Top 10 Champions League Finals
As domestic seasons come to a close around Europe the eyes of the continent turn to the Champions League final hoping for one last thrilling contest before the campaign is over. Often finals can be a let-down as two sides cancel each other out or are too nervy to really go for the jugular. However, once in a while the outcome is anything but a dull affair. Here are the 10 greatest Champions League finals in history.
10. Porto 3-0 Monaco 2003/04
One of the least likely Champions League finals as both Monaco and Porto upset the odds to reach the showpiece and battle it out for Europe’s biggest prize. Porto were favourites but Monaco had ousted Real Madrid and Chelsea to reach the last two so there looked to be little between the sides. Jose Mourinho proved the bookies right, though, and announced himself as the hottest property in management. Monaco were swept aside thanks to goals from Carlos Alberto, Deco and Dmitri Alenichev giving the Portuguese outfit a thoroughly impressive victory and sending Mourinho to Chelsea as a result.
9. Dortmund 3-1 Juventus 1996/97
This contest is worth including simply for the fact that Paul Lambert marked Zinedine Zidane out of the game. That’s right, a large part of Dortmund’s victory came about because Lambert did a job on the Frenchman. With Zidane stifled by the Scot, the Italians weren’t able to best use the attacking talents at their disposal – most notably Christian Vieri and Alen Boksic. In contrast, Dortmund’s main man Karl Heinz-Riedle had no such trouble, scoring twice in the first half. A young Alessandro del Piero came off the bench to get one back for Juve but Lars Ricken did the same for the Germans and wrapped up a famous win for them in Munich.
8. Juventus 1-3 Barcelona 2014/15
An edgy final between two great sides which the scoreline suggests may have been comfortable for the winning team, but as anything but. Barcelona may have taken an early lead through Ivan Rakitic but they could not capitalise on this advantage and 10 minutes into the second half Juventus equalised through Alvaro Morata. Luis Suarez restored Barca’s advantage in the 68th minute and Neymar scored again in the final second, but not before some seriously tense moments at the back for the Spaniards. Whilst Barca were the better side that night in Berlin, Juventus put in a typically stubborn display, making it an anxious and memorable contest.
7. Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia 1999/2000
This turned out to be a fairly straight forward win for the favourites but it will be remembered fondly in England for the performance of Steve McManaman in the Real Madrid midfield. The former Liverpool man rattled in a volley from the edge of the box to make the score 3-0 and was awarded Man of the Match for his display. He became the first Englishman to win Europe's biggest club competition for a foreign club and cemented his name in the folklore of the Spanish giants. Fernando Morientes and Raul got the other goals as Vicente del Bosque’s side lifted the trophy once again.
6. Leverkusen 1-2 Real Madrid 2001/02
A tight game which the favourites won, this would not be remembered especially fondly outside of Madrid were it not for a moment of magic from one of the greatest of all time. The score was 1-1 as half-time approached after goals from Raul for Madrid and Lucio for Leverkusen and there was very little between the sides. Then a fairly innocuous cross came in from Roberto Carlos on the Madrid left that was looping to the edge of the penalty area. Unfortunately for the Germans, Zinedine Zidane was waiting for it and he produced a left-footed volley which sailed past Hans-Jorg Butt and into the top corner. One of Zidane’s many highlight reel moments of a sensational career.
5. Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal 2005/06
It is easy to forget just how exciting this contest was and how close Arsenal came to pulling off a remarkable victory in Paris. Barcelona were the heavy favourites going into the game and it looked like their cause would be made all the easier when Gunners goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was sent off just 18 minutes in. Arsene Wenger was forced to sacrifice Robert Pires for Manuel Almunia and his side were left with a monumental task. However, against the odds Sol Campbell gave the Londoners the lead on 37 minutes and as the clock ticked on it looked like Arsenal might just pull off a miracle. It was not to be, though, as with just 14 minutes left Samuel Eto’o equalised and four minutes later Juliano Beletti netted the winner giving Barca the win everyone expected. For the valiant and defiant effort of Arsenal, this game warrants a place amongst the greatest finals.
4. Man Utd 2-1 Bayern Munich 1998/99
Not the most thrilling match on this list but arguably the most exciting end to a game as United demonstrated their most irritating/impressive quality of snatching late goals. Mario Basler had put Munich ahead in Barcelona after just six minutes with a free-kick and then not a lot happened for 86 minutes as the Red Devils tried and failed to breach a sturdy Bavarian back line. If anything it was Bayern who looked a lot more likely to score the next goal. However, Alex Ferguson had some firepower on the bench he could call on and it was a pair of substitutes who scored two of the most famous goals in the club’s great history. Teddy Sheringham in the 91st minute and then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the 93rd both poked home from close range to spectacularly win it for the English side at the death.
3. Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid 2013/14
A same-city derby had never happened in a Champions League final before and the clash between the sides from the Spanish capital delivered the drama everyone was hoping for. Atletico were the underdogs against the superstars of Real but they took the lead through inspirational defender Diego Godin on 36 minutes. Diego Simeone’s men had an incredibly resolute defence and it looked like they were going to keep an heroic clean sheet until Real unleashed their own inspirational centre-back. Sergio Ramos, as he has done so many times before, produced a last minute goal and took the tie to extra-time. The late equaliser seemed to drain Atletico whilst boosting Real and the men in white scored three times in the added period through Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo, to complete the huge win.
2. AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona 1993/94
Classic finals are often closely contested affairs, but this does not fit into that category at all as Milan battered the ‘Dream Team’ of Barcelona in Athens. Barca had a scary-looking line-up which was led by Romario and Hristo Stoichkov in attack and anchored by the likes of Ronald Koeman and Pep Guardiola. Milan were no slouches but their preparations had been dreadful with Marco van basten and Gianluigi Lentini both injured and both Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta suspended. They were the underdogs, but they made a mockery of that label in Greece. Daniele Massaro put the Italians 2-0 up at half-time before Dejan Savicevic and Marcel Desailly doubled the score in the second stanza to complete the rout for Fabio Capello’s side.
1. Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan 2004/05
Not just the greatest Champions League final ever but one of the greatest matches in history and arguably the most impressive comeback the sport has ever seen. Other teams have recovered from 3-0 down before, but considering the respective line-ups and the huge stage they were on, it is all the more incredible. AC Milan boasted a side packed full of legends, from Maldini and Cafu at the back, through Pirlo and Kaka in midfield to Shevchenko and Crespo up front. Liverpool had Steve Finnan, Djimi Traore, Harry Kewell and Milan Baros in their starting line-up. It was no great surprise the Italians surged into a lead and thanks to a Maldini opener and two from Crespo they were 3-0 ahead at half-time- the game looked over. Then came a famous speech from Rafa Benitez in the Istanbul dressing room and an inspired second half display which saw Gerrard, Smicer and Alonso level the game in just 15 minutes. The game went to penalties where Jerzy Dudek was the final unlikely hero, saving an awful spot kick from Shevchenko to complete the amazing comeback.
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