Three’s a crowd: Liverpool’s unique treble-winning season of 2000/01

liverpool 2001 treble

Since the arrival of Jürgen Klopp in late 2015, Liverpool has been building itself back to the top of the table and competing for major honours, including the Champions League and Premier League, as well as the domestic trophies.

In the 2021/22 campaign, the Reds were hunting for the all-elusive quadruple that could’ve cemented themselves as history makers in English Football. But in the end, the red half of Merseyside had to settle for a double-winning season that included an FA Cup and League Cup triumph, missing out on the League to Manchester City by one point and losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid.

But back in the early 2000s, when Manchester United and Arsenal were the top dogs in the Premier League, Liverpool was nowhere to be seen and had to compete elsewhere for success. They did this in a very unique way by winning the FA Cup, League Cup and the UEFA Cup during the 2000/01 season, completing an unorthodox treble for the Reds.

Worthington Cup (League Cup) vs Birmingham City

Gérard Houllier’s men would take on Birmingham City in the final of the Worthington Cup, and the French manager changed up his starting XL for the game as Steven Gerrard came into the team despite recently suffering a groin injury.

Liverpool started the match well, and almost took the lead after only seven minutes as Vladimír Šmicer sent a good cross from the left flank into the box, however, the unmarked Robbie Fowler failed to make contact with the ball at the near post and Birmingham cleared for a corner.

A few minutes following the Red’s good start, the match was fairly even with both Liverpool and Birmingham enjoying decent spells of possession, but neither side created too many clear-cut opportunities.

Then, with 28 minutes gone, Birmingham pressure forced a weak punch from Liverpool keeper Sander Westerveld, however, he was able to save the follow-up effort from Jon McCarthy.

But, almost immediately after McCarthey’s chance, Liverpool managed to break the deadlock. Westerveld sent a long clearance downfield, which was flicked on by Emile Heskey for Fowler to unleash a fierce dipping volley from 25 yards that struck the back of the net.

A brilliant goal to light up what had been a tense League Cup final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Houllier’s side pushed for a second as the first half drew to a close. On 41 minutes, Šmicer struck from the edge of the area, but his shot was deflected for a corner.

The Czech international was once again involved in the Liverpool attack as he was guilty of missing a one-on-one opportunity as he was put through on goal after Heskey flicked on a Stéphane Henchoz clearance, however, he put his shot wide.

Birmingham manager Trevor Francis brought on Andy Johnson after halftime, and the striker nearly made the perfect impact off the bench as he headed Nicky Eaden’s cross only inches wide of the goal in 46 minutes.

The Reds hit back following the Blue’s early second-half start and a last-minute block from Darren Purse was required to prevent Fowler from firing home after being set up by Markus Babbel.

Francis and his players looked rejuvenated, but Liverpool weres still the ones creating more clear opportunities. Fowler, Heskey, and Šmicer all had opportunities for Liverpool, whilst Geoff Horsfield and Stan Lazaridis posed questions for the Liverpool defence.

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With less than 15 minutes to go, Gary McAllister replaced Gerrard for Liverpool, while Nick Barmby replaced Šmicer as the Reds looked to take the initiative and seal the Worthington Cup.

But then, in stoppage time, they were gifted a way back into the game when Henchoz recklessly brought down Martin O’Connor in the box. A penalty was awarded, which Darren Purse, struggling with cramps during the latter stages of the match, fired home.

The match ended 1-1, and extra time would soon follow. Having got the momentum from their equaliser, Birmingham made a bright start as Johnson, McCarthy and Bryan Hughes all had chances to put the Blues ahead.

Hughes, a boyhood Everton fan, almost netted Birmingham’s second on 99 minutes with a 30-yard chip. However, Westerveld reached the shot and tipped it over with his fingertips. Five minutes later, the Blues believed they should’ve had another penalty when Henchoz hauled down Johnson, but the referee waved play on, much to the surprise of most watching on.

Liverpool started to push for a winner as Fowler brought a good save out of Birmingham keeper Ian Bennett with a close-range header. Bennett then produced another good save to deny Sami Hyypiä’s header from a Christian Ziege free-kick.

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The Reds had the final chance with four minutes of extra time left to play as Dietmar Hamann struck the post with a 25-yard shot on goal, however, neither side was able to find a way through and the match went to penalties.

McAllister took the first penalty and planted his shot confidently into the top corner of the net. Martin Grainger took Birmingham’s first kick, but Westerveld guessed correctly and saved the penalty by diving to his left.

