At the final whistle of the famous win over Chelsea at Anfield in the 2005 semi-final of the Champions League, Clive Tyldsley joyously told the ITV audience “it’s time once again for Liverpool to grace a European Cup final.” There had been twenty years between our defeat to Juventus at Heysel and our memorable win in Istanbul, and there has now been thirteen years since we were beaten by Milan in Athens – our last Champions League final. Well, on Saturday night, Clive Tyldsley’s immortal words will be resounding around my head once again. It is time, once again, for Liverpool grace a European Cup final. So let’s look back on the seven previous finals in which we have played, won and lost, to get ourselves in the mood for lifting ol’ big ears again.
Liverpool 3-1 Borussia Moenchengladbach – 1977, Stadio Olimpico, Rome
We had faced Gladbach a year before in the UEFA Cup final (then played over two legs) and had beaten them to claim out second European trophy, our first under Bob Paisley. After annihilating F.C Zurich of Switzerland in the semi-final we finally took our rightful place in the final of Europe’s premier competition. Gladbach had much more difficult route, needing extra-time in the second leg to eventually overcome Soviet champions Dynamo Kyiv. Thousands of Scousers made their way to the eternal city in any way they could – planes, trains, coaches and hitch-hiking. They witnessed a closer game than the scoreline suggests. Terry McDermott put Liverpool ahead on twenty eight minutes but European player of the year Allan Simonsen would equalise seven minutes into the second half. However, Tommy Smith, also immortalised by Brian Moore’s sublime commentary line “what a delighted scorer, it’s Tommy Smith!”, would put Liverpool back in the lead with a thumping header. Phil Neal would wrap the game up with a trademark penalty on eighty two minutes to send Kevin Keegan to Hamburg as a European Cup winner and the Liverpool fans home as reigning Kings of Europe.
Liverpool 1-0 Club Brugge – 1978, Wembley, London
A year after winning our first European Cup we were looking to become the first British side to retain the trophy. After beating Gladbach again the semi-final 4-2 on aggregate, Club Brugge were waiting at Wembley after they surprisingly beat Juventus. A walkover was anticipated but it wasn’t what ensued. The Belgians knew Liverpool were a fantastic side and look to cut them off at the source by compacting the midfield. They hadn’t counted on one man though – Kenny Dalglish. King Kenny was brought in as Kevin Keegan’s replacement and had so far done a magnificent job. He would of course go on to be a club legend for games like this, for all he needed was one chance. On sixty four minutes that chance came. Graeme Souness played a perfectly weighted ball into Dalglish, who had finally found himself in some space. Dalglish took one touch before exquisitely chipping the Brugge ‘keeper, Birgir Jensen, to give Liverpool the lead. It would be the only goal of the game as Bob Paisley would deny legendary Austrian manager Ernst Happel and give Emlyn Hughes the chance to lift the European Cup for the second year running.
Liverpool 1-0 Real Madrid – 1981, Parc Des Princes, Paris
After beating Bayern Munich heroically in the semi-final and shoving Paul Breitner’s words back down his throat, Bob Paisley would be taking his side back into a European Cup final to face Real Madrid. The Spaniards faced a similarly difficult route to Paris, having to overcome Inter Milan in their semi-final. As always, thousands of Scousers made the journey over the English Channel to watch the Reds take on the likes of Ulli Stielike, Vicente Del Bosque and Laurie Cunningham. Liverpool able to keep the skilful Cunningham, who was carrying a slight injury, under control for the best part of the game and set about forging their own chances. The best came on eighty two minutes, when Alan Kennedy skipped the Real Madrid defence to life the ball over Agustin Fernandez and put Liverpool 1-0 up. Los Blancos had been uninspiring all night and that wasn’t going to change in the last eight minutes of the game. Liverpool would again be crowned champions of Europe and Phil Thompson would lift the famous trophy, before taking it for a pint at The Falcon in his native Kirkby.
Liverpool 1-1 Roma (won 4-2 on penalties) – 1984, Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Beating Dinamo Bucharest in Romania meant that we would face Roma on their home patch. The Italians had made it to the final after beating Dundee United over two legs in, shall we say, suspicious circumstances. Liverpool fans would be vastly outnumbered in the stadium for once but still went to Rome in gigantic numbers. Phil Neal would give Liverpool the lead on fifteen minutes, not from the penalty spot for once but after capitalising on confusion in the penalty area to poke the ball home. Roberto Pruzzo would draw Nils Liedholm’s side level just before half-time though and neither side were able to find a way past the other from there. This would be the first European final to be decided by a penalty shoot-out after extra-time also failed to separate the sides. Steve Nicol got Liverpool off to a bad start by missing the first penalty. We were impeccable from there though and after Bruce Grobbelaar’s infamous jelly legs put off Francesco Graziani, who blazed his pen over the bar, it was down to Alan Kennedy’s spot kick. Kennedy has said since he missed every penalty during a training session earlier that week but he faultless this time, sending Franco Tancredi the wrong way and the Liverpool supporters into raptures. Graeme Souness would lift the European Cup in his final act for the club before moving to Sampdoria.
