Liverpool’s Champions League final victory in Istanbul is a date etched in every Reds’ memory; 25 May 2005, with captain Steven Gerrard inspiring a second half comeback.
We’ve heard how the players were inspired by an incredible half-time rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone from the estimated 40,000 Liverpool fans in the Ataturk Stadium, and how Rafa Benitez’s changes provided the platform to come from 3-0 down against AC Milan.
Benitez brought on Didi Hamann, replacing the injured Steve Finnan, and switched to a back three. Goals from Gerrard, Vladi Smicer and Xabi Alonso inside six minutes turned the tie around.
Now, Cisse – who came on in the 85th minute and scored one of the Reds’ three penalties in the shootout – has detailed how Gerrard also gave an inspiring team talk in the changing room on that night.
Speaking to French outlet RMC Sport, as translated by Get French Football news, Cisse explained:
“I will never forget Steven Gerrard’s team-talk at half-time during the 2005 Champions League final.
[Rafa] Benitez comes into the dressing room, he does his coach speech, that we must not give up and that we need to score quickly.
“Steven gets up and asks all the coaching staff to leave the dressing room, because he wanted to be alone with just the players. All the staff left, even the physios who were giving treatment to the players.
“Stevie gets up and says that Liverpool is all he has, it is his club, all he has ever known and he does not want to be the laughing stock of the history of the Champions League.
“He says that if we respect him and love him as a captain, then we need to dust ourselves off and get back in the match.
“He scores the first goal, he gets the penalty. He has an extraordinary second half, finishing the game as a right-back. He has a crazy match – but that half-time speech will remain imprinted in my mind forever.”
Gerrard was aged just 24 then and had replaced Sami Hyypia as club captain 18 months earlier, already showing the leadership which he went on to display throughout his career.
Now, 13 years on from that night in Istanbul, Gerrard is making his first steps in management and showing the kind of leadership Gerard Houllier saw when he gave him the armband from Hyypia in 2003.
It’s nice to hear Cisse detail more about the role Gerrard played in the half-time turnaround.
UPDATE: Whether it’s been lost in translation, or Cisse’s memory is failing him, Jamie Carragher doesn’t seem to recall Gerrard’s half-time speech quite the same.
“It all adds to the myth!” said Carra on Twitter in response to the Cisse quotes. Adding: “I don’t think so, maybe I left with the dressing room with the staff!”
Mind you, Carra certainly celebrated afterwards so perhaps his memory of the whole night is a little hazy!