How a rogue shin pad changed football history
Everyone knows the story of the Champions League final in 2005. It’s one of football’s iconic games: the Miracle of Istanbul.
As the presenter said over the closing credits to TV coverage, “I hope you’ve enjoyed it. You might never see another night like it.”
How do you explain that comeback?
Most people credit manager Rafa Benitez for a halftime change, bringing on Didi Hamann to add defensive cover and freeing Steven Gerrard for a more attacking role.
Others cite the morale lift from hearing the fans singing “You’ll never walk alone” during the break, refusing to be bowed by the irredeemable 3-0 deficit.
And some suggest it was Milan overconfidence.
All of which may have played a role.
The real gamechanger
In the 54th minute, Gerrard scored Liverpool’s first. A wonderful header from a Riise cross. Incidentally, a cross that was only possible because Cafu’s block of his first attempt set up the ball perfectly to allow a second go.
A slice of luck and a dollop of ability led to a brief flicker of hope.
But for a flicker of hope to blossom into true belief, Liverpool needed a second goal. And they got it, thanks to a powerful drive by Vladimir Smicer just two minutes later. At 3-2 so quickly, Liverpool were “right back in it”, Milan were rattled and the rest is, well, history.
Let’s look more closely at Smicer’s goal, though. It seemed pretty straightforward. Riise plays a quick throw in to Alonso. Alonso passes sideways to Hamman. Hamann passes sideways to Smicer. And Smicer hits it. Boom.
But the wrong side of Alonso and Hamman is a Milan player. A player who could have maybe put pressure on Alonso at the throw in, or at least forced Liverpool to alter the pattern of their approach. A player who might have prevented Smicer ever seeing the ball, let alone scoring the vital second.
That player might have robbed Liverpool of perhaps their greatest ever victory.
But he didn’t.
Because Kaka was too busy fiddling with an errant shin pad.
And that’s why it’s called the shoelace effect*.
*Initial observers though he was tying his shoelaces and the name stuck.