News — May 25, 2013 09:51

I Was There 25th May 2005 Istanbul : Ganesh ‘Gani’ Sharma

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On this day eight years ago, Liverpool FC lifted the European Cup for the fifth time. Arguably the greatest game in the clubs history, the European Cup now takes pride of place at Liverpool’s training ground in Melwood.

One Kopite who travelled to Istanbul on that famous night, recalls how he went through a roller coaster ride of emotions, how he never gave up belief that Liverpool would bring ‘Big Ears’ back home, a bet with a Man Utd fan kept coming up during the game and on that feeling which remains with him even today, on witnessing Liverpool lift the European Cup in the Ataturk Stadium.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Gani for sharing his story with us.

My Road To Istanbul (Part 2)  : Ganesh ‘Gani’ Sharma

May 25th 2005 a day I will never forget. AC Milan awaited. I arrived in Turkey around 10am. I travelled with my brother and cousin. We had a tour of the city booked and transfers to and from the stadium. The city was nice but I didn’t really take it in as all I wanted to do was get to the stadium.

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Upon arriving at the stadium, I soaked up the atmosphere of the buzzing Liverpool fans and made my way to my seat…it was time for kick off! I was very confident that the European cup would be coming back to Liverpool, and would be there to stay as it would be the fifth time Liverpool had won, the most valued trophy in European club football. Every time Liverpool had won the European cup, they always played in their red kit and the opposition played in white. Liverpool were in red and AC Milan were in white on this night.

Liverpool v AC Milan

I remember reading after that Alonso and Luis Garcia stressed the rest of the team not to touch the trophy on the way out of the tunnel as this was bad luck. The AC Milan players didn’t take such advice as Maldini and Guttuso both had a feel of the trophy…which later they never got to lift.

Liverpool won the toss and kicked off. The game started well…for Milan. They went one up from a quick Maldini goal. I was still calm, until, the second goal went in via a well worked move involving Kaka, Shevchenko and slotted in by Crespo. Now I was starting to worry. The worry soon turned in to panic when Crespo run on to a Kaka pass and calmly chipped Dudek for Milan’s third goal. I had tears in my eyes.

Crespo

Later in the first half, Crespo was denied a hat trick after he scored a fourth for Milan but was luckily ruled out for offside. The ref blew the whistle for half time, as the Liverpool players walked off the pitch with the heads looking downwards.

I found myself breaking in to tears, I was actually crying. A friend of mine, a Man United fan tried to call me as we had a £100 bet on the game. Naturally not wanting to speak to anyone, I rejected the call, minutes later a received a text from the same Man Utd fan which read “Great Game, Hope You Enjoying It PS> DON’T FORGET THE BET”. That was not a text I enjoyed reading.

Liverpool v AC Milan

Some Liverpool fans were taking their banners down and putting them away. I felt this was very bad as the players must have feeling even worse that we were in the stands, what they needed was support, support the way Liverpool fans support their team. As the players came back on to the pitch for the second half, I took a deep breath and calmed myself down.

The second half kicked off and I remember AC Milan playing with confidence, they must have felt they had won the cup already, what they didn’t realise was, football is a game of two halves. Our captain fantastic managed to pull a goal back for us with a very smartly taken header that beat Dida. I jumped and screamed with joy but felt deep down that it was just a goal to soften the blow of getting destroyed by Milan. The crowd seemed lifted, a little bit, think we was all happy to see a goal, well a Liverpool goal.

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Harry Kewell, who I felt shouldn’t have started in the first place, picked up groin injury, some think he bottled it, was replaced by Vladimir Smicer. Within in minutes of the first goal, Smicer scored a second for Liverpool, a drive which was almost blocked by Baros.

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The crowd were suddenly back on their feet and singing away, all of a sudden, the belief was back…we can actually do this, we can come back and win this game. Steven Gerrard grabbed Liverpool by the neck and dragged them back into the game, like he has done many times before and after that night. Gerrard then broke into the Milan penalty area with a run and was fouled by Gattuso. PENALTY!!!!! This was it, Liverpool’s chance to make it level. The whole stadium expected Gerrard to step up and take it but Xabi Alonso placed the ball on the sport. He shot, HE MISSED, but quick reactions from the Spaniard allowed him to knock it the rebound and GOAL, THREE EACH, GAME ON!!!!!!

