Liverpool's Best and Worst Moments of the Noughties
There have been moments during the last 10 years when Liverpool fans have wondered why they pour so much emotion into supporting the club, why they have spent so much money travelling the nation and beyond to watch their team do battle.
Djimi Traore's own-goal backheel against Burnley and Liverpool's recent Champions League collapse have not helped, but when occasions like Istanbul 2005 come around, then Liverpool fans realize that everything has been worth it.
Here are Liverpool’s best and worst moments of the noughties.
Best Moment: The 2001 Treble
Liverpool lifted the FA Cup, Worthington Cup, and UEFA Cup in what will be remembered as Gerard Houllier’s most successful season at the club—and most dramatic.
This incredible treble was nine seasons ago now, so deserves eulogising in detail once more.
Liverpool kick-started their remarkable campaign of trophies with a penalty shootout victory over Birmingham City in the League Cup Final.
Robbie Fowler had given Liverpool a first-half lead, but despite appearing comfortable, Houllier’s team conceded an injury-time penalty, which Darren Purse scored to spark jubilation in the Birmingham end.
But taking Liverpool on at penalties is a sincerely dangerous game, and Birmingham found that out to their cost when both Martin Grainger and Andy Johnson missed in the shootout to gift the Reds victory.
Michael Owen was the hero in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal, scoring a dramatic late goal to hand Liverpool the trophy after he had previously equalised Freddie Ljungberg’s opener for the Gunners.
If anyone needs reminding of what Owen can do in front of goal with the World Cup looming next summer, this is the DVD you would show them; with Owen first reacting sharply in the box to slam home Gary McAllister’s free kick before outpacing Tony Adams and Lee Dixon and firing past David Seamen from an acute angle five minutes later. Sensational.
The UEFA Cup Final was just as dramatic. In a seesaw game against Alves, Liverpool prevailed 5-4 after extra time, in which Alves defender Delfi Geli scored in the wrong net to hand Houllier’s side the victory, with minutes to go before penalties. It may have been an own-goal, but it was a golden goal for Liverpool.
But Liverpool don’t do easy finals, and they four times allowed Alves to breach their defence, making for an extremely difficult evening in which Houllier’s team eventually managed to triumph dramatically. Again.
Best Moment: 2005 Champions League Final
Surely the greatest sporting moment of the decade, this final encapsulated everything special about sport: tremendous skill, endless drama, and most prominently the immense determination, courage, and togetherness that Liverpool showed in achieving the impossible.
3-0 down to a dominant AC Milan at halftime, Liverpool had been played off the park by the tip-toeing talent of Kaka, Hernan Crespo, and Andrei Shevchenko.
So when Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer, and Xabi Alonso all scored within the space of six incredible second-half minutes to level the score, the world was shaken on its head.
The incredible drama didn’t end with Liverpool’s astonishing six-minute comeback: Jerzy Dudek’s outrageous, physics-defying double-save from Shevchenko in extra time and his two remarkable stops in the following penalty shoot will also never be forgotten.
What a game. What a name Rafa Benitez made for himself.
Best Moment: 2006 FA Cup Final
Another final for Liverpool, another drama-packed occasion.
Rafa Benitez must have been tearing his hair out when Liverpool allowed West Ham to take a surprise 2-0 lead within 20 minutes, courtesy of a Jamie Carragher own goal and Dean Ashton, but once again he watched his side turn things around in the most dramatic fashion, though not after yet more West Ham joy.
Liverpool made it 2-2 through Djibril Cisse and Steven Gerrard, but soon after West Ham restored their lead in strange circumstances, with Paul Konchesky’s attempted cross floating beyond Reina and into the net.
But there is one man in red who never gives up, one man in red who will battle through any sort of agonising cramp for the cause of Liverpool Football Club.
Step forward Steven Gerrard to rescue Liverpool with an unstoppable 35-yard bullet into the bottom corner. Cue pandemonium in the Millennium Stadium stands. Cue a penalty shootout. Cue a Liverpool win.
Reina may have made a stunning save in extra time and thwarted West Ham in the shootout (remind you of another goalkeeper in Istanbul?), but this was the Gerrard final.
Best Moment: Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool
This extraordinary victory was not enough to help Liverpool on their way to the Premier League trophy, but it will still live long in the memory of Kopites for its pure stunning nature.
Just like in Istanbul 2005 and Cardiff 2006, Liverpool trailed in this match, after Cristiano Ronaldo netted a penalty. But from then on it was all about Liverpool.
Fernando Torres outsprinted Nemanja Vidic and slid the ball coolly past Edwin Van Der Sar before Steven Gerrard won and then scored a penalty. Liverpool were remarkably 2-1 up at the break.
The second half watered the mouths of Liverpool supporters even more, with Fabio Aurellio curling home a delightful free kick before Andrea Dossena raced forward to lob Van Der Sar from the edge of the box.
Unbelievable. Manchester United’s fans certainly thought it was a nightmare.
Worst Moment: Burnley 1-0 Liverpool 2004
This was a horror show from Liverpool, the night when Rafa Benitez realised that the FA Cup was no Carling Cup. This was the new Liverpool manager’s first taste of the oldest cup competition in the world, and boy did it leave his mouth with the remnants of bile.
Djimi Traore will also not remember this third-round tie too fondly, as it was he who catastrophically back-heeled the ball into his own net to gift Burnley a shock victory.
Thankfully Benitez fielded a stronger side in the competition the next season after witnessing this atrocious display, which led to Gerrard lifting the trophy in Cardiff. So perhaps this was a blessing in disguise after all.
Worst Moment: Hicks and Gillett’s Takeover
When George Gillett and Tom Hicks took over at Liverpool, a sense of optimism breezed around Anfield, and there was new hope of hefty transfer funds for Rafa Benitez.
Fans thought this could be the start of something special. Yeah right. These two Yanks couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery, let alone run one of the world’s greatest football clubs.
Ever heard of credibility? These two haven’t. After guiding Liverpool to two Champions League finals in his first three years at the club, you would have thought Rafa Benitez had a large dose of the stuff in 2007.
Hicks and Gillett begged to differ with the whole of the Liverpool FC population, seeking Jurgen Klinsman to take over instead.
Ever since their arrival, pandemonium has reigned in the Anfield boardroom, and it will continue to be that way until they pack their bags and leave the job to someone who knows what they’re doing.
Worst Moment: Champions League Final 2007
Though overall this was another terrific European campaign for Liverpool under Benitez, which encompassed special victories over Barcelona and Chelsea, this final defeat to AC Milan was the bitterest of pills to swallow.
Liverpool outplayed Carlo Ancelotti’s side in Athens, creating the better chances and falling foul of pure bad luck with regard to Milan’s first goal, a free kick which struck the arm of Filipo Inzaghi and diverted past a wrong-footed Reina.
Inzaghi scored again in the second half before Dirk Kuyt replied with a late header, but this was not to be for Liverpool, perhaps payback for their second-half humiliation of Milan in Istanbul two years previous.
Worst Moment: Champions League Group Stage 2009
After forging such a great name for themselves in the Champions League under Benitez, this was such a huge step backwards for Liverpool. What an awful European campaign.
Wednesday night’s collapse in the final game at home to Fiorentina summed up Liverpool’s dreadful performances over the course of the group: slack passing, shambolic defending, and conceding injury-time goals.
Liverpool can point to bad luck for those three late goals scored against them against Lyon and Fiorentina, but in reality it was defensive mistakes and attacking inefficiencies that led to their downfall into the lowly Europa League.
Bring on Hamburg. Or not.