No. 20 – The Gerrard Final

No. 20 – The Gerrard Final

Another extraordinary chapter in the history of Liverpool Football club was written on May 13, 2006. The FA Cup Final, Cardiff – an exhilarating victory over West Ham United that will forever be synonymous with Steven Gerrard, at times barely able to walk as cramp wracked his aching limbs, somehow managed to carry Liverpool towards their seventh FA Cup triumph when he scored a spectacular goal with only seconds remaining.

Just like in Istanbul the previous year, the Reds came from behind in dramatic fashion to draw 3-3, go through the pain barrier in extra time and hold their nerves in the shoot-out.

Two defensive mistakes gave West Ham a two goal lead inside 25 minutes. West Ham took the lead on the 21st minute when Xabi Alonso lost the ball in midfield, Dean Ashton found Lionel Scaloni with an inch-perfect through-ball and Scaloni’s cross was unwittingly turned past Reina by the inrushing Carragher at the near post.

West Ham doubled their advantage seven minutes later and the drama intensified. A rare Reina spillage from an Etherington shot let Ashton in, who bundled home from close range.

Three minutes later on the half hour mark, Liverpool did have the ball in the net, however, Peter Crouch’s header was ruled out for offside. Liverpool only had to wait sixty seconds before they had the ball in the net again when Djibril Cisse met Gerrard’s raking pass on the volley to fire the ball past Shaka Hislop.

The first half finished 2-1 with West Ham brimming with confidence. Reina made amends for his earlier mistake with two crucial saves in the space of seconds just after the re-start. After Etherington’s cross had exposed the Liverpool defence, Reina blocked from Yossi Benayoun and Marlon Harewood in quick succession.

Just nine minutes into the second half, Liverpool made it 2-2 when Steven Gerrard completed his side’s recovery from 2-0 down with a stunning volley into the top corner after Peter Crouch’s knockdown.

But just as Liverpool seemed to have assumed control, West Ham regained the lead in freakish fashion, Paul Konchesky’s attempted cross from the left floated over Jose Reina and nestled in the far corner.

As the clock ticked around to 90 minutes, Liverpool pushed forward desperately seeking the equalising goal. With the clock ticking past 90 minutes, Gerrard was Liverpool’s saviour again when his first-time drive from fully 35 yards flew past Hislop’s right and into the net.

Extra time beckoned and memories of BBC’s John Motson commentary: “Is this the best FA Cup final in history?” will be remembered forever.

Who will ever forget extra time as Liverpool’s cramp count continued to rise, Momo Sissoko, Djibril Cisse, Steve Finnan, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher all on the struggling list! Their arduous season had finally taken its toll in the heat and taxing playing conditions at Cardiff and their 62nd game simply seemed one too many.

With just minutes remaining, West Ham had the perfect opportunity to clinch the cup when Jose Reina turned Nigel Reo-Coker’s header onto the post but from the rebound, the hobbling Marlon Harewood hooked wide with the goal at his mercy.

The drama continued to the penalty shoot out where Reina clichched Liverpools seventh FA Cup with three crucial spot-kick saves. Reina saved from Zamora, Konchesky and crucially Ferdinand. Sheringham scored for the Hammers. Liverpool’s three spot kicks were scored by Hamann, Gerrard and Riise, with Hyypia having his saved by Hislop.

What a final! A match that will forever be etched into Liverpool folklore…..

Liverpool : Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Gerrard, Alonso (Kromkamp 67), Sissoko, Kewell (Morientes 48), Cisse, Crouch (Hamann 71).
Subs Not Used : Dudek, Traore.
Goals: Cisse (32), Gerrard (54) (90).

West Ham : Hislop, Scaloni, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky, Benayoun, Fletcher (Dailly 77), Reo-Coker, Etherington (Sheringham 85), Ashton (Zamora 71), Harewood.
Goals: Carragher 21 og, Ashton 28, Konchesky 64.

Attendance : 74,000
Ref : Alan Wiley