By James Crump – @TheJamesCrump
Today we jump back to May 23, 2007, with Liverpool facing AC Milan in a Champions League final for the second time in three years.
Liverpool had beaten Chelsea in the semi-final just weeks before, like they did when they won the competition back in 2005. The omens were in place, but there was a feeling that Milan’s giants wouldn’t allow Liverpool to deny them the ultimate glory again.
The teams lined up similarly to 2005, with Milan stalwarts Dida, Andrea Pirlo and Paolo Maldini all involved again. Liverpool had newer additions with five players starting both the 2005 and 2007 final. New starters included Javier Mascherano and Dirk Kuyt in midfield and attack respectively, with Spaniard Pepe Reina replacing 2005 hero Jerzy Dudek in goal.
Liverpool started the match fast and were the better team. Jermaine Pennant and Xabi Alonso came close to opening the scoring, but despite their dominance Liverpool were mainly limited to half-chances. Steven Gerrard tried a trademark half volley and Kuyt had his shot from 18 yards blocked, but the breakthrough was yet to come.
Football is a cruel game, though, and Liverpool conceded against the run of play in first half stoppage time. The ball was given away cheaply and Kaka pounced, collecting the ball just outside the Liverpool box. Alonso was eager to intercept, but Kaka shrewdly got his body in the way, winning a free kick.
Pirlo and his magic right foot stepped up to take the free kick just outside the area. The resulting shot was not the magic that the Italian would have hoped for, but when you don’t have magic, luck will do. Filippo Inzaghi ran across goal and Pirlo’s mishit strike struck him in the stomach, wrong footing Reina and nestling in to the back of the net.
The old adage goes that the worst time to concede is just before half-time. Liverpool had dominated the first half, but had to go in to the break a goal down. The Reds were lucky to escape conceding again straight after the break when Kaka was put through on goal. The linesman ruled the future Ballon d’Or winner to be offside, but the replays showed the decision to be incorrect.
Liverpool’s second half luck continued as Gerrard’s dribbling deflected off the defender putting him through on goal, albeit with an unfavourable angle. His side-footed shot across Dida was well hit, but comfortably saved.
As the half wore on the game opened up and Liverpool had a few pot shots on goal, but it was Inzaghi who would strike once again. When finding himself through on goal he pivoted to the right of the helpless Reina and slotted the ball underneath him to make it 2-0.
With the game looking lost, Peter Crouch was brought on and immediately rifled a shot towards goal that was tipped over well by Dida. From the resulting corner, Daniel Agger flicked the ball across the box and the clearly offside Kuyt scored his first Champions League goal, just about giving Liverpool hope of an unlikely rescue mission to rival that of two years prior.
Liverpool pushed forward, but 2005’s heroics were not to be repeated. A few minutes after Kuyt’s header, the ref blew his whistle, crowning Milan European champions for the seventh time, two more than Liverpool’s five.
Liverpool’s Champions League record was poor following this defeat, but is currently in a resurgence under Jurgen Klopp. Having reached the final last year only to lose to Real Madrid and Gareth Bale’s left foot, Liverpool face Tottenham on June 1 hoping for the elusive sixth success in Europe’s premiere club competition.
Surely third time’s the charm?