The 2001 UEFA Cup final at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion was the stage for an unforgettable showdown between England’s Liverpool and Spain’s Alavés. Held on 16 May 2001, the match marked the culmination of the 2000-01 edition of Europe’s prestigious UEFA Cup. While Liverpool was no stranger to the European scene, having previously appeared in the 1973 and 1976 UEFA Cup finals, their journey to the 2001 final carried special significance. This final represented their first European appearance since the aftermath of the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985. For Alavés, the match signified their maiden appearance in a European final, underscoring the significance of the event for both sides.
Both teams had demonstrated exceptional resilience and skill on their road to the final, navigating through six grueling knockout rounds comprising matches played over two legs. Liverpool’s path was characterized by closely contested matches, with none of their ties secured by a margin of more than two goals. In contrast, Alavés displayed a blend of close-fought victories and comfortable triumphs, notably sealing a stunning 9-2 win against Kaiserslautern in the semi-final.
The pulsating final was a rollercoaster of emotions for the 48,050 spectators in attendance. Liverpool swiftly took the lead, with Markus Babbel striking in the fourth minute, followed by Steven Gerrard’s goal in the 16th minute. Alavés showed their resilience, swiftly responding with Iván Alonso’s goal, narrowing the gap to a single goal. However, Liverpool extended their lead to 3-1 just before the halftime whistle, courtesy of Gary McAllister’s successful penalty.
The second half intensified the drama, as Javi Moreno’s brace for Alavés leveled the match at 3-3. Liverpool once again surged ahead with Robbie Fowler’s goal in the 73rd minute, only for Alavés to respond emphatically, equalizing with Jordi Cruyff’s crucial strike just moments before the final whistle. With the match deadlocked, extra time beckoned, with the first half yielding no further goals.
As the game hurtled toward the prospect of a penalty shootout, Liverpool’s fate took an unexpected turn when Delfí Geli inadvertently headed the ball into his own net, invoking the golden goal rule and sealing Liverpool’s dramatic victory. The triumph marked an extraordinary feat for Liverpool, as they secured a treble consisting of the Football League Cup, FA Cup, and the illustrious UEFA Cup, etching their name in football history.