Vladimir Smicer scores decisive penalty in Liverpool triumph

Vladimir Smicer, photo: CTK

It will be a long time before memories fade over such an incredible football match: Liverpool vs. AC Milan in their Champions League final on Wednesday. After taking a three goal drubbing in the first half, Liverpool roared back with three goals in just six minutes to complete their return from the dead. One of those who scored was Czech player Vladimir Smicer, who struck in both regulation time - and penalties - to help Liverpool take the match.

Vladimir Smicer, photo: CTK
Who knew that out of two Czech players in Liverpool Vladimir Smicer would be the one who made the greater difference? Playing in his last game for the club just a day after his 32nd birthday it was Smicer - and not Milan Baros - who scored Liverpool's crucial 2nd goal to bring the tie within reach. Until the 23nd minute when he came on to replace an injured Harry Kewel, Smicer could not even have been sure he'd take the pitch. In the 56th minute it was his 20 yard shot that blindsided Dida in goal.

Milan Baros, photo: CTK
"I didn't expect to come on so early - it was a pleasant surprise. That gave me added incentive. I really had nothing to lose. I knew this was my last game, and I realised I'd never again appear in a Champions League final. I wanted to leave everything I had on the pitch."

Back at halftime there were probably few who believed Liverpool could come back. Striker Milan Baros:

"I'd be making things up if I said that at half-time I thought we could turn this one around from 3 - nil."

But, Liverpool completed an incredible comeback and somehow survived relentless attacking by AC Milan. Both Czechs placed well, but Milan Baros was eventually substituted. Following extra time it came down to penalties, it was Smicer who stepped up to take Liverpool's final spot kick at 2-2. His shot found the back of the net, while Shevchenko's was blocked by Liverpool goalie Jerzy Dudek. Victory was complete. As the team began celebrations here's what Smicer had to say:

"There's no question it was the most important game of my career. Unbelievable, an unbelievable dream."