It was a match after which Andrea Pirlo nearly gave up football. “After Istanbul, nothing made sense anymore…The 2005 Champions League final simply suffocated me…I hope to never experience another night like May 25, 2005. I wouldn’t be able to cope even if I was a cat in my ninth and final life,” the Italian midfield maestro has said in his biography ‘I Think Therefore I Play.’
John Arne Riise though would view things a little differently. Down 0-3 at half-time, Liverpool mounted one of football’s greatest comebacks riding on the efforts of a certain Steven Gerrard, who retired from on Thursday. And it was Riise’s assist that started it.
“His role was massive, he won it for us. Without him, I wouldn’t be a Champions League winner. He played the game of his life. He was all over the pitch. Fighting and wanting to win. He showed what he was made it that night,” said Riise, now playing for defending champions Chennaiyin FC in ISL3, in an e-mail when HT sought his reaction on Gerrard.
“As a player he had everything and as a captain, he was perfect; always giving 110% for the team, his teammates and the fans,” said Riise.
“I think he saw that I was a fighter; one willing to do whatever it takes to win. In seven years together, we experienced so much, both on and off (the pitch).
“When I played left wing or full back, he was the one player I knew who always saw my runs. I didn’t even have to shout, he knew where I was and I knew the pass would come exactly where I wanted it. We had a very good understanding on the pitch,” said Riise.
Among the many nights it came together nicely that night in Istanbul would stand out. The first time Riise attempted a delivery, it came off an AC Milan player; the next time he made a better connection and Gerrard leapt highest to make it 1-3.
Liverpool then scored thrice in six minutes before completing the miracle by winning on penalties. “He is the best player Liverpool has seen,” said Riise.
Now that Gerrard is done with football, Riise said he is looking forward to some ‘fun times’ with his friend.