On this day in 2001, Liverpool secured part three of their treble trophy season with an incredible, back-and-forth 5-4 UEFA Cup final win over Alaves.
It was, astonishingly, the 62nd match of the Reds’ marathon 00/01 season under Gerard Houllier—and even after this it wasn’t finished.
Liverpool had already triumphed twice this season in finals, beating Cardiff in the League Cup final and Arsenal in the FA Cup final, the latter coming only four days earlier at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff.
For Houllier, though, European success was the holy grail and he took his team to Germany after seeing off Rapid Bucharest, Slovan Liberec, Olympiacos, Roma, Porto and Barcelona, all across two-legged affairs in a straight knock-out competition.
Alaves had done similar to reach the final in Dortmund: Gaziantepspor, Lillestrom, Rosenborg, Inter Milan, Rayo Vallecano and Kaiserslautern all fell by the wayside against the free-scoring Spanish outfit.
The Reds had been infamously labelled “boring” on more than one occasion that season, but whether through tiredness, under-estimating the opposition or just the crazy nature of must-win atmospheres that finals can bring, the last game of the competition was anything but boring.
Within a quarter of an hour the Reds had a two-goal advantage, and were 3-1 up by the break. Five minutes after, it was 3-3.
It was all tied at 4-4 by the 90-minute mark, and with the golden goal rule in place, Alaves had two sent-off before Gary McAllister swung a free-kick into the box, Delfi Geli flicked his header the wrong way and the Reds had a European trophy.
Liverpol 5-4 Alaves (after Golden Goal in extra time)
UEFA Cup Final, Westfalenstadion, Dortmund
16 May, 2001
So much was compressed into the not-quite-120 minutes of action, it’s hard to take it all in, even 19 years later.
Markus Babbel headed in the first goal inside three minutes—and he racked up an impressive haul of six strikes that season from right-back. He also made the most appearances of any outfield player that campaign, 60 in total, a reminder of what was taken from him due to injury the following year.
Steven Gerrard soon followed that up with a goal—his 10th of the campaign. Gary McAllister, man of the match in the final, scored a penalty for the Reds’ third—with Ivan Alonso scoring before him and Javi Moreno notching twice after.
Robbie Fowler came off the bench to score a brilliant solo goal for the Reds to make it 4-3, Jordi Cruyff headed a late equaliser and Gary Mac’s free-kick led to the winner.
Those goals yielded Liverpool’s first European silverware since 1984, and gave them a third UEFA Cup triumph—no club had won it more times at that point, though Sevilla have since eclipsed it with five wins in 10 years.
On the bench for the Reds in Dortmund was sub ‘keeper Pegguy Arphexad; this was his third trophy for the club having played only two games, a marvellous ratio which he largely kept up for his entire spell with the Reds.
Liverpool have never since played against Alaves, though of course the Westfalenstadion and the Reds have been somewhat heavily linked this century, usually with an exceptional outcome for the Merseyside club.
And after the celebration of the trophy, Liverpool still had enough in the tank to do it all again: a 4-0 win over Charlton three days later to seal a Champions League berth for 01/02!
Liverpool: Westerveld; Babbel, Henchoz (Smicer 55′), Hyypia, Carragher; Gerrard, Hamann, McAllister, Murphy; Owen (Berger 78′), Heskey (Fowler 64′)
Subs not used: Arphexad, Vignal, Wright, Barmby
Alaves: Herrera; Contra, Karmona, Eggen (Alonso 22′), Tellez, Geli; Cruyff, Tomic, Desio, Astudillo (Magno Mocelin 46′); Moreno (Pablo 64′)
Subs not used: Kike, Begona, Ganan, Azkoitia