What Rafa Benitez said at half-time to spark Liverpool's unforgettable night in Istanbulby Buzz Contributor
Former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has opened up about what he said to his team at half-time before the Reds' memorable Champions League final comeback win over AC Milan.
On that fateful night in Istanbul, a goal from Paolo Maldini and a brace from Hernan Crespo saw Milan take a 3-0 lead in the first half, which looked to have secured them the trophy.
However, a dramatic second-half comeback from Liverpool saw strikes from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso draw them level.
Benitez's men then triumphed on penalties to win their first European Cup since 1984, with goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek the hero in the shootout.
Now, reflecting on the victory on its 15th anniversary in his column with the Athletic, Benitez has revealed what he told the players at half-time to inspire the dramatic comeback.
"I said to Pako Ayestaran, my assistant, 'I will give the half-time team talk and we will talk about three at the back to have an extra player in the middle. You go and do the warm-up with Hamann'", Benitez said.
"The message we gave to the players was about confidence — try to score early, get back in the game. That was the main thing.
"In other circumstances or with smaller teams, perhaps you might be looking at damage limitation because you don’t want to concede four or five goals but this was a final.
"You have to go for it. And then, depending on what happens in the first few minutes, you make decisions. Again, we did it."
Benitez also spoke about a superstitious moment in the team hotel ahead of the game, adding: "I still think about standing in the team hotel before the game, waiting for one of the elevators to take us down to the lobby.
"I was saying, 'If this lift comes, we will win 1-0. If it’s that one, we’ll draw, if it’s that one over there, we’ll lose. And if it’s this one, we’ll win on penalties'.
"There are no prizes for guessing which one finally arrived. It was a night of ups and downs, so a story about lifts feels appropriate."