Liverpool’s 80 days of heaven as Reds secure remarkable cup treble

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After a barren run without silverware, Liverpool, under the guidance of Gerard Houllier would secure a memorable treble in a spell-binding 2000/01 season in cup competitions.

You wait ages for a bus, in this case trophies, and three came along in swift succession for Liverpool in the early years of the new millennium.

Prior to the start of the 2000/01 season, Liverpool had failed to collect any silverware since the League Cup success six years prior in 1994/95.

Roy Evans was at the helm during that time, a man who would later share the reigns with Gerrard Houllier for a few short months before the Frenchman went it alone at the end of 1998.

Change swept through Anfield in the early days and years of Houllier’s tutelage, with the key arrivals of Sami Hyypia and Stephane Hechoz – who would solidify what was a fragile defence.

Gerard Houllier (right), who has joined Liverpool Manager Roy Evans, to form a managerial partnership at Anfield, today (Thursday). See PA Story SOCCER Liverpool. PA Photos

Markus Babbel and Jamie Carragher would join the centre-back pairing at full-back, while a young Steven Gerrard was earning his stripes and slowly creating a name for himself.

Dietmar Hamann, Gary McAllister, Patrik Berger, Vladimir Smicer and Nick Barmby would all provide much-needed experience alongside the young pair of Gerrard and Danny Murphy.

While in attack, the trio of Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and Emile Heskey were all on hand, and the forward line would be added to in January 2001, with the signing of Jari Litmanen.

Liverpool’s Premier League campaign in 2000/01 would end with a third-place finish, secured on the final day with a 4-0 win over Charlton, to qualify for the following season’s Champions League.

But this season would be defined by the Reds’ exploits in the cup competitions, as a remarkable treble would come the way of Liverpool.

Robbie Fowler holds up the Worthington Cup after his side beat Birmingham City following a penalty shoot-out in the Final, at the Millennium Stadium, in Cardiff. 25-Feb-2001 (Picture by David Jones PA Archive/PA Images)

The first trophy of the season returned to Anfield on February 25, 2001, in the League Cup final, which was then known was the Worthington Cup, against Birmingham City.

The Reds overcame Chelsea, Stoke, Fulham and Crystal Palace to set up the meeting with Birmingham at the Millennium Stadium – the first of two finals at the ground which would be decided on penalties for Liverpool.

Robbie Fowler had notched the opener in stunning fashion, only for Darren Purse to equalise at the death from the spot. Extra-time followed without a goal and the Reds would go on to win the competition 5-4 on penalties as Andrew Johnson saw his effort saved by Sander Westerveld.

The FA Cup was next, a competition which Liverpool had not won since 1992, to secure the domestic cup double, in a final widely known as the ‘Michael Owen Final’.

Arsenal were the opposition and the Millennium Stadium was, again, the setting on May 12, a day the game was to be decided in 16 dizzying second-half minutes.

Liverpool's injured club captain Jamie Redknapp lifts the FA Cup with Robbie Fowler (right) and the rest of the team after victory over Arsenal in today's FA Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. The cup was presented by the Duke of York. (Picture by David Jones PA Archive/PA Image)

After assuming control of proceedings on a sweltering afternoon, Arsenal were the ones to launch a sustained period of pressure, and the Reds’ resistance would eventually wilt when Freddie Ljungberg scored in the 72nd minute.

But Michael Owen and Liverpool had other ideas, with the 21-year-old netting a sensational late double within the final 10 minutes of regulation time, all in the space of five miraculous minutes.

There would be no comeback, extra-time or penalties for Arsenal, with Liverpool lifting their sixth FA Cup, and they were now not the verge of historic treble when they made the trek to Dortmund four days later for the UEFA Cup Final with Alaves.

Nine goals, two red cards and a lesson in how not to defend would follow, but, ultimately, it would all end in Liverpool becoming the first team to win three cup competitions in one season.

Liverpool's Robbie Fowler celebrates scoring the fourth goal with team mates (from left) Gregory Vignal, Nicky Barmby and Steven Gerrard during the UEFA Cup Final at the Westfalen Stadium, Dortmund.

Markus Babbel and Gerrard got Houllier’s side off to a flying start as two goals were on the board after 16 minutes, before the Spaniards pulled one back merely 10 minutes later, in what was a sign of the surreal things to come.

McAllister would restore the two-goal buffer from the spot before half-time, only for a double from Alaves’ Javi Moreno to ensure the scores were level until the 73rd minute.

Fowler had only just been summoned from the bench before he found the net with a sumptuous solo effort to see Liverpool move within touching distance of the trophy.

But, as ever, the Reds failed to do anything the easy way and with just two minutes remaining, Jordi Cruyff would net to see the scoreboard read 4-4 and set up a golden goal extra-time, where McAllister’s free-kick would be famously turned into the net by Alaves’ Delfi Geli. Game over.

Liverpool team celebrate after winning the UEFA cup on the Golden Goal rule against CD Alaves in the UEFA Cup Final at the Westfalen Stadium, Dortmund. (Picture by: David Davies / PA Archive/Press Association Images)

Relief and delight flowed through players and fans alike in equal measure, with a report in the Guardian, stating:

“Liverpool rejoined European football’s scroll of trophy winners last night and did so in a manner which would have defied belief in the professional, pragmatic days of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.”

The class of 2001 immortalised their names into the history books in the most unforgettable of ways, with the manner of the victory over Alaves aptly bookending what was a remarkable, record-breaking season.

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