In the last 22 years the teams had to fight epic battles to reach the Champions League finals.
The semis of the Champions League start this week, and this means that the mobile betting audience is even more excited than in a normal week of the season. Semifinals are usually the most interesting stage of a football tournament, as we can observe the four best teams in several games. Interestingly, the inaugural season of the Champions League had no semifinals as the winners of the two groups met in the title decider back in 1993, when Marseille beat Milan with Basile Boli’s single goal.
• Fantastic moments
• Unforgettable goals
• Historic battles
The next season featured semifinals played over one leg where Milan dispatched AS Monaco with a 3-0 score on home soil and Barcelona did exactly the same with Porto. The two-legged semis were introduced the next year and since then it has become a highlight of the international football season. Classic fixtures and unforgettable moments characterized this phase of the tournament, and we picked the best ones to prepare for this year’s matches.
Ajax v Bayern Munich, 1995
In a season when Louis van Gaal’s Ajax went all the way to the final to beat title holders Milan with Patrick Kluivert’s goal in Vienna, they had to put Bayern aside on the run as well. Frank Rijkaard and co. was already in good position after a 0-0 in the Olympiastadion in the first leg, but they were simply instrumental in Amsterdam. The smart number ten, Jari Litmanen took the lead in the eleventh minute and for once Bayern were able to equalize in the 36th with Marcel Witeczek’s goal.
The visitors were about to advance for five minutes, when Ajax switched gear. Nigerian international Finidi George squeezed the ball with the outside of his right foot to Sven Scheuer’s left hand corner and the home team put two more past Bayern’s keeper in a seven-minute long period. Mehmet Scholl converted a penalty with fifteen minutes to go but Marc Overmars restored the three-goal lead in the 88th and Ajax went through with a 5-2 scoreline and one of the best performances of the season.
Juventus v Ajax, 1997
Two years later title-holder Juventus entertained Ajax in the rematch of the 1996 Champions League final that was won by the Italians on penalties. Juve had the upper hand already in the first leg played in Amsterdam winning 2-1. After that in Turin the Zebras, led by the marvelous Zinedine Zidane, simply thrashed Ajax that was stripped from its biggest assets by that time.
Juventus scored two in the first half as Attilio Lombardo and Christian Vieri both have found Edwin van der Sar’s net. The home team continued to play entertaining football in the second half too, and after Mario Melchiot scored the visitor’s only goal of the game, Zidane made fool of the Ajax defence setting up Nicola Amoruso’s goal with a superb move before scoring himself. Juve won 4-1 and went on to play the final in Munich, where they suffered a defeat from Borussia Dortmund that shocked many who bet on sports in the EU.
Juventus v Manchester United, 1999
On their way to the final, Man United had to deal with arguably the most dominant side of the Champions League in the late ‘90s, Juventus, the team reaching three finals in a row between 1996 and 1998. In the first leg the Italians took the lead in the first half at Old Trafford, and they were already settled for a brilliant result when club legend Ryan Giggs equalized in the 92nd minute.
That was still a very good outcome for the Turin-based team though. Then after the opening eleven minutes of the reverse fixture, the management might as well have started to book the flight to Barcelona for the final after Filippo Inzaghi scored two goals from Zidane’s crosses. However, Manchester started to work their way back before another fifteen minutes would have passed, and after Roy Keane’s goal was followed by Dwight Yorke’s, the visitors were about to advance before half time.
In the second half the pulsating and stirring play continued, however only the English team were able to find the back of the net again, when Andy Cole scored after an impressive dribble of his striking partner, Yorke. Thus United qualified for the unforgettable final in Barcelona: though gambling news were about to report that Bayern captured the European Cup for the fourth time, Manchester fought back in injury time and wrote history.
This magical tournament provided a lot of remarkable moments for fans and the online betting users as well and though it is impossible to list them all, we try to collect the most outstanding ones. In the next part we will continue with the best semis of the 2000s including the one when Valencia blew Barcelona to smithereens in 2000 and the el Clasico from 2002.