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From ghost goals to Dortmund: Most famous European nights at Anfield

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Could Anfield's atmosphere be decisive against City? (4:10)

ESPN's Jonathan Smith and Glenn Price discuss whether the atmosphere at Anfield can be the decisive factor in who reaches the Champions League semi-finals. (4:10)

Anfield's atmosphere is legendary. The stadium comes alive for big games, especially European matches. Liverpool's Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Manchester City on Wednesday night is expected to be raucous in the tradition of the epic nights of continental competition.

If the noise reaches the levels of some of the great matches of the past, it will be truly memorable. These are three of the most famous occasions.

European Cup quarterfinal, Liverpool vs. Saint-Etienne, March 16, 1977

Certain games define eras and change the course of a club's history, and in the spring of 1977, it felt like Liverpool were at a crossroads. They had become a power on the continental stage, winning the UEFA Cup in 1973 and '76. What they craved, though, was the European Cup.

This was their time, and the window for success could have been closing. Kevin Keegan, the dominant English forward of the decade, had made it clear that he was leaving the club in the summer. Keegan was the Kop's talisman. Without him, the future was uncertain. Liverpool were drawn against Saint-Etienne, another team that felt they had an appointment with destiny. The French champions had contested the previous year's European Cup final, losing unluckily 1-0 to Bayern Munich. They were confident that they could go one better.

In the first leg, the teams were well-matched, and it became clear that the margins between the sides were small. It was close for 80 minutes before Dominique Bathenay gave the home side the lead. They ended the match with a 1-0 lead to protect at Anfield.

Les Verts were good, and Merseyside recognized that this was a critical moment. The Liverpool team bus left for the stadium earlier than usual. Word came back that the streets around the ground were filled with people.

"Supporters had been queueing since midday," David Fairclough said. The 20-year-old Scouser was earning a reputation as an impact substitute. "It didn't take a genius to sense this was no normal Anfield night. It had the feel of something different."

The gates were closed hours before kickoff. A large contingent of French fans mingled with the home supporters in the paddock and Anfield Road end as anticipation ramped up in the hour before the game. "I've never known tension like it," said Phil Neal, Liverpool full-back. "It was the only European game where I was distracted by the crowd."

The terraces of the Kop were jammed. It was a damp night, and steam rose from the standing hordes, with the roar of the crowd audible in the city's docklands two miles away. "It was the most incredible atmosphere I ever experienced," said Ray Clemence, Liverpool goalkeeper. "There might have been only 50-odd thousand in the ground, but it felt like 250,000."

The supporters went into rapture when Keegan leveled the aggregate score after just two minutes. He drifted a ball in toward the back post, and the wind caught it, taking it into the net.

Things changed six minutes after halftime, when Bathenay turned the tie on its head. He picked up the ball in the centre circle, rode a tackle, advanced into the Liverpool half and lashed in a shot from almost 30 yards that left Clemence without a chance.

Liverpool needed to score two goals to progress, and the home side stormed forward. Ray Kennedy restored the lead after 58 minutes, but Saint-Etienne had the advantage of the crucial away goal. The Anfield crowd urged their heroes forward, but the French side remained composed.

With 17 minutes left, Bob Paisley sent Fairclough on to replace John Toshack. The substitute was tall, with fiery red hair and pale, improbably thin legs. As the seconds ticked away, the mood in the ground became more frantic.

Six minutes were left when Kennedy sent a ball forward toward the Kop and Fairclough latched onto it. He chested the ball down and was hit by a heavy challenge by the burly Christian Lopez. The willowy Scouser shrugged him off and set off toward the penalty area. With the vast terrace behind the goal howling in desperation, Fairclough shot. It was an untidy, bobbly effort but one with the pace and direction to beat Yvan Curkovic and give Liverpool the lead on aggregate.

Anfield shook. "It was the only game where I was distracted by the crowd," Neal said. "The whole stadium seemed to be moving."

"There was so much passion emanating from all sides of the ground, it was almost frightening," Fairclough said. It's considered by many veteran fans to be the standing Kop's finest moment.

Liverpool vs. Chelsea, Champions League semifinal, May 3, 2005

The old-time supporters were cynical. The Anfield atmosphere was good, but such wild nights were seemingly a thing of the past. Seats had killed the Kop, with the swaying, seething and screaming frenzy of the past somewhat muted in the new age. They were wrong.

