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From mauling Mourinho to banishing Bayern....

By Neil Jones | Liverpool Correspondent

That feeling is here again; Anfield, balmy spring evenings, and massive European fixtures. It may not be the Champions League, but Liverpool's Europa League semi-final, second-leg against Atletico Madrid is still the biggest game of a disappointing campaign. Even in times of hardship, the Reds cannot resist the lure of continental triumph.

Progression to the final in Hamburg on May 12 will not be an easy task. Diego Forlan's strike means Atletico head for Anfield, and what promises to be a deafening atmosphere, with a single-goal advantage. With Rafael Benitez's squad decimated by injuries, the Spaniards should prove to be tricky adversaries.

But Liverpool have experience in these kind of situations. Their record in European semi-finals over the years is admirable, with just four defeats - to Inter Milan in 1965, Leeds United in 1971, Paris Saint-Germain in 1997, and Chelsea in 2008 - from fourteen last-four ties.

Goal.com UK selects the five best semi-final successes, which Benitez and his side will be looking to emulate on Thursday evening...

Liverpool 1 Chelsea 0 (Agg 1-0) - Champions League, May 4, 2005


Jose Mourinho still talks about this game with a lump in his throat, but then so do the 42,259 who were packed into Anfield for what was one of the grand old stadium's most famous nights. Older fans still talk of St Etienne in 1977, but for the next generation Chelsea 2005 is the barometer for the 'special' European atmosphere at L4.

Mourinho's side were undoubted favourites to progress. Following the first-leg - a pallid, goal-less affair in which Liverpool had had marginally the better of the play - they had wrapped up the Premier League crown, and were confident of securing a place in the Istanbul final.

Rafa Benitez's men, though, had other ideas. Within four minutes, an already-boisterous Anfield was in raptures, as Luis Garcia's scrambled effort was adjudged to have crossed the line, despite replays proving inconclusive. Mourinho was apoplectic, and would later bemoan the "ghost goal", but Chelsea were in a sense fortunate that neither a penalty - and probably a red card for 'keeper Petr Cech - were awarded in the build-up.

And with Anfield bouncing, Liverpool set about protecting their advantage. They defended stoutly, with Dietmar Hamann and Jamie Carragher particularly outstanding, and survived a stoppage-time scare when Eidur Gudjohnsen volleyed a glorious chance inches wide of a Kop End upright. The noise upon referee Lubos Michel's final whistle was incredible, and Benitez would lead his side to Istanbul for a final date with AC Milan that nobody, nobody, will ever forget.


Liverpool 1 Chelsea 0 (Agg 1-1, Liverpool win 4-1 on penalties), Champions League, May 1, 2007

It was billed as the revenge mission. This time Chelsea and Mourinho would not succumb to the Anfield crowd. They might have been on course to surrender their league crown to a resurgent Manchester United, but the Blues had collected a first-leg advantage at Stamford Bridge thanks to Joe Cole's strike, and few gave Liverpool - who were woefully off the pace in the league - a prayer of repeating their 2005 success.

Once more, however, the doubters went away shaking their heads. Anfield was once again whipped into a frenzy with a first-half goal, this time Daniel Agger was the hero as he swept in Steven Gerrard's cleverly-worked free kick after 22 minutes, and the tie was perfectly poised.

Chances came and went. Didier Drogba, so often the scourge of Benitez's Reds, was denied by Pepe Reina. Dirk Kuyt headed against the crossbar, and saw another effort ruled out for offside, but the match headed for penalties.

Amid palpable tension - during which Benitez sat cross-legged on the touchline - Arjen Robben and Geremi both saw their spot-kicks saved by Reina, allowing Kuyt to send the Reds to their second Champions League final in three seasons. There, in Athens, they would eventually succumb to a vengeful Milan side.


Liverpool 1 Barcelona (Agg 1-0), UEFA Cup, April 19, 2001

Rafael Benitez is often billed as the man who put Liverpool back on the European map, but it should not be overlooked that it was the Spaniard's predecessor, Gerard Houllier, who oversaw the Reds' glorious return to the continent's collective conscience. Liverpool's run to the 2001 UEFA Cup final may not have been easy on the eye, but they beat some big guns.

After famous wins over AS Roma and FC Porto, Liverpool were once more underdogs against a Barcelona side containing Marc Overmars, Rivaldo and Patrick Kluivert. But after a stale 0-0 draw in the Nou Camp - which prompted plenty of criticism of the Reds' perceived defensive display - everything was riding on the second-leg at Anfield.

In the end, and perhaps fittingly, it was a penalty which decided the outcome. Gary McAllister was in a rich vein of goalscoring form at that point, and converted nervelessly from the spot after Kluivert had bizarrely handled a corner from the Scotsman. Barca, for all their attacking talents, had no answer, and Liverpool would go on to oust Alaves 5-4 in a memorable final in Dortmund three weeks later.


Dinamo Bucharest 1 Liverpool 2 (Agg 1-3), European Cup, April 25, 1984

Some players are just made for battles such as this. Graeme Souness is one of those players. The Edinburgh-born midfielder had already established himself as a colossus in the Liverpool midfield after his arrival from Middlesbrough in 1978, but against the gifted Romanians he nailed down his place in Anfield folklore.

Sammy Lee had given the Reds a slender advantage in the first-leg at Anfield, but it was Souness who had riled the Bucharest party, after an assault on Dinamo skipper Lica Movila which left the midfielder with a broken jaw (and famously went unpunished by the referee), the Scotsman was targeted relentlessly in the return leg.

Not that he noticed. Souness strode round the field with arrogance, and his brilliance allowed others to flourish. None more so than Ian Rush, who netted a goal in each half to send the Reds to their fourth European Cup final in seven years. Incredibly, the other semi-final played that evening saw AS Roma narrowly overcome the might of.....Dundee United. Honest.


Bayern Munich 1 Liverpool (Agg 1-1, Liverpool win on away goals), European Cup, April 22, 1981

Howard Gayle might not be a name familiar to those Liverpool supporters below a certain age, but in the club's illustrious history he retains cult status. Largely because of his performance in one of Bob Paisley's great tactical triumphs.

Bayern were a good side in 1981, their line-up littered with class in the shape of Paul Breitner and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Liverpool, meanwhile, would finish the season a disappointing fifth, and needed to win the European Cup to qualify for the following season's competition.

Things looked bleak after a goal-less first-leg at Anfield, after which Breitner chose the moment to lay into the Reds' style of play and lack of quality. When Kenny Dalglish hobbled off early in the second leg, Liverpool's backs were well and truly against the wall. Enter Toxteth-born Gayle, Liverpool's first ever black player.

The lithe winger tormented Breitner and co all evening with his searing pace and close control, and ensured Liverpool stayed on the front foot. Though he was eventually withdrawn late on, with Paisley fearful that his hot-headed nature may result in a red card, his pace had worn down the Bayern defence. Ray Kennedy would profit from their weariness with the crucial away goal, scored with his right foot seven minutes from time, and though Rummenigge would pull one back late on, Liverpool were off to Paris and a date with Real Madrid in the final. Paisley would later hail this performance as Liverpool's finest in Europe under his guidance.

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