On this Day – 3rd May
Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea, UCL, Semi-Final 2nd leg.
@SteveTaylor71 gives us his recollection of the iconic second leg Champions League game on this day in 2005.
I remember this game vividly and feel lucky to have been one of the 42,529 fans that witnessed this amazing game. The pre-match routine kicked in a bit earlier than normal, as we knew Anfield would be a hive of activity. The usual pre-match pint at The Stanley, followed by our usual sausage dinner from the chippy as we walked up to the ground.
The buzz and chatter filled the air, although confidence was mixed. Chelsea had just been crowned champions of the Premier League, and despite a dogged 0-0 at Stamford Bridge in the first leg, we knew what we were up against. In our other 3 games against Chelsea that season we had lost all three and despite the hope given by that 0-0 a week or so earlier, we all knew that a Chelsea goal would make it near on impossible for us.
Getting to the ground earlier than normal we took our seats and we immediately knew this felt different. The stands were significantly more full than normal, and a lot of fans had congregated nearer the pitch side to goad and rile the Chelsea players as they warmed up. The players returned to the changing rooms and the noise cranked up a notch. The Kop was in fine voice and the rest of the ground followed.
Anfield was a cauldron of noise, and the Chelsea fans responded with a chant of ‘We are the champions’, before being drowned out by an amazing rendition of ‘You’ll never walk alone’. It sounded and felt like one of those special European nights.
The players came out and Benitez and Mourinho took their seats, and the players were ready. The excitement of the build up was matched by the start to the game. Riise picked up the ball and found Gerrard in space. A clever flick by Gerrard with the inside of his right foot split the Chelsea defence and Baros was through. Cech raced off his line, and the two players came together. Baros hit the deck under the heavy challenge. The ball bounced free and Garcia rushed to it and with his toe poked it goalwards. John Terry slid into no avail and Gallas ran towards the goal and hooked it clear. Garcia immediately raised his arms in celebration, and Baros copied his reaction although he and Gerrard glanced at the ref, seemingly less sure than Garcia. This was close. Had the ball crossed the line?
Well, the only opinion that mattered was that of Lubos Michel, the Slovakian referee and he was as certain as Garcia. GOAL!!
The delayed reaction caused by the uncertainty seemed to last a lifetime, but all of a sudden the ground erupted. Liverpool had a precious lead. But it was only the 4th minute. Had we scored too early?
The rest of the first half saw Chelsea have a lot of possession but they did very little with it. A sniff of a chance for Joe Cole when Lampard disposed Garcia. Cole though flicked the chance over Dudek and out for a goal kick. Chelsea seemed devoid of any attacking invention, or did Benitez have the tactical plan at last that was beating this Chelsea side?
The second half began in the same way. Gudjohnsen shot from distance and Lampard threatened with a powerful well struck free kick, albeit one that was won very cheaply. Mourinho knew a change was needed and on came Robben and Kezman, and it was Robben who immediately made a difference. A great ball into the box saw Kezman and Drogba narrowly fail to make contact. The Kop gasped and sensed something special was happening.
Robben continued to probe and a block by the magnificent Jamie Carragher kept Chelsea at bay once more. As Chelsea ploughed forward, gaps were left and Liverpool grasped an opportunity to counter attack, with Cisse missing a chance to put the game beyond Chelsea.
Somehow 6 minutes of injury time were signalled. Anfield could hardly breathe. Chelsea needed only one goal to go through.
Liverpool were struggling to clear their lines and as the ball entered the box deep into stoppage time the ball fell to Gudjohnsen. He was positioned on the corner edge of the 6 yard box. I was stood in the main stand in line with him and as the ball fell, he had the goal at his mercy, albeit with two Liverpool players guarding the goal line. He lashed at the volley and somehow the ball flashed across the goal and missed. A gasp followed by a cheer. Anfield knew that was it. Their last chance had surely gone?
The songs began and the at the end of stoppage time, Lubos Michel’s whistle again sent the Liverpool fans into a frenzy.
Liverpool had qualified for their first European Cup final in 20 years. This meant so much. The celebrations in the ground were amazing. Grown men and women were in tears, and some fans had lost their voices.
The key talking point was and will always be the ‘ghost goal’ from Luis Garcia. Mourinho was adamant in his post-match press conference that the ball had not crossed the line. Benitez on the other hand was less inclined to comment on the incident.
Jose to this day is still riled by the goal, but in reality, had the goal not been given, then surely Petr Cech would have been sent off? He clearly floored his international teammate Milan Baros in the build-up. Would Mourinho have preferred to lose his keeper to a red card in the 4th minute, concede a penalty and play the rest of the match with 10 men instead?
Who knows, and we’ll never know. But one thing is certain, and that is the Garcia goal, along with the Gerrard strike against Olympiacos are iconic moments in the march towards that Istanbul final, and will forever live in the folklore of our amazing club.
As we walked away from the ground, we knew we had seen something special. Not necessarily the game, but the occasion. We knew we would be telling our kids and grandkids in the future that I was at that game and that I saw the famous ghost goal from Garcia. And when they ask me if it went in, I will reply with a smile and say ‘Of course it did…. The Kop sucked it over the line’!