One week in May: Uefa Cup Final 2001

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Issue 4 of Kop Treasures is brought to you by columnist Ste Speed as he continues where he left off last week with the second part of his ‘One Week in May’…

Kop Treasures
Issue 4
Written by Ste Speed
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Liverpool 5-4 Alavés
UEFA Cup Final 2001
Date: Saturday, May 16th, 2001
Venue: Westfalenstadion, Dortmund
Attendance: 65,000
2001 UEFA Cup Final Programme
2001 UEFA Cup Final Ticket

It had been sixteen years since our last European final and the hype building up to the UEFA Cup Final in Dortmund game against unfancied Spanish side Deportivo Alavés was massive. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as excited before a game as I was feeling before this one. In the month before the game I had spent two weeks doing a temporary job booking travel packages and tickets for the big game. How jealous I was of the thousands of customers I dealt with over those two weeks, but it all added to my excitement for the match.

The venue for my viewing of this one was quite different to one on the previous Saturday as my dad and I watched this game in The Sefton Arms pub in West Derby Village, Liverpool. Unfortunately I was here in Vancouver watching Istanbul 2005, but how I imagine the atmosphere back home on that amazing night was probably a more extreme version of my experiences during the UEFA Cup Final 2001.

Obviously the pub was unbelievably crowded when we got there, fortunately my dad’ mates had saved us a tasty speck near the big screen and with pints in hand we were ready for kick off. We were never too nervous before the start as none of us had ever heard of Alaves so didn’t think we had much to worry about, surely we weren’t going to blow the treble now, especially after all we went through to win the previous two finals that season.

We didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough which came from a trademark Markus Babbel header which was then followed shortly by a terrific Gerrard shot.

uefacupfinalwinnerssquad2001.jpg

We were two nil up and absolutely flying, even when they got one back we weren’t bothered especially when Owen went clear through with the goalie and there is usually only one outcome in that situation. This time however the Alaves goalie came bursting out of his area and dragged Owen down, fortunately Michael was clever enough to go down inside the area. It was a penalty and surely a straight red card for the goalie. It seemed to take forever while the referee made up his mind before brandishing a yellow to the sound of loud expletives in the boozer. I had a flashback to this during the Gatuso incident during the Champions League Final. Up stepped Gary Mac to coolly dispense with the penalty and restore our two goal advantage.

Half time arrived and people were already ordering the champagne there and then, I couldn’t recall ever seeing such a one sided European final before. We were so far on top we were even starting to take gentleman’s bets on how many we’d end up scoring, five, six and even seven was mentioned as it was very possible that Alaves would completely collapse if we scored early in the second half. So a quick trip to the bog and another pint ordered and we were ready for the restart. Jubilation was soon turned to complete shock and silence as our defense collapsed and Javi Moreno fired two quick goals to level the score at three all. We had gone from absolutely flying to basically hanging on for our lives as Alaves began to pile on the pressure with wave after wave of attack dealt with brilliantly by McAllister having the game of his life.

Twenty minutes to go and onto the pitch to replace the hapless Heskey comes Robbie Fowler. Loud cheers and God chants mixed with adults only insults directed at Heskey go up round the pub. The arrival of The Growler combined with Alaves taking off their most dangerous player Moreno, seemed to give us a second wind as we began to create more opportunities. Then the ball fell to McAllister who played a tremendous ball through the Alaves defense. Fowler picked up the ball on the edge of the box and we all shouted for him to pass to Owen who was free in the area, instead Fowler decided to shoot and absolutely buried it in the corner. The pub descended into absolute mayhem, my dad was in the bathroom at that moment and came running out the bathroom in time for the replay describing scenes of men pissing on their keks in a rush to see what all the screaming was about. My own reaction was to stand still on the spot, arms in the air screaming ‘œFowler, Fowler, Fowler’ over and over again for about a minute as fellow fans shook me out of it.

fowler_uefacup2001.jpg

Surely that had to be it now, we couldn’t take any more drama, clearly Houllier was thinking the same way as he took Michael Owen off. Nobody said anything but I had a horrible thought of what the hell is he doing, what if it goes to extra time? My fears were well founded as Alaves equalized again in the ninetieth minute from a header by Jordi Cruyff an ex Man Utd player, bloody typical.

Final whistle blows and everyone just collapses onto each other, I don’t know how I managed to not throw up or have a heart attack on the spot. The first half of extra time goes without incident as it looks like it’s heading for penalties as both sides look knackered. Then in the second half things go crazy as Alaves get two players sent off. The second leads to a free kick on the left edge of the box. Up steps that man (of the match) McAllister again to take it. The TV camera gets a close up of his face about to take it and he has that same look in his eyes as before the derby winner just weeks earlier.

We sense that something is on and next thing you know the ball is in the net and it’s a golden goal. What a way to end such a dramatic game, in the pub we all go absolutely berserk and the noise was so loud that the commentary on the TV was drowned out. None of us knew who had actually scored the winning goal and speculation was rampant as to who got the final touch, it took a while till we realized it was actually an own goal.

uefacupwinners01.jpg

‘˜You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was played loudly and repeatedly as we watched Robbie and Sami lift the trophy and then the disco music came on and we danced into the night and got absolutely bladdered.

Liverpool: Westerveld, Babbel, Hyypia, Henchoz, Carragher, McAllister, Hamann, Gerrard, Murphy, Heskey, Owen. Subs: Berger, Fowler, Smicer.

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