
“My speech to the players was about confidence and belief. I had to be the first one to believe we could still do it or it would be impossible,” he added.
But his belief that we could add our name to the cup for the fifth time really began months earlier, and became strengthened after a spirited draw against Juventus.
“The game against Olympiakos was massive for us when Steven Gerrard scored the goal which took us into the knockout stages. After that the most important was the second leg of the quarter-final in Turin. Getting a draw against Juventus, when we had so many problems, gave us the belief to go on and achieve something important,” he added.
The current Napoli boss refused to take the sole credit for the triumph, and instead insisted that as we didn’t boast the strongest squad in the competition, it took a monumental amount of team spirit that encapsulated everyone around Anfield.
“I honestly believe we did it, all of us. It was the result of so many people working together,” Benitez explained.
“It was about my staff, the players, our families behind us, the people in Melwood and Anfield, the chairman, the CEO and the directors that gave us support every day, and the fans who were there for us every single minute.
“Believe me, without being in such a positive environment it would have been impossible to achieve what we achieved. My thanks go to all of you,” he concluded.