The best club competition in the world comes to end on Saturday when Liverpool take on Tottenham Hotspur in the first all-English Champions League Final since 2008. So to get you in the mood, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane with some of the greatest finales ever played in the competition. So without further ado, here’s our Top 5 European Cup Finals.
5) Bayern Munich 1-1 Chelsea (3-4 on penalties) – 2012
The culmination of an extraordinary love/hate affair with the Champions League, Chelsea headed to Munich in 2012 as massive underdogs. Not only were they playing a far superior Bayern side in their own backyard, Chelsea were also without four first team members through suspension – all of who would have probably started the game. But Chelsea had played the whole tournament as underdogs, only just scrapping through the group stages, changing manager half way through the competition and somehow coming from behind with 10-men to beat Barcelona in the Semi-Finals.
In the Final, Bayern dominated proceedings and spurred a whole host of chances until they finally broke the deadlock, with what seemed to be an 83rd minute winner from Thomas Muller. But Chelsea had Drogba. Ever the man for the big occasion, his 88th minute header took it to extra time before he struck the winning penalty (via giving away a saved penalty in Extra Time), giving Chelsea the greatest night in their history. For pure drama and narrative, Chelsea’s victory will live long in the memory.
4) Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United – 2011
The greatest club team of all time? Sir Alex Ferguson certainly thought the 2009 Barcelona side might be; “Nobody’s given us a hiding like that,” the United manager said after the final whistle. “In my time as manager, it’s the best team I’ve faced.”
A rematch of the 2009 Final, United somehow made it to Half Time level after Wayne Rooney scored against the run-of-play following Pedro’s opener at Wembley. But after the break, Guardiola’s side handed out a passing masterclass as Lionel Messi and David Villa capped a 3-1 win for their side.
3) Real Madrid 4-1 Atlético Madrid (AET) – 2014
The most recent game on our list, Real Madrid were looking for their much coveted tenth European crown, or ‘La Decima’ as it was labelled. Their opponents? Home city rivals Atlético Madrid, of course. Diego Simeone’s Atlético had just won the league in astonishing fashion but were playing in only their second ever European Cup Final, so the odds were even.
Diego Godín put Atlético in front in the first half and an unthinkable double seemed a reality until that moment; Sergio Ramos rose from a corner to plant a header past Thibaut Courtois as the clock read 92:48. It was a heartbreak Atléti never recovered from, and in Extra Time Real scored three times courtesy of Gareth Bale, Marcelo, and Cristiano Ronaldo. La Decima had been achieved in the cruellest way imaginable.
2) Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich – 1999
There are very few games in football you remember where you were when they happened; the 1999 Champions League Final will always be one of them. Manchester United and Bayern Munich had played each other twice already earlier in the group stage of the competition. Both games ending in a draw, so the final was always likely to be tight affair. And so it proves. Bayern went 1-0 up thanks to a free kick from Mario Basler… and the rest? History.
United won a corner just as the fourth official indicated three minutes of injury time. Beckham’s corner was cleared only as far as Ryan Giggs and the Welshman’s tame shot landed right into the path of Teddy Sheringham, who turned the effort into the bottom corner. 1-1. Less than 30 seconds after the subsequent kick-off, United forced another corner. Beckham’s corner found the head of Sheringham, who nodded the ball down into the path of Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Destiny? Treble.
1) AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (2-3 on penalties) – 2005
Unfortunately, even Liverpool’s most ardent rivals can’t argue with this one. United had pulled off something incredible back in 1999, but the 2005 Champions League Final has to go down as the greatest ever, with Liverpool pulling off a miracle in Istanbul after being 3-0 down at half time.
Goals from Paolo Maldini and a Hernan Crespo double seemed to have put the game to bed. But an inspired Steven Gerrard pulled one back, before Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso scored goals in just seven minutes to level the tie. Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko missed their penalties in the subsequent shootout and Liverpool triumphed in the most memorable Champions League game of all time.
What are you predictions for the Liverpool – Spurs game? Let us know in the comments below and check out what we think are the Best European Football City Breaks.