Liverpool Football Club have been involved in some of the greatest matches ever played. Here I am going to take a look at what I believe are their top five.
AC MILAN 3 LIVERPOOL 3 (LIVERPOOL WON 3-2 ON PENALTIES)
2005 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
All European Cup finals are memorable occasions, but the Miracle of Istanbul will go down in history. Liverpool were seeking their fifth victory in Europe's premier club competition. From the very outset the odds were stacked against the Reds. Rafa Benitez's men nearly exited the competition at the group stages but Steven Gerrard's wonder strike against Olympiacos sparring the Merseysiders blushes.
Anfield also held its breath when Chelsea came calling in the semi-final. A hotly disputed Luis Garcia goal set up a showdown with AC Milan. Chelsea were incensed when Garcia's close range effort was adjudged to have crossed the line, the London side appeared to have a point when television replay proved inconclusive. But in fairness to Liverpool every club needs a slice of good fortune somewhere along the line.
More pressing matters occupied Benitez as the final approached, domestic form hadn't been flash. Liverpool finished fifth in the Premier League, one place behind deadly rivals Everton. The final was held in Istanbul with the whole of Merseyside eagerly awaiting the outcome.
Opponents AC Milan were the bookies' favourites. Carlo Ancelotti's side read like a who's who of European football. The Rossoneri line-up included Shevchenko, Pirlo and Gattuso. The bookies are rarely wrong and must have smiling when Milan waltzed into a three-nil lead. Pedro Maldini's first minute goal and Herman Crespo double appeared to have settled the game before half time.
Liverpool needed an early second half goal to breath life into this one side contest. Once again their inspirational skipper stepped up to the plate. John Arne Riise's 53rd minute cross was headed home by Gerrard. As Scouse as the Liver Bird on his chest, Gerrard bellowed a cry of encouragement as his side trotted back to the halfway line. Within a minute the Reds responded to their captain's battle cry. Vladmir Smicer hopeful low drive beating the fumbling Dida. With the favourites on the back front, Liverpool restored parity on the hour. The English side were awarded a penalty after Gattuso felled Gerrard. Xabi Alonso bundled in the rebound after his spot kick was parred by Dida.
The storming comeback stung Milan back into life. The Italians bombarded Jerzy Dudek's goal and looked the likelier winners. The Polish goalkeeper then pulled off a miraculous double save to deny Shevchenko. Dudek continued his majestic display when the game went to penalties. Liverpool got off to flying start when Didi Hamman and Djibril Cisse converted their spot kicks. In contrast Milan's Serghinho and Andrea Pirlo both missed from 12 yards. John Arne Riise's miss threw the Italians an unexpected lifeline and former Newcastle striker Jon Dahl Tomasson scored to put Milan back in contention. Successful penalties from Kaka and Smicer made the score 3-2 to Liverpool.
With the pressure on, Dudek decided to revisit Anfield folklore. As Shevchenko placed the ball on the spot Dudek playfully turned his legs to jelly. The same tactic had been employed by Bruce Grobbelaar when the Reds won the 1984 European Cup on penalties. The Brucie shuffle worked its magic when Dudek saved the Ukrainian's decisive penalty. Somehow Liverpool Football Club were again Champions of Europe.
LIVERPOOL 3 WEST HAM 3 (LIVERPOOL WON 3-1 ON PENALTIES)
2006 FA CUP FINAL
This was becoming a habit. For the second time in 12 months Liverpool came back from the dead to land silverware. The only difference was this time Benitez's men were the red hot favourites to lift the trophy.
The Reds faced a rejuvenated West Ham side who had enjoyed a successful season. Alan Pardew's Hammers had been promoted through the play-offs the previous season. The Londoners then defied expectations by finishing ninth in the Premier League.
With Wembley being redeveloped, Cardiff's Millennium Stadium hosted the final, the venue also held happy memories for the underdogs. West Ham had won the play-off final at the same stadium. This looked a lucky omen when the reigning European Champions were rocked on their heels. Jamie Carragher's own goal was quickly followed by a goal from Dean Ashton. The striker scoring after Pepe Reina had fumbled a Matthew Etherington shot. The double blow would have scuppered lesser sides but the Reds had the memory of Istanbul to keep them going.