Barmby was up next up for the Reds and put them 2-0 up with a similar strike to McAllister’s. Purse then stepped up to net Birmingham’s first goal in the shootout before Ziege netted Liverpool’s third with a powerful effort.

Marcelo scored to keep the Blues alive in the final, and Bennett then produced an excellent save to keep out Hamann’s fierce effort. Lazaridis brought Birmingham level at 3-3, Giving Francis and his player’s hope.

However, Fowler netted Liverpool’s fifth spot kick, before Hughes equalised for Birmingham yet again to send the shoot-out to sudden death. Jamie Carragher stepped up to hammer home into the roof of the net, and Westerveld then saved Andy Johnson’s effort to win the trophy for Liverpool.

A tense and engaging final, but the Reds came out on top. One out of three trophies down for the Reds, with two opportunities for silverware to come later in the season.

FA Cup vs Arsenal

Both sides set up in the classic 4-4-2 formation Houllier named Owen in the starting line-up and chose Šmicer and Murphy to play in midfield. McAllister, Patrik Berger and Fowler began the final as substitutes.

Arsenal kicked off the final but it was Liverpool who could’ve had an early penalty, a run by Heskey resulted in him taking a tumble under Gilles Grimandi’s challenge, but his appeals for a penalty were ignored by referee Steve Dunn.

The Gunners began to dominate proceedings, and Patrick Vieira in particular was at the heart of their best moves. The midfielder won a challenge with Heskey in the 17th minute and sent the ball in the direction of Freddie Ljungberg, who in turn passed it to Thierry Henry, and the Frenchman went around Westerveld and shot the ball goalwards, which was cleared off the line by Henchoz.

Replays appeared to show the ball hitting Henchoz’s arm before going wide; although Henry appealed for a penalty, it was turned down as the incident was missed by both the referee and his assistant. The Reds getting away with one there.

Micheal Owen came close to scoring in the 20th minute, but his shot was blocked by Martin Keown. Arsene Wenger’s side continued to create the best openings but found it difficult to split open the Liverpool defence.

A long-range effort by Grimandi was easily saved by Westerveld as the final approached the half-hour mark, and a duel between Sylvain Wiltord and Carragher on the right side resulted in a Liverpool corner. But nothing came of it, and halftime came along with the score still at 0-0.

Houllier’s men resumed play and won a free-kick not too long into the second half, Danny Murphy’s delivery found Heskey, whose header forced a save from David Seaman. Arsenal then enjoyed their best spell of the match soon afterward but failed to make use of their set-pieces.

Robert Pires and Henry combined in attack for Arsenal and the latter came close to scoring, had the Liverpool goalkeeper not intervened. The ball rebounded to Ashley Cole who shot towards goal, but Hyypiä cleared off the line.

Hamann was shown a yellow card for fouling Vieira in the 57th minute, and Houllier responded by replacing him with McAllister four minutes later. It turned out to be a good substitution as it brought composure to Liverpool’s play, particularly in midfield.

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The Gunners threw away another opportunity just before the 70th minute mark when Henry outpaced Henchoz and his rebounded shot found Ljungberg in the penalty area. The Sweed’s effort, a chip over the advancing Westerveld, was cleared off the line by Hyypiä.

However, with 19 minutes left, the Gunners finally found the breakthrough A poor clearance by Westerveld fell to Grimandi, who passed the ball to Pires and found Ljungberg making a darting run towards goal. The Winger rounded the goalkeeper to open the scoring in Cardiff, much to Wenger’s delight.

Henry squandered a chance to make it 2-0 as his shot was saved at point-blank range by Westerveld and on the follow up cleared by Hyypiä. Both managers made changes in the final period of the game; Ray Parlour came on for Wiltord to protect Arsenal’s lead, whereas Liverpool made an attacking double substitution as Fowler and Berger come on for Šmicer and Murphy respectively.

Wenger’s men continue their onslaught of the Liverpool goal, but with eight minutes to go, the Reds found the equaliser they were looking for. The Gunners failed to clear McAllister’s free-kick, and Owen pounced with a right-foot finish past Seaman from eight yards.

Six minutes later, Houllier and his players completed their comeback. With extra time on the horizon, Owen was released down the left by a weighted long ball pass from Berger, with the type of vision which had been earlier missing from their play, and he outpaced both Tony Adams and Lee Dixon before shooting low and accurately past Seaman, beating him at the far post. Sending the Liverpool fans in Cardiff into jubilation.

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The Reds held on to their lead in the final moments of the game and won the FA Cup. Two out of two trophies for Houllier and his men in cup competitions, with the UEFA Cup up next for Liverpool just a few days later.

