Damien Duff was missed on a famous night at Anfield.
Damien Duff might be known for his coaching and punditry work these days but there was a time when he was a highly-respected Chelsea player.
Coming off the back of his performances for Ireland at the 2002 World Cup, Duff was a winger in demand before he eventually signed for newly-rich Chelsea in the summer of 2003.
Damien Duff and Arjen Robben partnership.
Duff played under Claudio Ranieri for a year, helping the team to the Champions League semi-final and second place in the Premier League before owner Roman Abramovich got rid of Ranieri and ushered in the Jose Mourinho era.
Mourinho took an instant shine to Duff, picking him regularly on the opposite wing to Arjen Robben, as the two wingers terrorised defences all over England.
While Duff played in plenty of big games for The Blues, there was one famous occasion when he was left out, much to the bemusement of his teammates.
Joe Cole, speaking on Jamie Carragher’s The Greatest Game podcast, recalled the 2005 Champions League semi-final second leg between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield, and his surprise at Damien Duff not being in the side.
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“Not having Duffer affected us.”
“Mourinho dropped Duffer, put me on the left and put Tiago in right midfield,” Cole said. “We were trying to press Djimi Traore. We’d just beaten Liverpool three times on the bounce, I was thinking ‘just do what we do!'”
“We couldn’t get out. Not having Duffer affected us because he could drive you up the pitch.”
Cole impressed by another Irishman.
There was one Irishman on the pitch who impressed Cole though and that was Liverpool’s Steve Finnan.
“I was up against Finnan,” Cole continued. “He was incredible that night. He was a very good player but that night he was a cross between Cafu and Kyle Walker! I couldn’t get any change out of him.”
The match is famous for Luis Garcia’s “ghost goal” that put Liverpool into the Champions League Final which they famously won in Istanbul after beating AC Milan on penalties.
How different it all could have been if Duffer had been on the pitch, eh?
You can listen to Jamie Carragher’s full conversation with Joe Cole via this link.