Sure enough Liverpool were soon back in the game. Djibril Cisse diverted Gerrard's delicious through ball past the diving Shaka Hislop. After a breathless first half West Ham held a narrow 2-1 lead. Three minutes into the second period the favourites were on level terms. Xabi Alonso's cross was headed down by Peter Crouch, the ball fell invitingly for Steven Gerrard who cracked a first time piledriver into the net. The dye appeared cast, Liverpool would then steamroller their opponents and land the knock out blow.
But West Ham refused to go quietly. In the 73rd minutes Paul Konchesky's miss hit cross deceived Reina to restore the Irons' lead. The underdogs hung on and seemed to have weathered the storm. But they had reckoned without the impeccable timing of the Liverpool captain. As the clocked ticked beyond the 90 minute mark, the stadium announcer said that four minutes of stoppage time were now been played. Just as the tannoy message was been broadcast the desperate West Ham defence cleared their lines. The ball fell to the waiting Gerrard 25 yards out. Stevie G pulled back his right foot and unleashed a rocket which arrowed into the bottom corner.
One of great FA Cup Final goals had sent the game into extra time. West Ham missed a great chance when Marlon Harewood ballooned over from close range. That was the Hammers last chance of glory. With no addition to the scoreline the lottery of a penalty shoot out would resolve the contest. Reina saved Anton Ferdinand's spot kick to clinch a 3-1 win on penalties. Who says lightening doesn't strike twice?
LIVERPOOL 5 NOTTINGHAM FOREST 0 1988
This majestic display earned praise from a football legend. After watching Liverpool demolish Nottingham Forest, Sir Tom Finney stated that "This was one of the finest teams he had ever seen." Few would have argued with the former Preston and England winger.
The performance was one of many served up by Kenny Dalglish's side during the late Eighties. Anfield became a football theatre that showcased the bedazzling attacking talent of Peter Beardsley, Ian Rush, John Barnes and John Aldridge. The Kop lapped it up as the forward line terrorised opposing defences. The Reds were cruising to another league title when Brian Clough's boys visited Merseyside.
Showing their customary flair Dalglish's were soon in front. In the 18th minute Alan Hansen picked up possession just inside his own half own. With trademark elegance the Scot weaved his way past Lee Glover and passed to Ray Houghton. Houghton advances a few yards before exchanging passes with John Barnes. The quickfire one-two put the midfield through on goal. Houghton skipped over the challenge of a Forest defender and clipped the ball into the roof of the net.
Twenty minutes later more delightful approach play doubled the host's lead. Beardsley received the ball on the halfway line. With his back to goal the Geordie turned and delivered a slide rule pass to Aldridge. With the visitor's defence split, Aldridge sprinted into the penalty area and just has Steve Sutton to beat. The Forest goalkeeper blinked first and dived at the striker's feet. Aldridge then lifted the ball over the stranded Sutton. Even the Liverpool defence in that celebrated side had an eye for goal. Centre Half Gary Gillespie made it 3-0 after good work from Houghton.
With the three points in the bag the Reds superstars unveiled their party pieces. Nigel Spackman's neat pass found Barnes on the left wing. The winger proceeded to nutmeg Steve Chettle and glide past another defender. Barnes then cut the ball back into the path of Beardsley who slammed the ball hone. Two minutes from time the visitors were finally put of their misery. Beardsley released Spackman just inside the penalty area. The ex-Chelsea midfielder then squared the ball across goal for Aldridge to tap in. Aside from scoring five goals the Reds created a hatful of other chances. No wonder Sir Tom was purring.
EVERTON 1 LIVERPOOL 3
1986 FA CUP FINAL
The 1980s belonged to Liverpool Football Club. In a golden decade the Reds won two European Cups, seven league titles and four League Cups.
The FA Cup was the only omission from Anfield's bulging trophy cabinet. Failure to capture the old silver cup had also frustrated Liverpool's hopes of winning the prestigious League and FA Cup double. On several occasions surprising FA Cup defeats thwarted their hopes of joining Arsenal, Tottenham and Preston in the history books.
