Kevin Kilbane and Leon Osman have relived the heartbreak of crashing out of the Champions League qualifiers with Everton, after an 'arrogant' performance by referee Pierluigi Collina.
Kilbane and Osman were part of the Toffees' side that finished fourth in the 2004-2005 season, the same season that their cross-city rivals Liverpool won the Champions League, meaning qualification was available to five English sides.
Everton drew Spanish side Villarreal, chock-full of talent of the likes of Juan Roman Riquelme and Marcos Senna, so the Blues travelled to Spain for the second-leg having lost 2-1 at Goodison Park.
The match was refereed - now, infamously, in the eyes of Evertonians - by Pierluigi Collina in his last game as a referee.
"We had probably lost the tie at Goodison, if truth be known," said Kilbane, with the benefit of hindsight.
"I played left-back, one of the first times I had done so in my career, so we changed the team around a lot to try and get a result. We played well."
Everton in Europe
As for Collina, whose decisions would be crucial on the night, Kilbane believes that he was out of sorts from the referee he had experience with.
"I had been refereed by him a few times before, with Ireland, and found him to be very personable and decent on the pitch.
"That night, for some reason, Collina was a bit aloof; a bit off. I thought that he was a bit arrogant that night - he wouldn't talk to you and was very dismissive.
"Collina, across the whole night, I thought he refereed the match very badly. He had refereed World Cup finals, Champions League finals - we thought we had the best. He was poor that night."
It was to have a decisive impact on the tie.
"I remember the incident well - I had been taken off during the game.
"Mikel Arteta put in a corner, Duncan had a free header and scored to put us back into the tie - we didn't see anything wrong with it. That was it, game on.
"But it was heartbreaking. I remember being sat on the bench - it was heartbreaking."
Leon Osman had his say on a tie that would have an impact on the rest of Everton's season, where they finished 17th in the Premier League.
Osman was 'looking forward' to being refereed by Collina, but his first time playing European football was marred by a perceived injustice.
"He didn't allow anything to flow, or to be free. To get to that position right at the end, for the big man to get a goal and have it ruled out because of someone else, it was sickening.
"We didn't know how to process it. It took the stuffing out of us until October or November that season."
Kilbane spoke about how perilous Everton's season was going forward, having been knocked out of European competition altogether by Dinamo Bucharest.
"The wind came out of our sails, big style, from that result. I remember we were all having meetings in the dressing room [early in the season] saying 'we are going to get relegated here.
"Certainly, the first half of that season we were poor - and it definitely stemmed from that Villarreal game because the comedown from that to go on that run - it was a dreadful few months."
Kevin Kilbane and Leon Osman were talking to OTB as part of our Champions League Best Moment series, in association with Virgin Media Sport #WeFreeSport
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