Football: UNBELIEVABUL; AC Milan 3 Liverpool 3 AET: LIVERPOOL WIN 3-2 ON PENALTIES Liverpool the Kings of Europe after Greatest Fightback in Cup History
Byline: Martin Lipton CHIEF FOOTBALL WRITER, IN ISTANBUL
LIVERPOOL sealed the greatest comeback in Champions League history last night to turn the Istanbul night red with Scousers' delight.
Rafa Benitez's men had stood on the brink of humiliation as they were three goals down before the break and being run ragged by the brilliance of Brazilian Kaka and the predatory instincts of Chelsea cast-off Hernan Crespo.
But the legends of the past could only look on in wonder as the Reds turned a lost cause into a night of sheer bedlam in the space of six stunning minutes that defied belief and all footballing logic.
And then just as against Roma 21 years ago, the Reds triumphed from the spot again, as Jerzy Dudek proved the hero in a penalty shoot-out as Liverpool won it 3-2.
Benitez, horribly let down by Harry Kewell who repaid his decision to back the Aussie over Didi Hamann by limping away after 23 minutes, looked to have made a mistake that might haunt him for years.
A first minute goal from Paolo Maldini seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of the Reds, while the absence of Hamann allowed the inspirational Kaka to rip huge holes in the Liverpool rearguard,
When Crespo, on loan from Chelsea and still having half his pounds 90,000-per-week wages paid by the Blues, capitalised twice on Kaka's approach work, the Special One's cast-off appeared to be gaining Stamford Bridge revenge for the semi-final defeat.
Yet out of nowhere, Liverpool found the courage and guts to change everything as Steven Gerrard's header sparked a comeback that would have been dismissed as fanciful in a Boy's Own comic.
Kewell's replacement, Vladimir Smicer, grabbed a second and as the Liverpool fans began to urge their men onwards, Gerrard's run into the box was ended by a foul from Rino Gattuso and Xabi Alonso converted the rebound after Dida saved his spot kick.
The Merseyside fans who filled three-quarters of the ground had believed in glorious victory.
But those dreams were looking shattered as Milan struck a devastating blow inside 53 seconds.
Djimi Traore had no need to jump in on Kaka as the Brazilian was wandering rather aimlessly on the right flank. When he did so, the consequences were brutal.
Andrea Pirlo sized up his options before delivering to the penalty spot and, despite a host of red shirts, it was the right boot of Maldini that connected, his downward volley bouncing past the unprepared Dudek. …