UEFA Champions League gameweek two- 27th September 2006
Liverpool 3-2 Galatasaray (Anfield)
In today’s Throwback Thursday we venture back to 2006. Over a year has passed since that unforgettable night in Istanbul and Rafael Benitez’s much changed side found themselves struggling against, funnily enough, Istanbul’s dominant team in Galatasaray. In a group also consisting of PSV and Bordeaux, it was important that Liverpool bounce back after a disappointing draw to the Dutch side the previous week.
Any Liverpool fan over the past few years would tell you never to get comfortable even with a three-goal lead and on this day, we would almost see exactly why that is the case. When Peter Crouch exquisitely finished a right-footed scissor kick to give the Reds their third goal of the night seven minutes into the second half, the game seemed all but wrapped up.
Yet Galatasaray, with all credit to them, produced a spirited revival that had the Kop anxiously checking the scoreboard until the final whistle. The Turkish outfit saw late chances from Sasa Ilic and Hakan Sukur fluffed which meant the night ended in celebration, rather than humiliation, for the Reds.
For nearly an hour, it had seemed like Benitez’s rotation policy had massively paid off due to the multitude of chances created and space allowed by the opposition. By the end, things were almost the complete opposite. Goalscorer on the day, Peter Crouch, claimed “It shouldn’t have been that close because we were comfortable, but if you step back against Galatasaray they’ll come at you”.
A surprising statistic from the game is that this was the 94th game in succession that Benitez made changes to his side, showing his merciless approach to match selection and how regardless of match performance or form, he would always select players best suited to breaking down specific opponents.
Judging by the first hour or so of the game, Gala’s defence was so calamitous that you’d be forgiven for thinking we would have breezed through the game regardless of who played up front.
The first goal was worked to perfection as Steven Gerrard who found himself in central midfield for the first time in over a month, played a fine pass down the left flank to Fabio Aurelio, who produced a cross straight out of the Andy Robertson textbook for Crouch to volley with ease past Faryd Mondragon at the far post.
Before Galatasaray could recover, just five minutes later, a poor clearance by Cihan Haspolatli fell to Jermaine Pennant who played a pinpoint cross to an unmarked Luis Garcia, who couldn’t have missed, nodding the ball into an unguarded net.
Opposition coach, Erik Gerets, admitted “We forgot to play football in the first half”. Gerets’ fears would only get worse when Crouch netted an audacious overhead kick for his second goal of the night. We all know this is something Xherdan Shaqiri has in his locker and time will tell, touch wood, whether he too can produce something special in a Red shirt on a European night.
“It was amazing, showing all the quality Peter has but, from then on in, it became so difficult for us,” stated Benitez, before adding “They just went for it after that and we had problems in wide areas, especially with the second ball, and needed more control in the middle”.
Ümit Karan, who came on at the start of the second half, might have scored the goals for the visitors, but Galatasaray’s most effective player was Sabri Sarioglu, who tormented Liverpool with some wonderful wing play.
Before Karan got his goals, Sarioglu had hit the post with a dipping free-kick, though Liverpool also hit the woodwork when Dirk Kuyt hit a shot from the edge of the box.
Had either of Galatasaray’s late chances been converted, Liverpool would have suffered the same fate as AC Milan just over a year prior. However, they just found the character to hold on for three points that left the Reds top of the group after Gameweek two.