GELI'S WOBBLER GIFTS REDS CUP
By Stuart James
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Markus Babbel gave the Merseyside club the lead and Steven Gerrard made it 2-0 as Liverpool got off to a sensational start, but Ivan Alonso pulled a goal back for the Spanish side to give them some hope.
Gary McAllister's penalty gave them a seemingly unassailable 3-1 lead, but two second half strikes from Javi Moreno brought Alaves level, only for Robbie Fowler to regain the lead for Liverpool.
But in the final minute, former Manchester United striker Jordi Cruyff grabbed a remarkable leveller to send the tie into extra time where Alaves were reduced to nine men before finally succumbing to the English side.
It took Liverpool just four minutes to make the breakthrough. Heskey was fouled wide on the right and from McAllister's well flighted free kick, Babbel rose above his marker and planted his header into the corner.
Astudillo then saw yellow for a reckless foul on McAllister, who was booked for retaliation, and Heskey's attempt to double the lead was easily gathered by Herrera in the Alaves goal.
Sander Westerveld got down well to push Oscar Tellez's free kick around the post, but minutes later, Liverpool went further in front.
Michael Owen played in Gerrard and the England midfielder clinically drilled his shot past Herrera's near post to give Liverpool a dream start.
Just 15 minutes had gone and Liverpool were in total command. The shell-shocked Spaniards struggled to do anything of any note and when they did have control of the ball, it wasn't long before the Merseyside club had it back in their possession.
Dan Eggen was dragged off with little more than 20 minutes gone as the Alaves boss desperately tried to haul his side back into the match. They switched from a 5-3-2 to a 4-4-2 with Ivan Alonso replacing the unfortunate Eggen, but the change reaped immediate rewards.
Cosmin Contra did well down the right and his pinpoint cross was met by Alonso who headed powerfully beyond the despairing dive of Westerveld.
The Spanish side began giving the ball to the Romanian Cosma and he caused Liverpool - and Jamie Carragher in particular - a number of problems with his rampaging runs.
Javi Moreno missed a glorious opportunity when he turned inside of Henchoz, but the Spanish international took an eternity and Westerveld was able to make a crucial block.
From the resulting coirner, Tomic lashed the ball in from 20 yards and Westerveld did well to parry, but Liverpool missed a good chance of their own minutes later.
Westerveld's long kick upfield fell to McAllister, who was onside, but he could not beat Herrera who had come well outside of his goal.
Seconds later, Herrera came way outside of his goal once more as Owen burst through, but as the England striker rounded him, he tripped him inside the box to concede a penalty.
Up stepped Mr Calmness personified, McAllister, to stroke the ball past Herrera, who was fortunate to still be on the field of play.
Alaves did have some half chances to reduce the deficit, but Moreno and Alonso both failed to test Westerveld from distance.
But the Spanish side, who introduced Magno for Astudillo at half time, came out with all guns blazing at the start of the second half and inside eight incredible minutes, they were level.
Both times, it was Moreno who scored, the first when he brilliantly headed home after more wonderful wing play from Contra and minutes later, he drilled a free kick under the wall and beyond Westerveld from 25 yards.
In a bid to stem the tide, Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier introduced Vladimir Smicer for the somewhat out-of-sorts Henchoz and moved Babbel to centre back and it seemed to work as Liverpool regrouped and regained their composure.
Their hopes improved further when Alaves' goal scoring hero Moreno was withdrawn and replaced with Pablo. The Spanish international was clearly disgusted at the decision and he could only look on despairingly from the bench as Liverpool re-took the lead.
McAllister fed the ball into the path of Fowler and as the Toxteth hit-man waltzed through a gaping Alaves defence, he calmly planted the ball into the bottom corner to his obvious delight.
It was another wonderful goal in a fantastic cup final and Liverpool attempted to hold on to their lead by replacing Owen with midfielder Patrick Berger.
But with time running out and Liverpool holding on to their slender advantage, Alaves won a corner.
Westerveld came to meet it, but was beaten in the air by former Manchester United striker Jordi Cruyff, who guided the ball into the net from close range and brought Alaves level once more.
If there was to be a further dramatic, late twist in the tale, it looked to be the Spanish side who would get it, but eventually the whistle blew to end 90 minutes of thrilling action and treat the footballing world to 30 minutes more - or so it seemed.
Both sides had used their alloted number of substitutes and Liverpool - in Fowler - had only the one recognised striker on the field, so, understandably, it was the Spaniards who made the early running.
Alonso thought he had given Alaves the lead for the first time in the match when he calmly chipped Westerveld, but he was denied by the linesman's flag.
Fowler was cynically brought down as he tried to release Smicer in a good position and minutes later, Magno received his second yellow card for a stupid two-footed challenge on Fowler.
Herrera spilled the ball when Berger tried his luck from distance and Fowler was then denied by the linesman's flag when he finished clinically from Berger's pass.
Babbel was shown the yellow card for a foul on Geli, but Jesio curled the ball wide from a decent position.
But after Karmona became the second player to be red-carded for a needless foul on Smicer, McAllister's sweetly struck free kick skimmed off the head of Geli and dropped agonisingly into the bottom corner to hand the cup to Liverpool.
It was a heartbreaking way for the Spanish side to lose and they became the first side to lose a Uefa Cup final by the golden goal.
But all credit must go to Liverpool who answered the critics that labelled them boring by winning the most epic of epic cup finals and win a treble of their own.