If you go all the way back to May 12 1965, you can realise why Liverpool FC’s visit to The San Siro on March 11 2008 would be redemption for the reds. On this night, as they had done back in ’65, Liverpool took a comfortable 2-0 lead from the first leg into the return. In 1965, Liverpool had just defeated Leeds United 2-1 to win their first FA Cup following years, no decades of disappointment. During the first leg at Anfield against the Italian giants, the team had paraded the newly acquired FA Cup around the ground before the match which offended the Italian side. During the return leg in Milan, Liverpool experienced some of the worst match fixing ever encountered in Europe as Inter were allowed two goals that should have never stood whilst Liverpool’s Ian St John had a goal disallowed with no reason given by referee, Jose Maria Ortiz di Mendibil.
In the years to come, it would turn out that match fixing and bribing of referees was the norm for Italian football during the 1960’s so it is no wonder Liverpool were robbed of a European Cup Final birth at the same venue in 1965. The result that night made the 1-0 victory some 43 years later all the more enjoyable for the travelling reds. Thankfully that night, I was in the crowd to witness the Fernando Toress strike that would see Liverpool advance to the next stage of the Euoropean Cup, sorry, Champions League as they daftly call it these days.
The build up to the match in the city centre had been one of epic proportions with thousands of Liverpool supporters honing in on a full day of drinking, singing songs and good banter with the locals and Italian Police. If you have ever been to Italy, you would notice they look like male models more focussed on watching the beautiful woman than thwarting criminals. They honestly have to be seen to be believed.
As the morning progressed into afternoon and then, into a warm spring evening, some of the travelling reds had passed on on the grassy patches around town square. Others had moved back to their hotels and hostels to feshen up before heading to the ground. Me? I just kept drinking of course. It’s what European away days are for really. Letting yourself go and having fun. I remember on the way to the ground as darkness fell, seeing a lot of prostitutes seeking out men on their own for a servicing. One stopped me a few blocks from the ground and asked me if I wanted to have a hand job for 20 Euro’s. I stopped, paused and retorted “Fuck off love, the footy’s on!”. Priorities you see. Anyway, I’d rather spend my hard earned on a record or a good book than some feral brass with track marks in her arms.
The San Siro is one of those footy stadiums that has to be seen to be believed. It looks like a spaceship upon approach and once inside, the noise is just something else all together. It’s hands down, one of the best football stadiums I have ever been to. Milan as a city is a shit hole full of rich twats and no culture but the football stadium? Well, that place is a fucking temple!
My ticket was in the home section of the ground, just to the left of the traveling Kopites. After a few minutes, I began to get a few strange looks from the locals as they must have suspected I looked like an obvious foreigner so I hastily retreated to one of the stewards, a lovely old man who helped through through some back tunnel walkways and a kitchen before landing in the away end with all the reds. At last I could relax and enjoy the match. And what a match it was!
Around the hour mark, Torres held the ball up at his feet, turned before sending the ball past the keeper and into the net! 1-0 on the night, 3-0 on aggrigrate and the Italian job was done, 43 years after it should have been done! The noise for the final 30 minutes or so intensified and at the full time whistle, the entire away end began to sing Shankly’s name. We were held inside the ground for over an hour as The Beatles played over the tannoy. It is common practice to avoid clashes with the Inter Ultras after the game.
He may not have lived to see the moment, but Bill Shankly would have been proud to witness Liverpool making amends for something that should have never been. Inter Milan away on March 11 2008 will forever remain one of my favourite European away days. Here’s hoping that next season we get to enjoy more away days in the Champions League.