The evening had started with a damp squib. I had switched on the telly hoping to see my other favourite team lift their fifth European Cup.
That other was of course Liverpool. Moving to England at an early age, when asked on the school playground who you supported, the reply of “Hearts” was met with exclamations of “WHO!?” An English team had to be adopted pronto to get in the footy-playing circle. Both Liverpool and Man Utd at the time had a fair number of Scots, but the former won on the grounds that the King himself (Dalglish) played for them.
So, telly switched on and “Oh Jeez…” Maldini gives Milan the lead inside a minute. It got worse. A handball in the box by Nesta goes unspotted and as Liverpool protest, Milan break up the park with Crespo making it 2-0. He would add a third soon after.
Half-time. I should switch off but am too dumbstruck to get up and do it. “I’ll hang on until they score a fourth,” I mutter. It nearly happens as Dudek saves a Shevchenko free-kick. Then a minute later … it began.
Gerrard heads in. An eyebrow is raised. Then Smicer crashes in a long-ranger and my eyes are wide open – 35 minutes left, we could level this. Gerrard goes down in the box – PENALTY! I’m off my seat. Alonso misses it, but hits in the rebound – my neighbours get the shock of their lives with my scream.
What on earth has just happened – who cares, we have a game here. Extra-time arrives and Dudek pulls off a double save from Shevchenko – what he knew about the second is debatable, but it’s still 3-3 and a penalty shoot-out is about to begin.
Milan don’t know what’s happened – they should be back at the hotel with the champagne, but they’re not. Dudek messes with their minds by apeing Grobbelaar’s spaghetti legs of 1984, which causes three of them to miss – the last being Shevchenko, which sparks pandemonium.
There are cans of beer in the fridge but adrenaline alone has me inebriated. A miracle perhaps, but a lesson of how a team should never give in – despite the odds.