Paolo Maldini AC Milan Champions LeagueGetty Images

'We dominated Liverpool for 110 minutes' - Maldini reflects on 'cruel' 2005 Champions League final

Paolo Maldini insists that AC Milan "dominated" the 2005 Champions League final against Liverpool, despite losing the match after a dramatic penalty shootout.

The showpiece event in Istanbul is widely considered to be one of the greatest European finals in history, which saw the Reds complete a stunning comeback against a star-studded Rossoneri outfit.

Carlo Ancelotti's side raced into a 3-0 lead during a frenetic first half, with Maldini heading home the opening goal after just 50 seconds.

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Hernan Crespo added a brace before the interval, the second of which arguably stands as the goal of the game, as he latched onto a sumptuous Kaka through ball before expertly dinking the ball over Jerzy Dudek.

Liverpool staged an unprecedented fightback in the second half, however, beginning with Steven Gerrard's powerful header that helped galvanise the club's supporters watching from the stands.

By the hour mark, the Reds were level, thanks to a long-range effort from Vladimir Smicer and a Xabi Alonso strike - which came from a rebound after he had a penalty saved by Milan shot-stopper Dida.

After the match ended level, neither side could be separated in extra time, largely due to heroics from Dudek in the Liverpool net and the match was ultimately decided on spot-kicks.

Looking back on the result, Maldini is still proud of how well Milan played, but he admits that only made defeat harder to take on the night.

Rafa Benitez wins the Champions League with LiverpoolGetty Images

"Yes I think I watch the Istanbul game again for the first time after a year," he told Goal and DAZN. "It was then I realise how well we had actually played. 

"We dominated the game for about 110 minutes out of 120 total. But football is that type of sport and sometimes it's cruel.

"It reminds me of how strange and peculiar football can be."

Dudek was again the saviour in the shootout as he saved Milan's final penalty from Andriy Shevchenko and the Reds basked in their fifth European Cup victory.

The two sides were destined to meet in the showpiece event once again two years later, but this time, Ancelotti's men came out on top.

A 2-1 victory in Athens exorcised the demons of Istanbul for Milan, as Maldini stated, before also confessing that he very nearly missed the 2007 final through injury.

"Let’s say that playing in that [Athens] final was a bit of a gamble," the ex-Italy international added. "But as I knew it would be my last chance to play in a Champions League final, I did everything I could to be there.

"That’s why, after two days spent celebrating, I went to Belgium to have knee surgery.

"I think the strength of that group was being able to reach the final again in a 2007 season that wasn’t especially great. 

"Once we got there we had everything to lose really, because if we lost again to Liverpool then it would be something very difficult to erase."