Football

Rafa Benitez Reveals Utter Chaos Around Steve Finnan Substitution In Istanbul

Rafa Benitez Reveals Utter Chaos Around Steve Finnan Substitution In Istanbul

Rafa Benitez was the special guest on MNF last night, and the centrepiece of a brilliant programme was a tactical look back on the 2005 Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan.

There was so much in this for Liverpool fans, obviously, and for anyone interested in one of the most famous matches of the 21st century.

By far the most fascinating element involved what happened in the dressing room at halftime, as Benitez tried to make the tactical changes to reverse the 3-0 scoreline. Benitez did not have many cards to play. He had already used one substitution on Harry Kewell in the 23rd minute of the match. Irish fans will all remember that Steve Finnan was substituted at the break for Didi Hamann, and it was Hamann's contribution as a holding midfielder negating Kaka's influence that helped turned the momentum of the game.

Except Hamann was originally supposed to come on for Djimi Traore, and Traore and Hamann were told as much. In the segment, Carragher and Benitez shared their recollection of the halftime bedlam. According to Carragher's version of events, Benitez, whose command of English was quite limited at the time, would inform a player they were coming off at halftime by using a single word: 'Shower'. Carragher recollects Benites giving the 'shower' order to Traore when they arrived in the dressing room, only to discover that Finnan had picked up a knock. Benitez then changed his mind and decided to sub Finnan off. Finnan was not happy to come off and let the manager know.

"I just think of you going 'Finnan, shower, Traore out of shower," Carragher said, hilariously.

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Here's how Benitez remembers it:

"I wanted to play three at the back, with Hamann. I was finished explaining it to him and then I was walking around and then Dave [Galley, Liverpool's physio] told me Finnan could not play 45 minutes. He could play but not for 45 minutes. So I then I think, one substitution (made), Harry Kewell. A second about to be made, Hamann. I cannot change. But then quickly I changed and I put Traore on'

Benitez then ripped up his plan and decided to go with a back three of Hyypia, Carragher and Traore. It was a decision made in an instant. Who knows what happens if Finnan was allowed to play? Perhaps he would have pulled up five minutes into the second half and Liverpool would have been snookered.

Based on this account, it appears it was absolute chaos in the dressing room. Benitez's adjusted XI on the dressing room whiteboard even forgot to include Luis Garcia.

And yet somehow, in spite of it all, Liverpool pulled off one of the most famous comebacks in Champions League history. The best laid plans, eh?

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Donny Mahoney

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