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Dudek heroics the greatest Champions League moment

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Dudek's double save from Shevchenko was remarkable. (©GettyImages)
Dudek's double save from Shevchenko was remarkable. (©GettyImages).

It was whilst watching Chelsea's Champions League semi final night of magic at the Nou Camp that my mind wandered back to Istanbul 2005 and the greatest game in Champions League history.

Amongst the many heroes that played that night was one Jerzy Henryk Dudek.

 

Arsene Wenger had tracked the Polish number one for several years, so many fans were best pleased when Gerard Houllier lured the eccentric stopper from Feyenoord to Anfield in a double swoop with Coventry's rising star Chris Kirkland.

 

With Kirkland earmarked as a long term prospect, the Rybnik born star was automatically installed as the new No.1 in place of Dutchman Sander Westerveld.

 

"The Big Pole in Our Goal" enjoyed a tremendous full debut season as Liverpool finished runners up in the Premier League. But, although a brilliant reflex goalie and an outstanding shot stopper, Dudek's lack of concentration at times proved costly.

Second season syndrome kicked in and in December 2002 Dudek's slither through palms and legs blunder against Manchester United led to Diego Forlan scoring. Houllier later revealed that the clanger led to Dudek shedding tears.

Although there was much sympathy from the likes of Houllier and Jamie Carragher, Dudek lost his place to the patient Kirkland. He was not left kicking his heels for long as the injury prone youngster allowed Dudek a way back in a month later.

 

2005 is the year that Dudek forged himself a place in Anfield folklore. Houllier had left the club and Rafael Benitez had taken over and guided virtually the same team to dizzy heights in the Champions League and eventually the final in Istanbul.

The scene was chaotic - perfect for Dudek. He conceded three unstoppable goals to Carlo Ancelotti's rampaging Milan team. Another 45 minute stroll on the grass and the cup was heading back to Italy. The Milanese lit their victory cigars, though the fat lady had not yet sung.

Dietmar Hamann came on for the second half and what happened during the rest of the game may never be seen at that level of the game again. Dudek's incredible double reflex save from Andriy Shevchenko was the icing of the cake as Liverpool clawed back to 3-3.

 

He'd warned of the next moment in a prior interview with liverpoolfc.tv. Carragher had briefed him about the legendary antics of Bruce Grobbelaar and Dudek obliged, re-enacting Brucie's 1984 wobbly jelly legs routine from the eternal city of Rome.

He said: "Carra came up to me after extra time and said 'Remember Grobbelaar and the rubbery legs of 84 - and do the same. Dance, do anything, put them off'!"

Shevchenko's nightmare was mercifully ended as his shootout penalty was saved by Dudek. Yes, Liverpool were European champions for the fifth time.

 

Jamie Carragher added: "It is one of the greatest finals of all time and the save Jerzy Dudek made from Shevchenko at the end was unbelievable.

"I can't believe we've won. He'll be a legend now, not just for the penalties but because of the Shevchenko saves in the game itself. They were unbelievable."

 

Dudek joined legends Józef Młynarczyk and Zbiniew Boniek as Polish European Cup winners. Further fame followed as Liverpool based Trophy Boyz recorded an innovative single titled 'Du the Dudek.'

 

Spaghetti Legs, who in six seasons played 186 games for Liverpool, dedicated the astonishing win to his fan, Pope John Paul II, a goalkeeper in his youth, who he had met in 2004, presenting the late Pontiff with a souvenir keeper's shirt.

 

To mark its 50th issue, Champions - the official UEFA Champions League magazine - UEFA.com managed a poll of iconic memories.

Dudek's double save from Shevchenko in the final was voted the Greatest Champions League moment of all time, beating off Zinedine Zidane's resplendent volley against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 to secure Real Madrid's ninth European Cup, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dramatic final second winner against Bayern Munich in 1999.

Topics:
Football
Premier League
UEFA Champions League
Liverpool
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