UEFA Cup vs Deportivo Alavés

Liverpool played Spanish first division side, Deportivo Alavés, in the final of the UEFA Cup, taking place in the Westfalenstadion in Germany. The Reds kicked off the game and, within the first three minutes of the final, made the perfect start when Babbel headed in a McAllister free-kick to put Houllier’s side 1–0 up in Dortmund.

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They could’ve made it 2-0 just a few minutes later after Heskey was put through on goal from a McAllister pass, but Alavés goalkeeper Martín Herrera cleared the ball with his feet.

Alavés got their first opportunity in the 12th minute, with a free-kick given to them right on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area, following a challenge by Henchoz. Óscar Téllez curled a shot towards Liverpool’s goal, but Liverpool goalkeeper Westerveld pushed the ball away.

But three minutes later, Owen collected a Hamann pass and played a diagonal ball to Gerrard, whose shot beat Herrera to put Liverpool 2–0 ahead.

Alavés manager José Manuel Esnal Pardo, better known as ‘Mané’, made his first substitution a few minutes after going 2-0 down when Iván Alonso replaced Dan Eggen. The change had the desired effect as four minutes later, Alavés scored. Right wing-back Cosmin Contra put the ball into the area from the right side of the pitch and Alonso rose above Babbel to head the ball into the net to make the scoreline 2–1.

With momentum on their side, the Spanish team nearly got an equaliser when Alonso’s header fell to Javi Moreno, who went past Henchoz, but his shot was saved by Westerveld after it hit his chest. The rebound fell to Ivan Tomić, but Westerveld was there again to deny Alavés.

However, just as Alavés looked to get back into the game, Liverpool was awarded a penalty five minutes later. After Owen had made a good run into the opposition’s 18-yard box, he was brought down by Herrera, who was booked for the foul. McAllister took the penalty and scored to put Liverpool 3–1 ahead going into halftime.

Unlike the beginning of their first half, Alavés were the ones who were on top after the interval. Contra put a cross from the right side of the pitch into the penalty area, which was met by Moreno, whose header beat Westerveld to make the scoreline 3–2.

But four minutes later, they got the equaliser they were craving. After being awarded a free-kick 25 yards out, Moreno stepped up to shoot the ball through the Liverpool wall and into the goal past Westerveld.

Both sides made several substitutions within the next ten minutes as Henchoz went off for Šmicer and Heskey came on for Fowler. Meanwhile for Alavés, Mané brought off Moreno for Pablo.

With 18 minutes left to go, McAllister passed the ball to Fowler who moved towards the centre of the pitch from the left-hand side and hit his shot into the corner of the Alavés goal to give Liverpool a 4–3 lead. Alavés wanted a penalty ten minutes later after a tackle by Hamann brought Mocelin Magno down, but the Brazilian was subsequently booked for diving.

But in the 88th minute, Westerveld conceded a corner, and Jordi Cruyff was there to head the ball home and make it 4-4 on the night. It truly was one of the craziest European nights the Reds had ever experienced.

Two minutes into injury-time, Contra went down under pressure from Gerrard in the Liverpool penalty area. Again, the referee deemed that there was no penalty. Following this, the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of 90 minutes of play. The match would now go into extra time.

But there was a twist; the golden goal rule was used during extra time, meaning that whichever team scored first would win the game. Liverpool kicked off the extra time but it was Alavés who thought they had won it, as Alonso put the ball in the Red’s goal, only for it to be ruled offside.

Just a few minutes later, however, the Spanish side was reduced to 10 men as Magno was shown a second yellow card for a two-footed challenge on Babbel. With a minute of the first half of extra-time remaining, Fowler thought he had scored the winning goal but his effort was also disallowed for offside.

Alavés kicked off the second half and within seconds, Babbel was booked for bringing down Alavés defender Delfi Geli 30 yards from goal. The resulting free-kick was put wide by Hermes Desio. The Reds then had a good chance to take the lead once again, but Fowler couldn’t reach Gerrard’s cross and the ball was subsequently cleared from the penalty area.

In the 115th minute of the game, the Spanish side was reduced to nine men when Antonio Karmona received a second yellow card for fouling Šmicer. McAllister took the resulting free-kick, which was headed into his own goal by Geli.

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As was the rules of the golden goal, Liverpool won the match and completed the unorthodox treble by lifting the UEFA Cup high in the sky in Germany. Despite the trophies not being the pinnacle of what Liverpool could achieve, it was still a very successful season for the Reds.