The 1985-86 season was a watershed campaign for the Merseysiders. Kenny Dalglish had replaced Joe Fagan in the hotseat following the Heysel disaster. After a tricky start to the season the rookie player-manager began to find his feet. A stunning run saw Liverpool overhaul Everton in the championship race. Fittingly it was a Dalglish goal that clinched the title at Chelsea.
The following Saturday Dalglish's side faced Everton in a historic FA Cup Final. Remarkably it was the first time the Merseyside giants had contested the final of the world's oldest cup competition. Aside from intense local rivalry, Liverpool faced a stern task in their quest for that elusive double. Howard Kendall's fine side had won three major trophies in the previous two season. The Toffees also included a certain Gary Lineker in their ranks. In a sensational debut season at Goodison, Lineker had scored 29 goals.
It was Lineker who gave the Blues a half time lead at Wembley. The newly crowned Footballer of the Year scored at the second attempt after Bruce Grobbelear had saved his initial shot. The goal clearly unsettled the League Champions who began arguing amongst themselves. Grobbelaar clashed with Jim Beglin after the full back nearly gifted Everton a second goal.
With their backs against the wall Liverpool needed inspiration. Step forward Jan Molby. In the space of three second half minutes the midfielder turned the game on its head. In the 59th minute the Dane's precise through ball put Ian Rush clear, the master marksman duly rounded Bobby Mimms and stroked home. The same combination linked up to put Liverpool in front. Rush collected the ball on the left flank before supplying Molby. The sturdy schemer showed wonderful vision to spot the unmarked Craig Johnstone lurking at the far post. The Aussie applied the finishing touch and the Reds are 2-1 up.
Man of the Match Molby also had a hand in Liverpool's third. His glorious 30-yard ball freed Ronnie Whelan. Whelan checked inside before delivering a cross to the unmarked Rush who made no mistake. The strike killed off Everton and Liverpool sealed that historic double.
LIVERPOOL 3 BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH 1
1977 EUROPEAN CUP FINAL
Bill Shankly was the man who made Liverpool great, but it was Bob Paisley who took the Reds to the summit of European football. Shanks transformed the Anfield club from Second Division promotion chasers to the dominant force in English football.
He guided the Reds to three League titles and two FA Cups. In 1973 Shankly's side made history by capturing the Reds' first European trophy. Liverpool beat German side Borussia Monchengladbach in a two-legged UEFA Cup Final. A year later Shankly stunned the football world. After 12 years in the hotseat Shankly resigned as Liverpool manager.
Bob Paisley was Shankly's reluctant successor. Paisley had been Shanks assistant and begged his former boss to reconsider. While the charasmatic Shanks blossomed under the media spotlight, Paisley liked to keep a low profile. The quiet Geordie was happy to be in the background. While Malcolm Alison and Ron Atkinson wore sharp suit and supped champagne, uncle Bob liked to wear cardigans and drink tea.
But beneath the gentile nature lay a great football manager. Liverpool continued to rule the domestic roost and reached their first European Cup Final in 1977. Once again their opponents were Monchengladbach. Borussia were no mugs and boasted Danish superstar Alan Simonsen and German World Cup winner Bertie Vogts amongst their ranks. Despite this galaxy of names it was Liverpool who took a 28th minute lead. Steve Heighway's incisive pass freed Terry McDermott who fired past Kneib.
Borussia equalised seven minutes into the second half. Jimmy Case's sloppy pass was intercepted by Simonsen who netted with a well struck drive. The tide was turning and the German champions squandered a great chance to grab the lead when Uli Stielike shot was saved by Ray Clemence. The let-off lifted Liverpool who regained their lead on 62 minutes when Tommy Smith headed home a Heighway corner.
With three minutes remaining Liverpool sealed a memorable victory. Kevin Keegan's surging run took him into the Borussia penalty area, with a third goal on the cards Vogts had no option but to bring down the striker. The referee awarded a penalty which Phil Neal dispatched with ease.
So there you have my five greatest Liverpool games. Do you agree? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.