For a club that has experienced some contrasting fortunes since the year 2000, it’s a pretty impressive achievement that Liverpool have reached five Champions League finals in the 22 years that have followed. With victory over Villarreal confirming the team’s date with Real Madrid in this year’s showpiece, where they are favourites in the Champions League odds 2022, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on Liverpool’s other four Champions League final appearances since the turn of the millennium.
Featuring drama, joy and heartbreak in equal measure, these matches have proven that Liverpool rarely do things the easy way in major finals.
2005: Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties)
Is there a more iconic match in modern football history? When Liverpool found themselves 3-0 down at half-time to Italian giants and Champions League specialists AC Milan, the game was over. Already the underdogs going into the match, Rafael Benítez’s side had defied the odds just to reach the final in Istanbul, and it appeared as though the bubble had finally burst.
Cue the comeback. Steven Gerrard’s superb header gave Liverpool hope in the second half, before Vladimir Smicer brought the Reds’ right back into the game with his strike from outside the box. Moments later, Liverpool won a penalty to draw level, and although Xabi Alonso saw his initial effort saved, the Spaniard lashed the rebound into the back of the net.
AC Milan were shell-shocked, and the match ultimately ended in a penalty shootout. It felt as though destiny was on Liverpool’s side, and they held their nerve to win the Champions League and complete one of the greatest comebacks of all time.
2007: Liverpool 1-2 AC Milan
Two years later, the two sides met once again for a mouth-watering rematch in Athens. This time, it was Liverpool who went into the final as the favourites having come on leaps and bounds under Benítez, whilst Milan were an ageing team slowly on the decline.
Liverpool controlled large parts of the game, but they failed to create much in the way of clear chances. When Filippo Inzaghi glanced in Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick just before half-time, there was a sense that this was not to be Liverpool’s night. Inzaghi bagged a second with eight minutes remaining, and Dirk Kuyt’s late header could not spark a comeback this time around. It was disappointment for Liverpool — Milan had gained their revenge.
2018: Liverpool 1-3 Real Madrid
After a period where Liverpool found it hard to even qualify for the Champions League, the club returned to the showpiece fixture at the end of the 2017-18 season, when it was becoming clear that Jürgen Klopp was building something special at Anfield.
The Reds had blasted their way through the competition with some barn-storming football, but it all unravelled on a miserable night in Kyiv against Real Madrid. The Spanish giants were regular winners of the competition in 2010s, and they used all their nous to unsettle Liverpool.
Mohamed Salah was forced off early on after being hurled to the ground by Sergio Ramos, and that set the tone for an evening where everything seemed to go Real Madrid’s way. Karim Benzema gave them the lead after an awful blunder by Loris Karius, and despite Sadio Mané briefly drawing Liverpool level, a Gareth Bale brace saw Real Madrid win their 13th European Cup.
2019: Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Good things come to those who wait, and when Liverpool found themselves in the Champions League final again a year later, they would not let the opportunity pass them by. Tottenham Hotspur were the opposition after defying the odds to reach Madrid, but Klopp’s side were simply operating on another level.
That said, it was a pretty drab final, which suited Liverpool in the end. Salah’s early penalty gave the Reds the lead after just a minute, and from there Klopp’s side were able to keep Spurs at arm’s length for most of the match.
There were a few nervy moments towards the end, but when Divock Origi lashed home his side’s second goal with just minutes remaining, it was time to cue the celebrations as Liverpool secured their sixth Champions League title.