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Liverpool were right back in it, the crowd went mental, and the songs were so loud that you would have thought that the supporters had microphones plugged in to speakers, the atmosphere was electrifying.

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The worst seven or so minutes in AC Milan’s history had just occurred. At this point I was jumping up and down and singing my heart out. I still had tears in my eyes but these tears were somewhat different to the ones from half time.

AC Milan  had many chances to go 4-3 up but lion heart defending from the Liverpool players denied them the joys. The final whistle blew and it was in to extra time.

At this point, I still felt confident that we would win the cup. Extra time was full of chances for both sides, well more for Milan than Liverpool. Steven Gerrard, arguably the most complete player in the world was playing in every position on the pitch.

He was attacking, defending, upfront, midfield, on the wings, at right back, at left back, he was all over the pitch, he wanted that trophy, he wanted it bad, he wanted to be up their along the likes of Hughes, Souness, Thompson, Dalglish, Hansen, lifting that European cup in a Liverpool shirt.

Shevchenko had a shot which was saved by Dudek only for it to bounce right back to Shevchenko, he shot again from 6 yards out and still to this day I have no idea how Dudek managed to make another save sending the ball over the bar, at this point, I knew the cup was coming home to Liverpool.

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The whistle blew again and it was on to penalties. I was jumping up and down, I knew the cup was coming home.

Both Liverpool and Milan had won their last European cups on penalties so both sets of fans were confident. I remember looking down and Carra was talking to Dudek, He was waving his arms and I was thinking “Jamie, leave him, let him compose himself” but later it was revealed that he was telling him about Bruce Grobbelaar’s famous “spaghetti legs” and how it puts off the penalty takers.

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Serginho stepped up first and fired his shot over the bar, I think they are still looking for the ball to this day. I leapt off my feet in joy. Hamann stepped up for Liverpool and despite having a broken toe he slotted his penalty in to the goal, Advantage Liverpool. Next up was Pirlo, he shot, Dudek saved, at this point I remember jumping on the back of the guy in front of me and hugging this total stranger.

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Cisse was up, he shots he scores, Liverpool are now two up. I couldn’t imagine losing from here but I guess the Milan fans were thinking the same at half time. I stayed calm, well as calm as I could have. Tomasson was up for Milan and he scored to make it 2-1. Liverpool’s next penalty taker was Riise, he steps up and takes a soft penalty, Dida saves, for someone who once broke Alan Smith’s ankle with a powerful strike, he took such a weak penalty.

The Brazilian sensation Kaka was up next and he scored, all of a sudden its all level, 2-2, advantage gone. Smicer the scorer of the second goal stepped up and scored to take Liverpool to 3 goals from 4 penalties. Milan were down to their last penalty.

Shevchenko had to score. Being one of the most prolific strikers in the world at that point, you would have put your mortgage on him scoring. Dudek was bouncing along the goal line, trying to unnerve the Ukrainian. Shevchenko ran up and went for a cheeky dink shot down the middle, bad move, Dudek had moved but not fully, he saved it, Liverpool won, the stadium erupted.

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I was crowd surfing at one point, jumping on everyone, hugging randoms, but I didn’t care, nor did they, Liverpool are champions of Europe for the fifth time. The emotions I was feeling have never been relived and to be honest I don’t think they ever will.

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I went from excitement to tears, to tears of joy. I even tried running on to the pitch was but stopped by a overly sized Turkish steward who pushed me back in to the crowd as he saw he attempting to jump of the advertisement boards and on to the pitch. Watching my team, my Liverpool lift the European cup live in person, I don’t think I could wish for anything else.

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After screaming and singing along to You’ll Never Walk Alone and We Are The Champions, I reached it to my pocket, grabbed my phone and text my Man Utd buddy “Great Game, I Really Enjoyed It PS> DON’T FORGET THE BET!!! YNWA”

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Ganesh ‘Gani’  Sharma

Justice For The 96

YNWA

ToggeroProduction

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1 Comment

  • Real Awesome Broo!! Liverpool Fans are the Best.. KOP
    Wish I would be watching liverpool win another Champions League live from the Stands…
    YNWA

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