Liverpool win the greatest final

It's six years since Liverpool clinched their tinpot Treble. What do you remember about their nine-goal Uefa Cup final slugfest with Alaves?

The 2001 Uefa Cup final remains one of the most surreal European matches of all: there were nine goals, two red cards, umpteen defensive howlers and, at the end, untold glory for Liverpool, who became the first English side to win three cup competitions in one season. Relive the match with David Lacey's report and share your memories below ...

Liverpool rejoined European football's scroll of trophy winners last night and did so in a manner which would have defied belief in the professional, pragmatic days of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.

Having shared eight goals with Alaves on an evening when defenders were often reduced to bystanders, Gerard Houllier's team were handed the Uefa Cup by the hapless Delfi Geli, who headed a free-kick from Gary McAllister into his own net with three minutes of extra-time remaining.

The moment defied the description of a golden goal. It was more a case of sudden death by misadventure and the cruellest of conclusions for Alaves, who had twice come back to level the scores and several times appeared to be on the point of taking the game over through sheer attacking persistence.

So Liverpool have now created English football history by winning three cups in a season, and last night's triumph was achieved by a more adventurous approach than they had shown either in the Worthington Cup at the end of February, when Birmingham City were beaten on penalties, or Saturday's FA Cup final, when Michael Owen's two late goals scuppered Arsenal.

Paradoxically Owen was no longer on the pitch last night when the winning goal went in, Houllier having replaced him with Patrik Berger 12 minutes from the end of normal time. That substitution made rather less sense than Emile Heskey giving way to Robbie Fowler just past the hour, for Fowler it was who gave Liverpool a 4-3 lead in the 73rd minute.

Once Jordi Cruyff's late header had taken the final into sudden-death overtime Owen began to be missed as Liverpool failed to find the pace they needed to expose Alaves at the back, even though the Spanish side lost Magno to a second yellow card in the 103rd minute. Seconds before Geli's howler Alaves had also lost their captain, Antonio Karmona, to a second booking for the foul on Vladimir Smicer which produced McAllister's free-kick. What a finish that would have been, with Jose Manuel Esnal's nine men holding on for penalties.

Yet this was no final to be settled by an artificial shoot-out, and credit for such a fluctuating, absorbing encounter must go to the quality of attacking football achieved by both teams.

When Javi Moreno, Spain's leading scorer, a striker with quick feet and equally swift reflexes, brought Alaves back into the contest by scoring twice in three minutes at the start of the second half Liverpool suddenly found themselves on the wrong end of the sort of melodrama which four days earlier had taken the FA Cup to Anfield.

If defenders on both sides struggled to keep up with events, the evening was littered with attacking heroes. For Liverpool McAllister, Houllier's only change in Saturday's starting line-up at the Millennium stadium, remained a profound influence on the game from the moment in the third minute when Markus Babbel nipped through a rigid back three to meet his free-kick and head past Martin Herrera.

At the outset Alaves were simply torn asunder. In the 16th minute Owen gathered a pass from Dietmar Hamann, spotted Steven Gerrard sprinting through in the inside-right position, and set up his England team-mate for a straightforward low drive into the net.

Esnal's response was bold and quickly rewarded. The struggling Dan Eggen, a statue in the back three, gave way to an extra striker, Ivan, and he it was who after 27 minutes outjumped Babbel at the far post to nod Cosmin Contra's cross back past Sander Westerveld.

When McAllister's penalty restored Liverpool's two-goal advantage four minutes from half-time, Herrera having brought down Owen after Hamann's through-ball had sent the striker clear, the crisis seemed to have passed. But in the 48th minute Contra outwitted Jamie Carragher before crossing for Moreno to head a second goal for Alaves, and in the 51st he drove a free-kick low through the defensive wall, beating the unsighted Westerveld.

Fowler's goal, his first of the tournament, was taken with typical aplomb, a precise shot inside the right-hand post. Then with two minutes to go Jordi Cruyff met Gomez Pablo's corner ahead of Gerrard to send this astonishing match into its final act.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Westerveld Babbel, Henchoz (Smicer, 56min), Hyypia, Carragher Gerrard, McAllister, Hamann, Murphy Heskey (Fowler, 64), Owen (Berger, 79).

Alaves (3-5-2): Herrera Eggen (Ivan, 23), Karmona,Tellez Contra, Tomic, Desio, Astudillo (Magno, h-t), Geli Cruyff Moreno (Pablo, 64).

Referee: G Veissiere (France).

Copyright - The Guardian

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