No. 51 – Houlliers Roma Return
On Saturday afternoon at Anfield, 13 October 2001, Liverpool faced Leeds United at home. Liverpool were 1-0 down at the break after a goal from Harry Kewell, as the second half got underway, Gerard Houllier hadn’t returned to his usual position on the bench. Gerard had been rushed to hospital and underwent an 11-hour operation following a dissection of his aorta.
Phil Thompson took charge of team affairs in Gerards absence guiding the team to the second phase of the Champions League as well as keeping the Reds in contention at the top of the Premiership.
Five months after his operation, on a night to rank alongside any of the great Anfield European occasions of the past, Gerard Houllier made a timely return to the Liverpool dugout and inspired his team to a thrilling 2-0 victory over AS Roma. The players had been prepairing for the match in the hotel before the game when the manager turned up withour warning to the amazement of the players, who’d expected him to wait a few more weeks.
On a night to rank with the great European occasions at Anfield, Liverpool, watched by their manager for the first time in five months, overcame the champions of Italy 2-0 to ensure their passage to the quarter-finals and Roma’s elimination.
The night after Houlliers return, BBC Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty recalled the night perfectly : “Gerard Houllier timed his entrance like one of the trademark tactical master-strokes that have revived the fortunes of a football giant that had fallen by the wayside. He is not a man to willingly seek the spotlight – but there can be no doubt there was an element of dramatic effect about his decision to return to his beloved Anfield dug-out for the Champions League decider against AS Roma.”
Liverpool : Dudek, Carragher, Henchoz, Hyypia, Xavier, Murphy, Gerrard, Riise, Smicer (McAllister 89), Litmanen (Biscan 87), Heskey.
Subs : Baros, Barmby, Diomede, Wright, Arphexad
Roma : Antonioli, Panucci, Samuel, Aldair, Tommasi, Assuncao (Cassano 69), Emerson, Lima (Montella 45), Candela, Totti, Batistuta (Delvecchio 45).
Subs : Zago, Zebina, Guigou, Pelizzoli