Ranking Liverpool’s greatest ever European away nights: From the Miracle of Istanbul to Bernabeu delight

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The Reds have enjoyed some incredible European successes down the years - and at Real Madrid on Wednesday, they'll need the best of the lot

They couldn’t, could they? In fairness, if anyone could it would be Liverpool. The Reds’ history is littered with unexpected and glorious comebacks, with European triumphs in the biggest arenas and on the biggest stages.

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Even allowing for such a rich heritage, however, Jurgen Klopp’s side will need to pull off the greatest and most unlikely escape act of all on Wednesday, if they are to keep their Champions League flickering a little while longer.

Liverpool’s 5-2 defeat to Real Madrid at Anfield in the first leg of their last-16 tie last month leaves them on the brink of elimination as they head to the Spanish capital this week. Santiago Bernabeu, intimidating at the best of times, will be even more so this time around.

In Champions League history, no side has ever lost the home leg of a knock-out tie by three goals and recovered. Only one team - Manchester United in 2019 - has lost by two goals and gone through, and even that was in the era of the away-goal rule.

Liverpool, in short, need to win by three clear goals just to force extra-time, and by four if they want to go through without the tension of a penalty shootout. 

For context, only two teams have ever beaten Real by three clear goals in a Champions League game at the Bernabeu, and both were in the same campaign. CSKA Moscow triumphed 3-0 in the 2018-19 group stages, before Erik ten Hag’s Ajax dumped Los Blancos out with a 4-1 win in the last 16.

History, then, is not on Liverpool’s side, although supporters can call upon the memory of a 4-0 win over Real back in 2009. They may also refer back to a few more memorable continental triumphs from down the years.

Here, GOAL ranks their greatest European nights away from Anfield, starting with the greatest of all…

  1. The Miracle of Istanbul - AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (Liverpool win 4-2 on penalties), May 25, 2005

    #1 The Miracle of Istanbul - AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (Liverpool win 4-2 on penalties), May 25, 2005

    The most incredible Champions League final of all came in Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium in 2005, as Carlo Ancelotti’s all-star Milan side were downed by Rafa Benitez’s rag-tag Reds.

    Milan looked to be cruising to glory as they raced into a 3-0 lead by half-time in Turkey, but Liverpool hit back sensationally with three goals in six second-half minutes.

    Jerzy Dudek pulled off one of the most remarkable saves in history to deny Andriy Shevchenko in extra-time, and when Shevchenko’s tame penalty was saved in the shootout, Liverpool had their fifth, and most unlikely, European Cup success.

  2. Roman Gods - Roma 1-1 Liverpool (Liverpool win 4-2 on penalties), May 30, 1984

    #2 Roman Gods - Roma 1-1 Liverpool (Liverpool win 4-2 on penalties), May 30, 1984

    Victory in the lion’s den, and then some. Liverpool’s triumph in the 1984 European Cup final goes down, much like Chelsea’s in Munich in 2012, as one of the great performances by an English side in Europe.

    Roma, playing in their own stadium and with 90 percent of the support as a result, were overwhelming favourites, but Phil Neal silenced the home fans with a first-half goal, and though Roberto Pruzzo equalised, Joe Fagan’s side played with composure and aggression to see the game to penalties.

    In the shootout, Bruce Grobbelaar’s ‘spaghetti legs’ and Alan Kennedy’s nerveless kick proved decisive, as Liverpool left the Italian capital with the best piece of silverware in town.

  3. Barca bulldozed - Barcelona 1-2 Liverpool, 21 February, 2007

    #3 Barca bulldozed - Barcelona 1-2 Liverpool, 21 February, 2007

    Anfield’s greatest-ever night featured a win over Barcelona in the Champions League, but 12 years before that triumph came this, a stunning humbling of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Ronaldinho and Co. in their own backyard.

    The build-up to this last-16 first leg tie had been dominated by a ‘training camp’ in Portugal which had ended with Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy attacking left-back John Arne Riise with a golf club.

    It was perhaps inevitable, then, that both Bellamy and Riise would be on target as Rafa Benitez’s side picked up a victory that would prove enough despite a 1-0 defeat in the reverse leg. Liverpool made it all the way to the final that year, losing to Milan in Athens.

  4. Silencing the Bernabeu - Real Madrid 0-1 Liverpool, 25 February, 2009

    #4 Silencing the Bernabeu - Real Madrid 0-1 Liverpool, 25 February, 2009

    Real Madrid may have Liverpool’s number at the moment, winning five of the last six meetings between the sides, but it wasn’t always that way.

    Indeed, as recently as 2009, it was the Reds who could be considered to have the wood over their Spanish rivals. 

