ATHENS — Added time in soccer usually runs about three minutes, so it's exotic to behold a game with added time of 728 days.
If Liverpool of England and AC Milan of Italy haven't been playing each other continuously since May 25, 2005, it often sounds as if that game is still going.
Fans and pundits still recollect with vivid detail that hallowed night in Istanbul, Turkey. Milan's players still cringe at having retched a 3-0 lead. Some Liverpool folk still say the Milan players celebrated prematurely at halftime, and the Milan players still say some Liverpool folk lie when they say that.
There's still a lingering quibble about a smirk.
"This is a different story," Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti said before the clubs' rematch tonight in the 2007 European Champions League final.
While the memory banks of Europe have expunged a thousand matches since then, people still can recite 54 and 56 and 60, the junctures at which Liverpool got its three goals to catch up. And if you like soccer and live in Europe and can't recall each penalty kick that came after 90 minutes of play and 30 minutes of added time, you absolutely know Liverpool's Jerzy Dudek stopped the mighty Shevchenko for the clincher.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard received the cup, held it up and shook it madly out of sheer unlikelihood, and Liverpool greeted a fifth title (third-most in the event's 52-year history). Almost nobody imagined they'd meet again so soon and only 349 miles across the Aegean Sea to the west.
This European final also prominently features two American interlopers: George Gillett, owner of the NHL's Montreal Canadiens and Tom Hicks, owner of Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers, part of a trend among that covetous crowd we call American billionaires.
In purchasing the Liverpool Football Club during the bygone winter, Gillett-Hicks followed Yank purchases of Manchester United (Malcolm Glazer) in 2005 and Birmingham's Aston Villa (Randy Lerner) in 2006.
There might not be any stadium noise on Earth to trump Anfield, where Liverpool fans serenade players with the 1945 Broadway song, "You'll Never Walk Alone." "Like nothing I've ever heard or felt," Gillett said in March after the ouster of defending champion Barcelona. He and Hicks have ascended rapidly from Philistines -- Gillett used the word "franchise," which English fans loathe -- to big hits as they greet fans, pose for photographs and chat.
By the time the September-to-May 2007 European tournament had whittled to four clubs, England had dominated the season and hoarded three semifinal spots.
Chatter had it that the English population would pretty much relocate to Greece for a festival of staggering beeriness where the top two English clubs, Manchester United and Chelsea, would spar, so it came as a \o7huh\f7 that the biggest game of the year would include, well, neither.
In dramatic second games in the two-game semifinal format, Liverpool chased Chelsea on penalty kicks after drawing 1-1 across two games, AC Milan chased Manchester United in a 3-0 rout that obliterated a 3-2 deficit and ought to have played to classical music, and reporters chased Gerrard's 2006 autobiography in search of spice.
In that volume, Gerrard rated Italian midfielder Gennaro Gattuso "as scary as a kitten." "For me, he is all mouth," Gerrard wrote. "I swear I wouldn't mind playing against Gattuso every week."
Gerrard added that Gattuso shot Gerrard a victory smirk going into halftime of the 2005 game. Gattuso has accused Gerrard of smirk misinterpretation, and both return tonight. As tonight's 10 o'clock local kick-off and all the attending pomp approach, a worthy dialogue has persisted.
Ancelotti has called Liverpool the worst of the three English semifinalists even while praising a Liverpool defense that might trouble his squad more than Manchester United. And Silvio Berlusconi, AC Milan's president and prime minister of Italy until 2006, has called 2005 "a cup which we simply gifted to Liverpool, when it was already safe and sound in our trophy cabinet."