Rafa Benitez's half-time message that sparked Liverpool's epic Istanbul comeback


Fifteen years ago this Monday Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in football history.

The Reds were trailing AC Milan by three goals to nil at the half-time break of the 2005 Champions League final, hosted in Istanbul.

They were just 45 minutes away from heartbreak, but somehow found it in them to turn the tie on its head and draw the scores level.

Steven Gerrard got the ball in motion with a headed goal on 54 minutes before Vladimir Smicer reduced the deficit once more just 120 seconds later.

Xabi Alonso completed the comeback with a rebound from his own missed spot-kick, to take the game to penalties.

Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in football history

And it was Liverpool who would triumph under pressure, with Jerzy Dudek making the all-important save to keep out Andriy Shevchenko’s final effort.

Benitez arguably won the game in the dressing room at half-time, as his players came out rejuvenated and full of belief that they could turn the tie around.

In his column for The Athletic, Benitez has revealed exactly what he told his players on that fateful night.

The Reds were trailing AC Milan by three goals to nil at the half-time break

He wrote: “I said to Pako Ayestaran, my assistant, ‘I will give the half-time team talk and we will talk about three at the back to have an extra player in the middle. You go and do the warm-up with Hamann’.

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“The message we gave to the players was about confidence — try to score early, get back in the game. That was the main thing.

Jamie Carragher celebrates in front of the Liverpool fans

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“In other circumstances or with smaller teams, perhaps you might be looking at damage limitation because you don’t want to concede four or five goals but this was a final.

“You have to go for it. And then, depending on what happens in the first few minutes, you make decisions. Again, we did it.”

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