    Never was that more apparent than in a rousing 5-0 aggregate win over Real in the last-16 of the Champions League. The 4-0 trouncing at Anfield grabbed the headlines, but the real damage (no pun intended) was done with a 1-0 first-leg victory at the Bernabeu, in which Yossi Benayoun headed a late winner.

  5. Pep floored - Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool, 10 April, 2018

    #5 Pep floored - Manchester City 1-2 Liverpool, 10 April, 2018

    Manchester City may have been title-winning centurions in the 2017-18 season, but Liverpool beat them three times that year, and their 2-1 triumph at the Etihad in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final meeting ranks as one of the most painful of the Pep Guardiola era.

    Liverpool led 3-0 from an incredible first leg at Anfield, but City tore into the Reds on home soil and when Gabriel Jesus pulled an early goal back, the comeback was very much on.

    Klopp’s side, however, weathered the storm, and when Mo Salah clipped in a glorious finish, 11 minutes into the second half, the game was up. Roberto Firmino added a second late on, and Liverpool marched onto the semi-finals, and an epic clash with Roma.

  6. Joy at the Allianz - Bayern Munich 1-3 Liverpool, 13 March, 2019

    #6 Joy at the Allianz - Bayern Munich 1-3 Liverpool, 13 March, 2019

    When Bayern Munich left Anfield with a goalless draw from the first leg of the sides’ Champions League last-16 clash in 2019, most felt the Germans had done the hard part and would progress to the quarter-finals.

    Liverpool, though, had other ideas. Twenty-six minutes into the second leg, Sadio Mane scored one of the Reds’ great European goals, and the tie was transformed. Joel Matip scored an own goal to make it 1-1 on the night, but second-half headers from Mane and Virgil van Dijk sent Klopp’s team through. 

    They would go on to lift the trophy in Madrid.

  7. #7 More Munich joy - Bayern Munich 1-1 Liverpool, 22 April, 1981

    Similar to 2019, when Liverpool and Bayern Munich played out a goalless draw at Anfield in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final, most expected the Germans to go through to the final.

    Bayern certainly seemed to. Prior to the second leg at the Olympic Stadium, leaflets were distributed among home fans, containing travel information for the final in Paris the following month.

    Bob Paisley’s side spoilt the party. Despite losing talisman Kenny Dalglish to injury, Liverpool got the away goal they craved through Ray Kennedy, with home-grown winger Howard Gayle playing the game of his life on the night.

    A few weeks later, Paisley’s men beat Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes to lift their third European Cup in five seasons.

  8. Superb in the San Siro - Inter 0-1 Liverpool, 11 March, 2008

    #8 Superb in the San Siro - Inter 0-1 Liverpool, 11 March, 2008

    For two seasons at Liverpool, Fernando Torres was close to unplayable, and never more so than when the Reds visited San Siro in the second leg of the Champions League last-16.

    Two goals up from the first leg, Liverpool still had their work cut out against an Inter side managed by Roberto Mancini, and containing the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Javier Zanetti and Patrick Vieira.

    They defended superbly, though, and when Fabio Aurelio found Torres in space, midway through the second half, the Spaniard did the rest. Through went Liverpool, though they would eventually fall to Chelsea after an epic semi-final.

    They would also repeat the trick against Inter at the San Siro, winning 2-0 at the same stage of the 2021-22 Champions League.

  9. Owning Old Trafford - Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool, 17 March, 2016

    #9 Owning Old Trafford - Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool, 17 March, 2016

    The only game on this list not from the Champions League/European Cup, but one that cannot be left out due to the emotion surrounding the occasion.

    Liverpool and Manchester United had been drawn together in the Europa League last 16, with the Reds winning 2-0 in a tense first leg at Anfield. 

    But when Anthony Martial converted a first-half penalty in the return leg, it looked like Klopp’s team were in for a long night. Step forward Philippe Coutinho, who sauntered away down the left before clipping in a beautiful finish in front of the Stretford End, all-but-ending the tie on the stroke of half time due to the away goals rule.

    The celebrations in the away end that St Patrick’s Day night will live long in the memory of anyone who was there.

  10. Showing some mettle - Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool, 3 May, 2022

    #10 Showing some mettle - Villarreal 2-3 Liverpool, 3 May, 2022

    For 45 minutes, it looked like this might become one of Liverpool’s worst-ever European nights. Two-nil up from the first leg of this semi-final, the Reds had been blown away by Villarreal in the first half, and at the interval looked to be staring down the barrel.

    But the introduction of Luis Diaz changed things. Fabinho forced in a priceless strike, Diaz headed in a second and then Sadio Mane raced away to send them through to the final.

    Three unanswered goals in an away knockout tie in Spain, then, securing progress to the next round. 

    Same again Wednesday?