IT IS almost 15 years since one of the unlikeliest ties in Champions League history.

Less than two months after an astonishing comeback against AC Milan to lift the European Cup, dubbed the ‘miracle of Istanbul’, Liverpool were back at a packed Anfield, welcoming Total Network Solutions, the result of a merger between tiny village club Llansantffraid and Oswestry Town.

The circumstances which led to the first qualifying round tie were unusual and unprecedented.

At the time, UEFA had made no provision for the holders of the cup to automatically compete in the next year’s competition, should they have failed to finish in their domestic league’s top four. Liverpool had finished the 2004-05 Premier League season in fifth.

Sensing an opportunity, TNS owner Mike Harris offered to play a one-off preliminary tie.

But a compromise was reached which enabled Liverpool to defend their title, entering the competition in the first qualifying round – and ironically they were drawn against TNS.

The first leg took place at Anfield on July 13, 2005, and saw Rafa Benitez pay the Saints’ full respect by picking a strong side featuring the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyppia and Fernando Morientes.

Despite a strong showing from Ken McKenna’s TNS side, they were put to the sword 3-0 thanks to Reds captain Steven Gerrard’s hat-trick.

The return leg was played at Wrexham FC’s Racecourse Ground, and again TNS put in a strong performance.

They were undone when Gerrard grabbed a couple more goals, added to another from Djibril Cisse.

But there was a special moment for TNS fans when goalkeeper Ged Doherty saved a penalty from Dietmar Hamann.

The TNS side featured club legends such as Tommy Holmes, Michael Wilde, John Toner, Martyn Naylor, Steve Evans, Nicky Ward and Scott Ruscoe.

Both Evans and Ruscoe are still with the Saints as coach and first-team manager respectively.