Liverpool fans still celebrate it, while Chelsea supporters claim to this day it should never have stood, but whatever side you are on; there’s no denying that Anfield witnessed one of the most controversial goals in its long and illustrious history on May 3rd, 2005.
Luis Garcia’s ‘ghost goal’ would not only deny newly-crowned Premier League champions, Chelsea, of the European glory they so desperately wanted, it would also pave the way for one of Liverpool’s most glorious European nights ever – not to mention starting one of the most heated rivalries of its time.
Liverpool’s road to Istanbul is part of footballing folklore as a side who often looked out of place amongst Europe’s elite made it all the way to the final before conquering one of the best teams on the planet from a seemingly impossible position.
Bad feeling had already been bubbling under between the two ahead of their Champions League semi-final meeting in 2005 as Chelsea, the nouveau riche club with billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, were setting out on one of the biggest spending sprees ever seen.
Three days previously the Blues had secured their first league title in half a century after defeating Bolton, something which didn’t sit well with the most successful club in English football who, without a league title since 1990, were in danger of being left in the shadows of their wealthier London rivals.
If that wasn’t enough, three months earlier, a bitter League Cup final clash between the two sides at the Millennium Stadium had seen Chelsea lift their first trophy of the Abramovich era as the pendulum of power appeared to be shifting well and truly towards West London.
In the Champions League, however, having qualified from their group in second place, Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool overcame Bayer Leverkusen and Juventus to set up an all-English clash against Mourinho’s Chelsea, who had beaten European giants Barcelona and Bayern Munich to reach the last four.
The first-leg at Stamford Bridge finished 0-0, resulting in a winner-takes-all encounter at a raucous and reverberating Anfield, which for years had thrived on such occasions but in recent times had been starved of such nights in continental football’s flagship competition.
And in the third minute the roof nearly came off the famous old stadium as, after a driving run from John-Arne Riise, Steven Gerrard clipped the ball into the path of Milan Baros who nipped in beyond John Terry and poked it over countryman Petr Cech, who flattened him in the process.
But before the referee could even think about awarding a penalty, Luis Garcia was on it in a flash to force the ball goalwards, wheeling away in celebration just as Blues defender William Gallas appeared to clear it off the line.
Perhaps it was the immediacy of Liverpool’s celebrations, or maybe the explosion of noise from a fervent Kop that influenced referee Michel's decision, but it didn't matter, the goal was given and the home side had the lead.
“The linesman was standing in such a position that he simply could not see the ball as Gallas blocked it with his body,” said Chelsea ‘keeper Petr Cech after the match.
“I was surprised the referees decided the goal was scored, when they could not see it.”
As for a furious Jose Mourinho, the Chelsea manager fumed after the final whistle: “It was a goal that came from the moon – from the Anfield stands, I felt the power of Anfield, it was magnificent.
“Liverpool scored, if you can say that they scored, because maybe you should say the linesman scored.”
Despite their best efforts on the night, Chelsea were unable to reply and it would be Liverpool who advanced to the final where they would eventually beat AC Milan on penalties having been 3-0 at the break in one of the tournament’s greatest comebacks.
But one of the most memorable and iconic nights in the history of Liverpool Football Club would never have happened had it not been for Luis Garcia’s controversial strike in front of the Kop.
The referee that night would incur the wrath of Chelsea fans once again three years later by sending off Didier Drogba in the 2008 Champions League final defeat to Manchester United, though the Slovakian believes the goal was the lesser of two evils for Mourinho’s men, given he adjudged Cech to have fouled Baros.
“I believe Chelsea would have preferred the goal to count rather than face a penalty with just ten men for the rest of the game,” he revealed some time after that game.
“If my assistant referee had not signalled a goal, I would have given a penalty and sent off Cech.”
More than a decade on the mention of the ghost goal still stirs the passions on both sides but in an era of VAR and goal-line technology, such a debate would never exist; something which the Chelsea manager that night is quick to remind people of.
“I lost a semi-final with a goal that was not a goal,” Jose Mourinho said in 2015. “Today with goal-line technology it would not be a goal.”