Rafa Benitez admits he made major Liverpool error in ‘Miracle of Istanbul’

Date published: Tuesday 10th December 2019 10:00 - Robert McCarthy

Rafael Benitez gave a brilliant insight into Liverpool’s famous Champions League comeback against AC Milan in 2005 on Monday Night Football.

Reflecting on an incredible night in the club’s history, when the Reds came from 3-0 down at half-time to draw 3-3 and then win a penalty shootout, Benitez admitted he made an error with his tactical approach to the game.

Liverpool had finished fifth in the Premier League behind neighbours Everton that season and the defensive frailties that had undermined their domestic campaign were exposed during the first half by Carlo Ancelotti’s brilliant Milan side.

The club’s run to the final saw Rafael Benitez often play Steven Gerrard in the No 10 position, but the Spaniard elected to start his talisman alongside Xabi Alonso in the midfield from the start, with Harry Kewell playing behind Milan Baros.

The Reds had kept two clean sheets in the semi-final against Chelsea, while they had also gone to Juventus and kept the Italians at bay. Within 45 minutes, their hopes of a fifth European Cup appeared to gone completely.

“In the end, it was a mistake – not because of Harry, but because of the position of Kaka,” Benitez, who has been linked with a return to the Premier League, told Sky Sports. “He was killing us behind the lines, because Stevie would go forward. I thought we could control him with the two midfielders.

“But when we went forward, there was space behind. Stevie was a box-to-box midfielder and Xabi is not the quickest.”

The inclusion of Kewell meant Dietmar Hamann was left on the substitutes’ bench – but Benitez was regretting that decision at the interval as Paolo Maldini’s first-minute opener was added to by two Hernan Crespo goals.



Benitez was writing his half-time speech when his side conceded a killer third goal.

At the start of the second period, Liverpool made a substitution with Hamann replacing Steve Finnan. Benitez also changed to a 3-5-2 formation. And the rest, as they say, is history…

Meanwhile, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has said that it “wouldn’t make a lot of sense” for the club to bring in a defensive addition in January.

Having lost Joel Matip to a knee injury and with no return date set, the Reds feared they could be down to only two recognised fit centre-backs after Dejan Lovren went off in the first half of Saturday’s Premier League win over Bournemouth.

However, the Croatian has been passed fit ahead of Tuesday’s crunch Champions League clash with RB Salzburg, where Liverpool need at least a draw to secure progression to the last 16.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Klopp insisted that despite the potential frailties a serious injury could cause at the back for his side, he is not looking to the transfer market for a quick fix. Read more… 


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