The part Real Madrid and AC Milan can play in Liverpool’s Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur – Ian Doyle

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There were snipers hiding in the grass on the way up to the stadium. Some people left at half-time and missed the second half. And the game started one day and finished the next.

No matter how obscure or seemingly irrelevant, everybody has their own personal memories from what remains the most remarkable night in the history of not only Liverpool Football Club but European club competition overall.

Exactly 14 years have now passed since the Reds, helmed by Rafael Benitez, travelled to Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium and produced one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history to recovery from 3-0 down at the break against AC Milan and ultimately lift their fifth European Cup.

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Champions League final 2019

There have been enough documentaries, books, plays and songs dedicated to the evening for a recap to be necessary.

It was an occasion like no other.

But there’s one way in which it was very familiar to so many Liverpool fans, particularly those who follow the club around Europe.

The game was close. Very, very close, in fact, decided by the finest of margins, a few Jerzy Dudek saves away from being a very different outcome.

And that will be something for Liverpool supporters to consider as they begin their travels over the coming days towards Madrid and the Champions League final against Tottenham Hotspur on June 1.

Nobody expects it to be straightforward. Only two of the last 10 meetings between the teams have been won by more than one goal, while both Premier League fixtures this season saw very narrow 2-1 victories for the Reds.

However, the competitiveness of showpiece occasions became a talking point last week when Manchester City romped home 6-0 in their FA Cup final against Watford.

Liverpool celebrating their Champions League win over AC Milan in 2005
Liverpool celebrating their Champions League win over AC Milan in 2005

In recent times, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have also won finals by at least a two-goal margin.

That, though, isn’t the Liverpool way. Not since 1992 have they won a final by such a comparatively handsome manner when Sunderland, then a second tier team, were beaten 2-0 in the FA Cup final. Narrow squeaks have subsequently become the natural order.

And you have to go back to another May 25th anniversary, that of Liverpool’s first European Cup triumph in 1977, for when the Reds last won a European trophy by more than one goal, Borussia Moenchengladbach beaten 3-1 in Rome.

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Since then, Bruges and Real Madrid were defeated 1-0 in European Cup finals, both Roma and AC Milan downed on penalties. In the UEFA Cup, a single strike was the difference in both two-legged finals of the 1970s against Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bruges, while Alaves were seen off only by a golden goal in extra time in 2001.

Even in defeat, Liverpool are rarely thoroughly dismissed, beaten 2-1 by Borussia Dortmund in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1966, and losing the European Cup finals to Juventus 1-0 in 1985 and to AC Milan 2-1 in 2007.

Which brings us to the Jurgen Klopp era.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah is comforted by team members and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo after going off injured in last season's Champions League final
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is comforted by team members and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo after going off injured in last season’s Champions League final

The League Cup final defeat in 2016 to Manchester City on penalties was a close call. But the Europa League loss to Sevilla later that season and the Champions League setback against Real Madrid two years later were not, the 3-1 defeats Liverpool’s heaviest in a European final.

That, in some way, reflected the nature of Klopp’s team, particularly the Real Madrid loss as Liverpool committed men forward in the hope of snatching an equaliser during the closing stages.

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This season, though, Liverpool have been different. Only at Red Star Belgrade and Barcelona have the Reds been soundly beaten, and even then both reverse fixtures saw them triumph 4-0.

 

There is more control, more consideration, more confidence in the ability to defend and contain. In both games against Tottenham this term, the Reds ceded the majority of possession but still triumphed.

Such a shift in approach could prove decisive during an occasion next Saturday where the margins will be so slight.

Jurgen Klopp reacts in Basel as Liverpool slip to Europa League defeat to Sevilla
Jurgen Klopp reacts in Basel as Liverpool slip to Europa League defeat to Sevilla

If history has taught us anything, it’s that nerves will be frayed in Estadio Metropolitano.

Liverpool, no matter who is in charge, rarely do things the easy way.

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