AnalysisInside half-time of Liverpool's Istanbul 2005 miracle with Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard shares his memories of one of the most pivotal moments of his Liverpool career in an unmissable new 'Retro Review Show: Istanbul 2005'.
Eighteen years ago today, Rafael Benitez’s Reds side trailed 3-0 to AC Milan at half-time in the Champions League final at Ataturk Stadium.
After an emotional and hard-fought journey to the European Cup showpiece, the dreams of Gerrard, his teammates and the travelling Kop were in tatters within 45 minutes.
But following an interval during which Benitez shuffled his tactics and personnel, and supporters redoubled their backing with an iconic rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, a miraculous comeback ensued.
“People ask me all the time, ‘What’s your best performance?’” says Gerrard in Retro Review Show, which is available to watch now via LFCTV GO above.
“This was the fans’ best performance throughout my career because to be 3-0 down, I felt physically sick; I’m sure they felt a lot worse than us because when you’re on the sides it’s not in your control.
“But for them to stay with us and find that voice and support, after the performance we gave collectively, was incredible.
“When people ask me, ‘What’s the fans’ best performance?’ at Anfield it was Chelsea in the semi-final but on the road, Istanbul for me was the best fans’ performance.”
Asked about the events in the dressing room and the mentality of the players as they returned to the pitch for the second half, Gerrard continues: “[My memory] is wanting to talk, wanting to jump in early, wanting to say my piece early but having respect for Rafa to let him have his moment.
“There was a lot of commotion over an injury and the change that we needed to make, but it was very important to respect Rafa – that was his stage, and obviously let him have the first go. But I was itching to get a few things off my chest
“There’s a part in [you] that is saying it’s over.
“But there’s also a part where you think, ‘Let’s reset, let’s try to get an early goal, let’s try to give the fans something – a bit of pride, a bit of belief – and let’s not make it embarrassing.’ Because on the first-half showing we could have been five or six down at half-time for sure.”
Gerrard’s first headed goal for Liverpool for four years began a comeback that would see Benitez’s charges get back to 3-3 and then defeat Milan in a penalty shootout to secure the club’s fifth European Cup.
The captain netted with 54 on the clock and six minutes later the Reds were level, Vladimir Smicer swiping in from distance and Xabi Alonso then converting the rebound from his saved penalty.
“We knew Rafa wanted that, in terms of, ‘Can we get that big moment to get a bit of belief and confidence from?’” Gerrard recalls of his goal. “Without a doubt we needed the lift – we were on the floor, we thought it was over. So it was a big moment.”