Liverpool's 2004-05 Champions League had more than its share of memorable matches. Steven Gerrard's last-gasp goal against Olympiakos in the group stage sparked crazed celebrations, sending the home team into the knockout round in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Then the quarterfinal brought Juventus to Anfield. It was an emotional night: the first meeting between the two sides since the Heysel Stadium disaster 20 years previous, when 39 fans died in a tragedy precipitated by Liverpool supporters. Rafa Benitez's team surged forward in a whirlwind attacking start that stunned the Italian giants and continued the improbable advance toward Istanbul.

The semifinal paired Liverpool with Chelsea. Jose Mourinho had lobbied for the job at Anfield and been spurned, but in his first season in west London, he led the Blues to the title. Chelsea were heavy favourites, too: the first leg at Stamford Bridge was a 0-0 draw and set up a titanic clash in front of the Kop.

The famous stand rose to the occasion. The craving for success was all-consuming at Anfield, and the packed stadium was pulsing with excitement.

"The supporters took the atmosphere to a new level that night," Gerrard said. "It's probably the best I've experienced at Anfield. The feelings I was getting inside my body were incredible."

Liverpool attacked the Kop. Four minutes into the game, Gerrard flicked the ball into the Chelsea area, Milan Baros helped it on, and Luis Garcia touched it over Petr Cech. William Gallas charged back and cleared the ball, claiming it had not crossed the line, but the crowd were already going wild. The referee awarded a goal, and while Chelsea raged, Anfield bounced.

The "ghost goal" gave Liverpool a crucial advantage, but Mourinho's team began to turn the screw. Chelsea finished 37 points ahead of their rivals in the Premier League and were a much better side, but on this night, it was more than 11-on-11. All around Anfield, the supporters screamed themselves hoarse beseeching their team to hold on to the slender lead.

"I get goosebumps thinking about it," Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann said. "For the final 15 minutes, Liverpool fans basically kept the ball out of the net -- and that's after they helped it in for Luis Garcia's goal."

Chelsea had one last chance when, in stoppage time, Eidur Gudjohnsen shot across the Kop goalmouth. A gasp of fear ran down the huge stand, but the ball went wide. Liverpool had reached Europe's biggest game for the first time in two decades. At the end, Mourinho stood in the centre circle and stared at the Kop, his hand cradled reflectively under his chin. The scene before him was one of wild celebration.

"Anfield erupted in a way it had not done for 30 years," Hamann said. "It was truly momentous."

Liverpool vs. Borussia Dortmund, Europa League quarterfinal second leg, April 14, 2016

Jurgen Klopp had managed Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles in his seven years at the Westfalenstadion, and now, six months after taking over at Anfield, the two clubs were drawn to play each other.

But there was another dynamic. Dortmund's Yellow Wall had become the go-to section for atmosphere in Europe. It was fresh, vibrant and exciting, with German terrace culture viewed with envy by fans around the world.

The Kop appeared a little tired by comparison, and the Liverpool team looked equally jaded in the opening exchanges of the second leg at Anfield. With the score at 1-1 from the first leg, Dortmund silenced the crowd and seemingly broke the game apart by scoring twice in the first 10 minutes. Divock Origi pulled one back early in the second half, but the Germans responded with a third goal just before the hour. The mood around the stadium was a mixture of grim acceptance and an uncompromising request for resistance. The Kop were not demanding victory; they wanted their players to battle to the end.

If the representatives of the Yellow Wall present at Anfield believed that they had now assumed the mantle of Europe's most partisan and committed crowd, they were about to be taught a lesson by the Kop.

After Philippe Coutinho reduced Liverpool's deficit on the night, Kopites scented blood. "There is a chemistry at Anfield," the Guardian wrote, "that is simply not replicated anywhere else in the country and probably in few places in the world."

The reaction on the pitch was explosive. Mamadou Sakho levelled the scores at 3-3 on the night, but Liverpool still needed another goal, and time was running out. There was now confidence on the Kop, and the sense of inevitability transmitted itself to both sides. "The stadium seemed to know what would happen," Thomas Tuchel, the Dortmund coach, said. "It was as if it was meant to be."

And it was. In stoppage time, Dejan Lovren joined the wave of attackers and rose to meet James Milner's cross in front of the Kop. His header powered into the back of the net to give Liverpool an unlikely 4-3 win on the night and send them into the next round.

"I believe in atmosphere," Klopp said. "And this was the perfect proof of what atmosphere can create. Without noise and without a crowd, there was no chance in this game."

The Liverpool manager will hope the Kop remembers his words when City come to Anfield this week.