Dudek: Pope John Paul II inspired me

Liverpool’s amazing recovery last night started with a goal from Steven Gerrard, but was complete thanks to Jerzy Dudek’s work during the penalty shoot-out.

Liverpool won the penalty shoot-out 3-2, and didn’t need to take all their penalties. Dudek saved two and put another taker off as Milan failed with three of their five attempts.

Dudek was dancing around in front of goal like a human Space Invader – and his antics will never be forgotten – like Bruce Grobellaar in Liverpool’s last European Cup victory – also decided on penalties.

Dudek said after the game: "Jamie Carragher came up to me just before the penalties and said ‘remember Bruce Grobbelaar and the rubbery legs in 1984’. He said ‘do the same and put them off’. That’s what I did and it seemed to work! Of course I remembered it, and it was my inspiration."

Although Liverpool hadn’t practiced taking penalties, the keepers and the goalkeeping coaches did some preparation – which thankfully Dudek completely forgot about: "You never know with penalties, it’s a lottery. We had studied their penalty takers and looked at them on video. But every time I was supposed to go to the right, I went to the left!  The idea was to wait until the last possible minute and then make myself big and see what they did before diving."

When Dudek made an amazing double save towards the end of injury time, anyone who already doubted must by then have thought there was somebody looking down kindly on Liverpool and was ensuring they got to take that trophy. Perhaps it was the recently departed Pope John Paul II – a compatriate of Dudek and also a former goalkeeper. Dudek was invited to the Vatican by the late Pope when on duty for Poland against Italy, and when he met him Dudek found that the Pope knew all about Liverpool and considered himself a fan. Jerzy wanted to dedicate last night’s win to a man that meant so much to all Polish people: "I’ve felt inspiration since his death, I can’t account for it. I had met him and was really moved by him. It has been a devastating year for all Poles and he has been a major presence in all of our lives. It seems incredible this could happen to me in the year of his death."