The closing game of the European club season will be held this weekend, and before that we have a look at the best finals of the Champions League era.
The biggest game of club football is very close now, and we prepare for the occasion with extended content, focusing on past finals, players, managers, tactics and venues.
• Liverpool came back from 3-0 down
• Substitutes have saved Man United
• Two remarkable fightbacks
In this piece we will list the most remarkable finals of the Champions League era. When picking the matches, we were focusing mainly on the excitement with the most dominant performances being the subject of another article. Anyone who bets on matches at online sportsbooks in the EU will find some exceptions of course, but we could not leave out particular games for understandable reasons.
1. Liverpool-Milan 3-3 (2005)
One of the most amazing football games ever started like a serious trashing for Liverpool. In Istanbul Milan took the lead in the first minute of the game with Paolo Maldini’s shot from a rebound, following a cross from a set piece. Milan then took Liverpool apart on the break in the first half, however the Reds were unlucky not to get a penalty while still 1-0 with the Rossoneri doubling their lead just seconds later.
With 3-0 down at half time, Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez sent in Dietmar Hamann switching from 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2. To limit the damage was an understandable strategic goal, the majority of the mobile betting audience might agree with that. However, as the chants of the supporters inspired the Reds, with the Italians became far too lazy after having such a big lead after 45 minutes, Steven Gerrard and co. were able to put three goals past Milan’s Brazilian goalkeeper Dida in six minutes.
Gerrard, who appeared as a central midfielder, a number ten and even as a right back in different stages of the game, started the fightback himself with a header after the cross of Norwegian left wing-back, John Arne Riise. Two minutes later, Vladimir Smicer, who came in for the injured Harry Kewell halfway through the first half, found the low right corner of Dida’s goal with a clever long range shot. Liverpool were thriving and seconds later Gerrard won a penalty against Gennaro Gattuso. Though Dida saved after a poor shot from Xabi Alonso, the Spaniard converted the rebound and the game was even.
Liverpool had the momentum and they were playing confidently. Though Milan recovered for extra time and had a handful of chances to seal the game, the Merseyside outfit defended bravely, following the examples of polish goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek and homegrown hero Jamie Carragher, denying Andriy Shevchenko from scoring several times. After 120 minutes, with a heroic performance from Dudek, Liverpool won the penalty shootout to seize their fifth European Cup/Champions League title after an unforgettable game.
2. Manchester United-Bayern Munich 2-1 (1999)
Manchester United were the most dominant side of Europe in the spring of 1999, still they have found themselves in an awkward situation before the final to be played in Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium. With Paul Scholes and Roy Keane both being suspended because of the accumulation of yellow cards collected during the campaign, the Red Devils weren’t able to field the midfield that was the best of the world at the time.
Alex Ferguson (no knight then), had to deploy David Beckham to the centre of the pitch with Ryan Giggs playing on the right and Jesper Blomqvist on the left, giving up the game plan helped them to win the Premier League and the FA Cup that year. Nicky Butt completed the midfield four and it was no surprise that Bayern Munich were controlling the game after taking the lead with Mario Basler’s free kick in the 6th minute.
Man United worked hard and tried everything to find a way to Oliver Kahn’s goal through the five-man Bayern defence, but missing their well-functioning system with Beckham and Giggs playing on the wings providing crosses for Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, they were struggling for 90 minutes. United have raised the pressure for the closing minutes with Bayern’s active players only concentrating to absorb it, and those on the bench preparing for the celebration.
Then, with the Red Devils encamped around Bayern’s box, Manchester’s two substitute strikers, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, converted their chances in the 91st and the 93rd minutes shocking German fans and those who bet on sports in the EU. The Old Trafford outfit turned the game around in two minutes, completing the treble and arguably the most incredible season of club history.
After the astonishing achievements of the English teams, Spanish sides will take over in the second part of the article with clubs from the Albion usually handed the loser’s role. Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will also appear in that piece, together with Manchester United and Arsenal.