The Champions League is European football’s most prestigious tournament. It features the best teams from all across Europe as they compete to become Europe’s top club. From injury time goals to penalty shootout victories, the Champion’s League has seen several famous finals and many thrilling victories. Manchester United’s two injury time goals in 1999 to become the first team to ever do the treble, the first ever Real Madrid ‘Galacticos’ victory in 2002, Jose Mourinho’s famous victory with Porto in 2004, Liverpool’s famous night in Istanbul back in 2005, the start of Barcelona’s dominance as they beat Manchester United to the title back in 2009, Chelsea beating Bayern Munich in Munich to claim the title on penalties back in 2012 and Real Madrid destroying rivals Atletico Madrid in extra time in 2014 are just some of the famous victories and memorable finals that the Champion’s League has had in the modern era.
With this season’s final between holders Real Madrid and Juventus taking place tomorrow night, many will inevitably revisit some of the classic finals the competition has seen. Below are three classic English victories in the competition and what makes them so thrilling and so memorable.
Victory No.1- Two Injury Time Goals Secure Manchester United Treble (1999 Final)
Manchester United were without the suspended midfield duo of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes for this game at the Nou Camp and this went against them as they went behind after just six minutes. Marco Basler curled a free kick around the United wall and past Schmeichel in the goal. Bayern could have put this game to bed in the Second Half with two opportunities that hit the crossbar. However, it was just not their day. Thirty Seconds into injury time, Ryan Giggs got onto the end of a David Beckham corner and parried it into the path of Sheringham, at the far post, who stuck it in the back of the Munich goal to equalise for United. However, the late drama would not stop there as it never seemed to do under Ferguson. The ‘baby-faced assassin’, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shot a foot out after Teddy Sheringham could only head another David Beckham corner across the goal and put the ball in the back of the net to make it two. This famous victory allowed Manchester United to become the first ever team to achieve a treble of League, Cup and Champions League titles in the one season on what would have been the great Sir Matt Busby’s 90th Birthday.
Victory No.2- That Famous Night in Istanbul (2005 Final)
Many Liverpool fans will undoubtedly remember the most famous night in their clubs history. Manager, Rafael Benitez made a brave selection choice early on in this game, leaving out key players such as Didi Hamann and Igor Biscan. Liverpool found themselves in trouble early on as they found themselves at the end of a 3-0 drubbing at Half-Time and it was looking like it could just be one of those nights for Liverpool. Milan legend Maldini opened the scoring in the first minute as he got onto the end of Andrea Pirlo’s free kick to volley home. Hernan Crespo got onto the end of a long pass from Shevchenko, after Kaka had dribbled into the Liverpool half, getting behind the last Liverpool defender to put it past Dudek. Kaka was at the heart of the third goal too as he provided a silky through ball for Crespo on the right to chip over Dudek. Whatever Benitez said at half time seeemed to have worked as Liverpool came out afterwards looking like a new team and three goals in six minutes sent the game to extra time. Eight minutes in, Gerrard got onto the end of a John Arne Riise cross to head it in past the Milan keeper. Smicer volleyed home from just outside the box to make it two a minute later and Liverpool were back on course. Gerrard was pulled down in the box just a few minutes later by Gatusso. Alonso’s penalty was saved by Dida but could only deflect it back to Alonso who put the rebound away to force the game to Extra Time. Milan dominated the extra half hour and Shevchenko was denied twice by Dida as the game went to a Penalty shoot out. Liverpool won 4-3 with Dudek denying Pirlo and Shevchenko.
Victory No.3- Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in Munich on Penalties (2012 Final)
On their way to the final, Chelsea overcame a Barcelona team that had been dominating in Europe for a few years and were the underdogs going into the game against the reigning German champions on their home ground, the Allianz Arena. For years, owner Roman Abramovic had been searching for this trophy and had sacked managers such as Claudio Ranieri, Avram Grant, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo, having won league and cup titles, for not winning the competition. Ryan Bertrand started ahead of regular full back, Ashley Cole for the game in an attempt to counter the threat of Arjen Robben and were without their captain, John Terry who was suspended. The game was far from a classic as both teams nullifed the threat of the other. Bayern had the best of the chances but were easily denied by the Chelsea defence and Petr Cech in goal. The only time Chelsea looked like they would come near was when Kalou had a chance minutes before half time but was easily denied by Neuer. The Bayern assault on the Chelsea defence continued after half time but could not seem to convert their chances. Chelsea had a chance late on in the half as Drogba got onto the end of a Ashley Cole cross which Neuer could only half clear but it lacked the power and so was easily stopped. Bayern had a half chance of their own late on through Muller who pulled the shot wide. With the game looking like it was heading for extra time, Toni Kroos swung in a cross from the left and it was headed in at the far post by Muller. A 35-year old Didier Drogba put Chelsea level just moments later as he headed a Frank Lampard corner in at the near post. The most exciting thing that happenned in the extra half hour was Drogba pulling Riubery down in the box and Cech saving Robben;s ensuing penlaty. The game went to a shoot out with Chelsea emerging victorious as Cech saved from Schweinsteiger.