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The Greatest Champions League Semifinals (Part III)

Andrés Iniesta, Overtime score

After Milan gave a footballing lecture to Man United, Barcelona established themselves as the number one power in Europe.

After an era supervised by Arrigo Sacchi and then Fabio Capello in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, AC Milan emerged once again as the leading force in European football in the 2000s. Carlo Ancelotti was the coach of the Rossoneri then, who won two European Cups while playing in Sacchi’s midfield alongside Dutch maestro Frank Rijkaard. Milan made it into three Champions League finals between 2003 and 2007 winning two of them and losing one that was virtually won in the first half already.


• A lecture of football
• The most controversial semi
• Barca taking over Milan

Yes, the latter one was in Istambul against Liverpool in 2005, when the Reds fought back from a three goal deficit in six minutes and went on to win the Champions League trophy on penalties stunning most of who bet on sports in the EU. That match has been recalled rarely as a Milan masterpiece however, the Italians were superior in the first half. Two years later they did something similar on the way to the final in a match that is often referred as a footballing lecture gave to Manchester United.

AC Milan v Manchester United, 2007

Milan-Man Utd 2007
After the thrilling first leg at Old Trafford which was won by United 3-2 via Wayne Rooney’s injury time goal, nearly everyone who bet at online sportsbooks in the EU expected that the reverse leg will be an exciting, close encounter. Milan, featuring the famous midfield diamond of Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Kaka, were favourites to win of course, but many expected an all English final as Liverpool met Chelsea in the other semifinal.

It ended in a though defeat however, since Milan performed one of the best matches of the Ancelotti era. The two creators, Kaka and Seedorf both scored in the first half after clever low shots from eighteen yards, and as Cristiano Ronaldo was owned by Gattuso, United were basically helpless. Milan totally controlled the game and in the second half when the visitors were desperately looking for some consolation, Alberto Gilardino, who came in for Filippo Inzaghi, put the third past Edwin van der Sar.

Then in the final, Milan demonstrated against Liverpool that they are clearly the best side in Europe delivering a similar performance to that was shown in the semis and striking back for the things happened in Istanbul two years earlier. They won the game 2-1 and secured the Rossoneri’s seventh European Cup. And actually that was it for Milan, as they only made it into the quarterfinals once since then and never played in the semis again.

Barcelona v Chelsea, 2009

In the second part of the decade Barcelona took over Milan’s role establishing themselves as the number one power in European football. They won the Champions League final with Frank Rijkaard as head coach in 2006 and they went all the way in Pep Guardiola’s first season in 2008-2009 as well. To reach the final they had to eliminate Chelsea and after the English side, managed by Guus Hiddink then, played a goalless draw at Camp Nou in the first leg, it seemed like a hard task. It turned out to be hard indeed, in a match that is recognized as one of the most controversial games of Champions League history.

Ballack Barcelona-Chelsea 2009
Barcelona were favourites according to trends of the internet betting in the EU, but Chelsea started confidently and they took the lead in the ninth minute when Ghana international Michael Essien scored a scorcher from 20 yards. Barcelona controlled the ball as usually but the match was in Chelsea’s hands, who were dangerous on the break, especially after Barca went down to ten men with Eric Abidal’s exclusion.

The Blues’ players were regular guests in the visitors’ box and they appealed for penalties as many as four times at Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo, who awarded them none. Barcelona were seeking a goal desperately to advance but this did not come until the 93rd minute when Andres Iniesta equalized from Barcelona’s only shot on target in the game. Remarkable pictures from the match are those depicting an angry Michael Ballack racing the referee and yelling at him in rage, as well as Didier Drogba complaining to the camera after the final whistle was blown.

Ovrebo received death threats after the game and several Chelsea players were banned, but all this did not bother Barcelona who defeated Manchester United 2-0 in the final that was played at the Stadio Olympico in Roma. This success was a declaration towards teams, fans and the online betting audience about that Barcelona will be a regular in the later stages of the tournament and they have been maintaining that since.

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