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Istanbul Beats Boston

By Alex Fairchild



Istanbul, Turkey: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard holds the throphy surrounded by teammates at the end of the UEFA Champions league football final AC Milan vs Liverpool, 25 May 2005 at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard holds the throphy surrounded by teammates at the end of the UEFA Champions league football final AC Milan vs Liverpool, 25 May 2005 at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul

At about 10 o'clock last night, Boston, Massachusetts became the center of the sporting world. In Game 7, of a best of 7 series in the National Hockey League playoff's first round, the Boston Bruins faced elimination at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Going down 1-4 with moments remaining in the final period, the Bruins made a miraculous comeback, scoring three goals in the final 11 minutes, before getting the winner in overtime. The home ice turned into a frenzy, as the Bruins, who have been of the utmost importance to the city after what it went through nearly one month ago, battled their way back from extinction to advance to the next round.  

As wonderful as the Bruins' comeback was Monday night, soccer has seen far more dramatic reversals in recent memory.  

Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal: After taking a 4-0 lead the Magpies were down and out. A pair of Arsenal goals in the opening 3 minutes were followed by a Robin van Persie brace before the half was out. The Dutchman struck on 10 and 26 minutes, but Newcastle's Joey Barton would persist. After halftime, Abou Diaby would be sent off, after a scrap with the infamous footballer.

For the next 40 minutes, the home side blasted 16 shots towards the goal of the opposition, who only returned one of attempt, though it was blocked. The victim of the Frenchman's anger was cool from the spot twice and a Leon Best finish came sandwiched in between. However, Cheik Tiote's volley from distance was the pick of the bunch. The tying goal came moments from time. Newcastle's relentless play allowed them to earn a share of the points at St. James' Park, which is what gives the comeback that extra bit of greatness. The resolve of the home team to get a point was extraordinarily impressive. If only they could have put that effort in to secure a finish in the table's top half.  

Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Malaga:  After dominating both legs, Dortmund thought they had it all figured out until the 25th minute of the return from Spain. Joaquin's strike gave Malaga a 1-0 advantage, but Marco Reus and Robert Lewdandowski would combine for night's first equalizer. The flick from the German was gorgeous and the Pol's finish was something to cherish, as it looked like the previous year's Bundesliga champions would finally break through. After a second half which saw Dortmund nearly take the lead, the Spanish side would score. Unfairly, Eliseu scored on 82 minutes. The substitute was clearly offside when he received the ball which saw him finish the away team's break.

With energy all but depleted, Dortmund would find a way back, of course. Reus would fire one home facing the goal head on, but the Germans needed an additional goal to advance, due to the away goals rule. That goal they would get, as defender Felipe Santana plundered the ball into the net just a moment later with 92 minutes gone. However, it will always be remembered that on the set piece leading to the goal from Santana, four Dortmund players were offside, though it definitely proved justice to Eliseu's goal. To come back in such a short time, though, was phenomenal.  

Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan: However, this is the comeback to end all comebacks. It provides a buzzkill to any argument for another match, game, or meet.

Istanbul is the most magical night in the history of any sport. To stir up the courage in a regular season match or a quarterfinal is one thing, but to do it in a cup final is something completely different. After a moment, Milan had the lead. Paolo Maldini's goal was followed by a double from Hernan Crespo. It was the perfect start from Milan, and Liverpool were certainly dejected. However, in front of more than 72,000, Steven Gerrard would lead his troops back from hell. Having their dreams dashed, the Reds faced embarrassment. Not only would they have been run off the park in a cup final, but also it would have added to criticism faced by a side who had finished three points off of Everton. To add to that, Liverpool needed to beat Milan to have top flight European football at Anfield the following term.

In the greatest six minutes Liverpool supporters ever witnessed, their captain got the party started. Heading a John Arne Riise cross there was hope. Two minutes later it was game on. Vladimir Smicer's strike was well-slotted and skimmed the turf, before slamming the strings. The unthinkable happened just seconds later, when the Reds won a penalty. Anfield hearts sank when the Spaniards spot kick was saved, but that second of despair was accompanied by unbridled joy, as Alonso smashed the ball by Dida on the rebound. Liverpool struggled through the next hour of play, though it was their time to shine. Jerzey Dudek saving Andrey Shevchenko's penalty through his magical leap to the right is a moment engraved in the mind of those who sport the red of Merseyside.   

Istanbul will hold a special place in history and beats out similar feats. While there cannot be a goal of a decade, there can be a greatest comeback of all-time. Sure, teams have recovered from deficits greater than three, just as Newcastle did, but in that game, they only faced 10 men in the final half-hour. Still phenomenal, but again, Liverpool's was better. The recent events in the Football League have been spectacular, but those moments are fantastic finishes not out-and-out comebacks. Meanwhile, Dortmund's triumph, spectacular as it was, will always be marred by the controversy brought about by that evening's linesmen.   

As for the Bruins win on Monday, it took Liverpool six minutes to get those three goals back, and they did it on a neutral setting in the biggest game of their lives.