Juventus 1-0 Liverpool – 1985, Heysel Stadium, Brussels
After comfortably overcoming Panathinaikos in the semi-final we would go to Brussels to face Juventus, who had beaten Bordeaux in the other semi-final. This game is mostly remembered for the thirty nine fans who lost their lives in the dilapidated stadium when a wall collapsed after Liverpool fans rushed into the Juventus end, forcing fans of the Italian side to retreat into said wall. After deliberation on whether the game should go ahead it was eventually given the go ahead. There were some queer decisions from the referee in the game and it was evident that Liverpool would not be allowed to win this final. On fifty eight minutes, Zbigniew Boniek ran into the Liverpool box and went down from an apparent – and phantom – touch from Gary Gillespie. Michel Platini stepped up to convert the penalty and Juventus would hold onto their lead, giving us our first taste of defeat in a European Cup final. Following the game English clubs would be banned from all European competition for five years, depriving us of further continental glory. We wouldn’t make it back to a European Cup final for twenty years.
AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (won 3-2 on pens) – 2005, Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul
After that win over Chelsea in the semi-final we travelled to Turkey to face AC Milan, who had beaten PSV Eindhoven to make it to Istanbul. Things got off to an awful start when Paolo Maldini volleyed Milan into a ninety second lead. They controlled most of the first half and it paid off on thirty nine minutes when Kaka played in Andriy Shevchenko, who squared for Hernan Crespo to convert from five yards. Kaka turned on the style five minutes later by playing a delightful forty yard through ball beyond the despairing leg of Jamie Carragher for Crespo to impudently poke over Jerzy Dudek. 3-0 down at half-time and Liverpool seemed dead and buried – but they didn’t know that. Steven Gerrard started the comeback on fifty four minutes by heading past Dida and Vladimir Smicer gave us real hope by firing into the bottom corner two minutes later. Xabi Alonso completed the resurrection on the hour mark from the penalty spot leaving everyone in disbelief. After living on the edge during extra-time we took the game to penalties. Misses from Serginho and Andrea Pirlo meant that Shevchenko, who had had a torrid night in front of goal, had to score. As he walked to the penalty spot his timid body language screamed fear. His un-coordinated run up made it obvious he’d miss and Dudek was able to stop the spot kick, making us Champions of Europe for a fifth time. The three quarters of the stadium filled with Liverpool fans erupted as we took the now Champions League trophy home for keeps.
AC Milan 2-1 Liverpool – 2007, Olympic Stadium, Athens
Went into our seventh Champions League final on the back of another famous Anfield night, beating Chelsea on penalties to make it to Athens. Milan had prevented the tasty prospect of a clash with Manchester United by beating them 6-2 on aggregate in their semi. We travelled to Greece with a much stronger squad than that which went to Istanbul two years previous. We were also in finer fettle than Milan were who came with an ageing squad that had one last point to prove under Carlo Ancelotti. A tight had its deadlock broken with the last kick of the first-half when Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick ricocheted off the back of Filippo Inzaghi in the wall and past Pepe Reina, who had dived the opposite way. The game once again became attritional but Inzaghi was able to get onto a Kaka through ball on eighty two minutes to round Reina and double Milan’s lead. A late Dirk Kuyt goal inspired a mini-comeback but we were unable to perform a comeback reminiscent of our one a couple of years prior, and Milan would claim their seventh Champions League.
In seven European Cup/Champions League finals we have been victorious in five of them. We have beaten our upcoming opponents once before, in the 1981 final, and knocked them out of the competition in the round of 16 in 2009. Istanbul was a miracle but we head to Kyiv with a much stronger squad. Our history dictates we have a strong chance of winning this competition for a sixth time on Saturday, while recent form says that Real Madrid will claim their thirteenth title. Whether we win or not, heed this advice – enjoy it. Go out with your mates, get drunk, sing your hearts out. Nights like these come along once every eclipse. Make the most of it and, if you can’t be one of the lucky few in Kyiv, be one of the lucky thousands watching from afar.