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Filling the Void: One Night in Istanbul

An incredible comeback becomes the poster boy for exciting football matches.

Liverpool v AC Milan 2005 Panoramic stadium view by Stephen Chipp is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Filling the Void: One Night in Istanbul

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

The world at large is slowly starting to wake from its self-imposed slumber. Nations, states, cities, and towns everywhere are beginning their attempts at resuming life – whatever that may look like in a pre-vaccine COVID-19 world. For sports leagues around the globe, plans are already in place or currently being hammered out to resume competition. While details are still being discussed, negotiations are still being had, and logistical challenges are being addressed, we at The Turf are continuing our “Filling the Void” series. Since mid-March, we’ve been looking back on remarkable, historic, inspiring and noteworthy sports stories of days gone by.

Today: A Miracle for the Merseysiders

“I can’t believe they do this every year.”

It was the fall of my freshman year in college, and the group stage of the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League was just getting underway.

I was a novice fan of international soccer, but then became friends with several followers of the sport, including a die-hard Arsenal fan.

He introduced me to the Champions League by showing me the highlights of the previous spring’s final.

It couldn’t have been a better way to be indoctrinated. The 2005 Final remains one of the most dramatic football matches ever played.

I was immediately drawn to the tournament, which provided a World Cup-format with many of the same top players, but on a yearly basis.

Through college, I followed the Champions League religiously. We went to bars, illegally streamed matches from Chinese language websites, and occasionally skipped classes to watch my favorite team, FC Barcelona.

It all started with the highlights from the ’05 Final.

The Lineups, Though…

I didn’t know it at the time, but I would come to understand how absolutely stacked the two sides in the 2005 final were.

The starting lineups read like a Top IX list from a World Cup.

Consider that A.C. Milan started three one-name superstars from Brazil (Dida, Cafu, and Kaká), four Italian internationals (Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso), and the superstar strikers from Ukraine (Andriy Shevchenko) and Argentina (Hernán Crespo).

Liverpool countered with England legends Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, Spanish midfielders Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia, and two of the most famous players from their respective countries, Harry Kewell of Australia and Norwegian John Arne Riise.

The Language of Football

The match was also my first introduction to the wonderful terminology of BBC commentators like Clive Tyldesley, who has called every UEFA Champions League final since 1998.  

Maldini, the captain of the Italian side, scored off a free kick just 50 seconds into the action and Crespo scored twice in a span of five minutes just before halftime, leaving Tyldesley to declare “Liverpool are Beaten Before Halftime.”

As you relive this classic, enjoy the brilliant, seemingly effortless broadcast call. It’s one of the things that gives European soccer its distinct flavor.

Do the Dudek

Liverpool scored three times in six minutes to tie the game with half an hour still to play.

It was game on from there, but neither team was able to score again. For the 13th time, the Champions League Final would go to extra time.

That’s when Polish goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek became a legend.

In the 117th minute, Dudek made a miraculous double-save on Shevchenko to keep the teams level.

During the penalty shootout, his distraction tactics led Serginho to send the first penalty over the crossbar, putting Liverpool on the front foot.

Dudek then stopped penalties from Pirlo and Shevchenko, the latter to seal the title for the English side.

Dudek’s “spaghetti legs” distraction technique and the miracle comeback in Turkey sparked a group of Liverpool fans named “The Trophy Boyz” to record a novelty tribute single called “Du the Dudek.”

The song is catchy and the video is well worth your 3:30.

See You Tomorrow. Stay Safe. Stay Smart. Wash Your Hands.

Craig has spent the last ten years as a sports information professional, working for several schools across New England at the Division 3 level. A native of Peabody, Mass., Craig is a life-long Boston sports fan. He is also an avid player of fantasy football and baseball, and commissioner of the AKA Family Fantasy Football League. Like most other Turf team members, Craig has a penchant for theater, spending his high school and college years as a set designer, sound designer and theater shop worker. He became a father shortly before the coronavirus pandemic, and as such, hasn't really left his home since last December.

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