Reds take treble chance
Liverpool's class of 2001 will have their names forever etched in the history books, after they completed an unprecedented cup treble by winning the UEFA Cup in Dortmund this evening.
On one of the most momentous night's in the history of the club an own goal in extra time gave the Reds an incredible 5-4 victory over Alaves in the most amazing European final of recent times. It was enough to secure the club's first European trophy since 1984 and confirm their re-emergence as a major European force.
Liverpudlians had converged on Dortmund in their thousands, vastly outnumbering those who made the trip from Spain. The flags and banners were again out in force and an estimated 30,000 travelling Kopites gave the Reds a tremendous welcome when Sami Hyypia led the team out on to the pitch.
Vice-captain Robbie Fowler was again named on the bench, but there was a recall to the starting eleven for veteran Gary McAllister, scorer of the crucial goal that ensured Liverpool's place in this final, in place of Vladimir Smicer.
It was Gerard Houllier's only change from the side that won the FA Cup and they were given a dream start when Markus Babbel headed home after just three minutes. The Reds were awarded a free kick close to the right hand touchline following a foul on Heskey. McAllister delivered the set piece and Babbel, back in his homeland, nodded past Herrera in the Alaves goal.
Sander Westerveld had to push a free kick from Tellez round the post as Alaves hit back but it was to get even better for Liverpool on 15 minutes when Steven Gerrard increased the lead.
Michael Owen slid an inch perfect pass through to Gerrard, who found himself unmarked after exploiting a gaping hole in the Alaves defence. He only had the keeper to beat and he made no mistake, rifling his shot past Herrera with the minimum of fuss from inside the area.
Shell shocked Alaves made an early change in the 22 minute when Dan Eggen, who's goal for Brondby dumped Liverpool out of the UEFA Cup in 1994, was replaced by Ivan Alonso.
It was an inspired substitution. Within four minutes of entering the field of play he pulled a goal back for the Spaniards. From a Cosmin Contra cross on the right Alonso rose highest and placed his header beyond Westerveld.
Liverpool had been coasting up until this point but the goal seemed to stun them and hesitancy in defence almost allowed Alaves to draw level. The pace of Javi Moreno began to cause problems and only a last ditch tackle by Babbel on the half hour mark denied him.
Moments later, the Spanish striker looked certain to score after racing clear of the Reds' back line. He rounded Westerveld but somehow failed to finish from close range.
It was a clear warning to Liverpool and they responded by restoring their two-goal advantage five minutes before the interval. Hamann sent Owen racing through on goal with a sublime pass from inside his own half. Owen's skill took him round the keeper who, in a desperate attempt to avert an almost certain goal, brought him down for a blatant penalty.
The Alaves number one was lucky that he only received a yellow card rather than a red, but that was scant consolation as he picked the ball out the net for a third time after Gary McAllister held his nerve on the big stage yet again to convert.
McAllister struck the spot kick sweetly with his right foot and although Herrera dived the right way, he failed to stop it.
The Alaves players emerged their half time team talk early and when the second half began it was they who took the game to Liverpool. After two minutes they were rewarded when Moreno pulled a goal back.
Contra was again the creator, twisting and turning on the right before crossing to Moreno, who headed into the top right hand corner of Westerveld's goal.
Having reduced deficit, the Spaniards maintained their momentum and sensationally equalised three minutes later. Desio was adjudged to have been fouled on the edge of the Reds' penalty box and Moreno's free kick went straight through the wall and into the net, taking a deflection on the way.
Liverpool fans breathed a huge sigh of relief when Moreno was taken off in the 64th minute and at the same time Robbie Fowler was summonsed from the bench.
This time it was Gerard Houllier's substitution that proved an inspired one. McAllister, driving forward from midfield, supplied Fowler, who took the ball on a few yards before picking his spot and placing the ball into the bottom corner to restore the lead.
Liverpool were just two minutes from glory when the game took an other dramatic twist. Pablo took a corner from the right and Jordi Cruyff headed home to make it 4-4.
What was left of extra time saw Alaves pressing forward for a winner and Liverpool were relieved to hear the whistle sound.
Tension gripped the stadium as extra time got underway. Alonso had the ball in the back of Liverpool's net shortly afterwards but was clearly offside and in the 98th minute Alaves were reduced to ten men Magno received his second yellow card for a late and reckless lunge on Babbel. The first half of extra time ended with Fowler having a goal disallowed, also for offside.
Alaves suffered a further blow when Karmona became their second player to receive his marching orders, following a foul on Smicer. Seconds later their world was to collapse seconds later when Geli turned McAllister's free kick into his own net and handed the cup to Liverpool, courtesy of the golden goal rule.
The goal sparked wild celebrations and this thrilling final was over. The delight and relief was overwhelming. Liverpool fans danced in the stands and the entire squad, including backroom staff, danced in a huddle on the pitch.
Robbie Fowler and Sami Hyypia held aloft the cup, before a victorious lap of honour began. The players must be getting used to it, this was their third of the season.
Liverpool teams of recent years have been forced to live under the shadowof the club's rich and illustrious history. Not anymore, the ghost of past glories has been well and truly exorcised. Here's to a glittering future!
Alaves: Aldo Desio, Cruyff, Eggen, Geli Roura, Karmona Herrera (c), Marius Contra, Martin Herrera, Mauricio Astudillo, Moreno Varela, Tellez Gomez, Tomic. Subs - Alonso Vallejo, Azkoitia Gabiola, Begona Zubiau, Burgos Carrasco, Ganan Bermudez, Mocelin, Ortiz Pablo
Liverpool: Babbel, Carragher, Gerrard, Hamann, Henchoz, Heskey, Hyypia (c), McAllister, Murphy, Owen, Westerveld. Subs - Arphexad, Barmby, Berger, Fowler, Smicer, Vignal, Wright
Referee: Veissiere Gilles
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