“Icing on the cake” – Gerrard’s “surprise” as cult hero silenced Old Trafford
When Liverpool travelled to Old Trafford on March 14, 2009, they had not won at the home of their arch rivals since April 2004.
Manchester United had been having things all their own way, and that looked set to be the case again when Cristiano Ronaldo scored an early penalty.
But Rafa Benitez’s Reds were a side high on confidence, and they had an unlikely hero ready to continue a short but sweet purple patch.
Just four days earlier, Liverpool had hosted Real Madrid at Anfield.
Fernando Torres was at his swashbuckling best whilst Steven Gerrard marked his 100th European appearance with a dominant display.
In the dying seconds, Andrea Dossena was deployed on the left-wing as the Reds closed the game out.
Usually a left-back, Dossena had struggled to get a look-in since his £7million move from Udinese to replace John Arne Rise the previous summer.
The performances of Fabio Aurelio largely kept him out of the side at his preferred position, leading to a makeshift role further forward.
With just two minutes remaining, he marked the occasion with his first ever goal for the Reds, slotting home to wrap up a 4-0 win and memorable Champions League triumph.
Not many players can say they have scored at Anfield for Liverpool in the Champions League against Real Madrid,” Dossena later recalled to The Guardian.
“I never found another atmosphere like that after leaving Anfield. You can feel it in the air – the fans are pushing you forward with their support.
“When I watch the game back against Real I feel something behind my back. I can still see the Kop in front of me and I say: ‘I can do it.’ It’s very difficult for me to explain what you feel in that moment.”
Just four days later, Dossena and Liverpool were still riding on the crest of a wave.
And Dossena’s goals proved to be like London buses – after waiting nearly a year to get off the mark, he netted twice in four days.
This time, it was a quite breathtaking chip over Edwin van Der Sar on the counter-attack, again introduced as a right-winger with just over 20 minutes remaining.
United had been pushing hard for a route back into the game.
In the blink of an eye, as the ball sailed over the Dutchman via Dossena’s deft touch, Old Trafford was silenced.
Even Steven Gerrard was surprised by the source of the goal which proved the “icing on the cake” after five years of painful trips to the Theatre of Dreams.
Years later, Gerrard told Gary Neville’s television show Soccerbox on Optus Sport: “That was more of a surprise to us actually, because Dossena’s normally a left-back that stays.
“It was just one of them moments. I think United were obviously chasing the game at this point. Heads [are] gone, crowds heads [are] gone. It was just the icing on the cake really.”
Whilst Gerrard and most Liverpool supporters were caught off guard by Dossena’s memorable moment, the man himself gives a different perspective.
“I was not surprised,” he told The Guardian.
“As a player I had that touch to do a pallonetto because I scored two other times with a lob in my career.”
Despite being confident in his own ability, Dossena’s two goals in the space of four days contributed to a tally of just 11 in a 16-year career.
At the time, it was a win which gave the Reds Premier League title hopes.
Instead, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side rallied.
“It’s hard to take,” said Ferguson at full-time. “I thought we were the better team but the score doesn’t reflect that and unfortunately that’s the name of the game.
“Quite rightly when you win 4-1 at Old Trafford you deserve all the plaudits.”
Despite the Reds dropping just two points from their final 11 Premier League games, it was United who went on to lift the title by four points after a similarly strong finish.
“We were a great team,” Dossena reflects. “Our mind was on winning the Premier League; the mentality of that team was to beat Man U to win the title as there had been too many years since Liverpool won the league.
“We tried to fight until the end but Man U was very strong. Our team had great character and attitude.”
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