Liverpool fan favourite Vladimir Smicer turns 47 today, and we at Empire of the Kop wanted to look back at the moment that secured his legendary status at Anfield.
The former Czech international footballer wasn’t known for his goal-scoring capabilities, but a rare strike by the midfielder is what he’s best known for to this day.
The venue was the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul – it was the Champions League final, captain Steven Gerrard had not long scored a header to scrape back a bit of pride for his side after falling down 3-0 in the opening 45 minutes to Serie A goliaths AC Milan.
Smicer, in his final game for the Reds, picked up the ball around 20 yards from goal with 56 minutes on the clock and unleashed a shot, which rifled its way into the bottom-left corner of Dida’s net.
The Liverpool midfielder didn’t have a habit of scoring goals, with the Czech only managing to bag on two other occasions for the Merseyside outfit on the European stage.
But it’s that long-shot in Istanbul that Smicer is famous for – a goal that simply shouldn’t exist, but it does. The ball left the right boot of the Reds’ No.11 and wasn’t going anywhere else but the back of the net.
Unlike some of his team-mates, Smicer was rocking a pair of Mizuno Morelia Waves, in a limited-edition white colourway – a lesser-known brand from Japan, which had been given their biggest moment in the limelight by the former Liverpool man.
Four minutes after clawing their way back to 3-2, Gerrard was fouled in Milan’s penalty area and a spot-kick was awarded to the Reds.
It was turned into the net upon the second time of asking by Xabi Alonso, before some heroics by goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek ensured Liverpool would be there to contest a shoot-out after the full-time whistle.
One of the continent’s most deadly finishers, Andriy Shevchenko had to score to keep Milan’s hopes of European glory alive – but his tame effort was denied by the Reds’ Polish stopper and the Champions League trophy was destined for Anfield.
The Miracle of Istanbul is widely regarded as the best Champions League final of all time, but it would not have been possible without Smicer deciding to hit a speculative shot from 20+ yards, against Dida, one of the finest goalkeepers throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s – and the mad-man found the back of the net, etching his name into Liverpool folklore forever.