Liverpool FC: 5 Most Important Goals Scored in the Rafa Benitez Era
It might seem a long way off now when Spaniard Rafa Benitez was at the helm of Liverpool Football Club.
Benitez arrived at the club in 2004 from Valencia, where he had an impressive record of breaking the stranglehold that both Barcelona and Real Madrid had on the La Liga crown.
The Spaniard presided over Liverpool's most glorious night in recent history in May 2005 in Istanbul, where they won the European Cup for the fifth time and took the trophy back to Anfield for good.
Benitez's was also in charge during the dark days of Tom Hicks and George Gillett and eventually left Liverpool in the summer of 2010.
Many fans may not have loved Benitez, but there is no doubting the man's impact on Liverpool Football Club.
In his time in charge, the Reds scored a great number of important goals. Important for Benitez as well as for the club.
I am sure there will be a healthy debate on whether these five goals were in fact the most important ones or if there were others that were more so.
Let the debate begin.
5. Fernando Torres
In July 2007, Rafa Benitez paid a Liverpool Football Club-record transfer fee of £20 million for Spanish striker Fernando Torres.
Benitez brought about a Spanish revolution at Anfield, but to spend the highest amount ever in the club history for any player was a gamble.
Torres had to start quickly for the Reds; if he did not, the knives would be out for Benitez.
On 19 August 2007, Torres made his Anfield debut in a game against Chelsea. In that match, the Spaniard announced his arrival on Merseyside with a superb debut goal.
Benitez's money was indeed well spent.
That goal set Torres up to break the record for the most league goals scored by a foreign player in his debut season.
His first one, against Chelsea, was a watershed moment of the Rafa Benitez era. It was vindication for Benitez's huge investment and opened goal floodgates for Torres.
4. Luis Garcia
In Liverpool's ultimately successful Champions League campaign, Luis Garcia scored what was later to be dubbed the "ghost goal" by then-Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
In the fourth minute of the second leg of an epic semifinal encounter with Chelsea, Garcia flicked a ball towards the goal, after Milan Barros had been flattened by Petr Cech.
Whether William Gallas cleared the ball off the line or if it had indeed crossed the line was the controversy, but the referee gave the goal.
It was the only goal of both legs, and Liverpool went to Istanbul on the back of it.
It was, at the time, the defining point of Rafa Benitez's Liverpool career, and remains till today as one of its pivotal moments.
3. Steven Gerrard
On 8 December 2004, again on Liverpool's victorious road to Istanbul, comes the third-most important goal of the Rafa Benitez era.
With 86 minutes on the clock and the score at 2-1 to Liverpool at Anfield, the Reds faced elimination at the Group Stages of the competition.
But as commentator Martin Tyler said, "Steven Gerrard did not want to wake up the next morning in the Europa League."
The video clip shows and says it all.
2. Steven Gerrard
In May 2006, the last FA Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium—before the match would return to Wembley—looked to be West Ham's.
The clocked registered 90 minutes and Liverpool were 2-3 down. Captain Steven Gerrard was struggling with cramps, and the game looked lost for the Reds.
But, as was so often in the past and would be in the future, Gerrard was not finished with this game—not by a long shot (excuse the pun).
As the ball came lose towards Gerrard, the Liverpool captain was fully 40 yards away from the goal, with reserves of strength no one knew he had left. He unleashed an unstoppable pile driver from his right foot that flew past Shaka Hislop, into the net.
The scenes of jubilation were wonderful to witness and the video clip of this goal can be watched over and over with the awe never diminishing.
This Gerrard goal was arguably the second-most important of Rafa Benitez's Liverpool era, as Liverpool went on to lift the Cup on penalties.
1. Steven Gerrard
It is May 2005, and Liverpool are trailing in the Champions League final by three goals to a rampant AC Milan that have gone into the dressing room with one hand and quite possible more on the Cup.
Liverpool start the second half with more than a mountain to climb. Most fans are hoping for a scoreline that will not be too humiliating.
But on 54 minutes, John Arne Riise sent in a cross from the left that Steven Gerrard powered—almost willed—into the net, and the score was 3-1.
Based on Gerrard’s reaction to the goal, he still had belief, and the next six minutes were what dreams and legends are made of.
That single goal by Gerrard started a comeback that led to Liverpool winning their fifth European Cup on penalties and taking the famous trophy back to Anfield forever.
Without a doubt, that Gerrard goal was the most important Liverpool goal of the Rafa Benitez era.