Guardiola’s masterpiece and the start of Barcelona’s remarkable Champions League run are all included in this piece.
After the famous fightbacks performed by Liverpool and Manchester United we discussed in the first part, we listed similar features from Real Madrid and Barcelona in this acrticle.
• Guardiola’s masterpiece from 2011
• Atleti came really close last year
• Larsson turned it over in 2006
Both teams were down to 1-0 before turning the game over in the second half or in extra time, but before reviewing these exciting matches, we also have a title decider that saw one of the best displays of the Champions League finals ever. Some of the mobile betting audience might argue that Manchester United hardly had any chance against Barcelona in the 2011 final, but this was a masterpiece from the team of Pep Guardiola, and it has a place in the list of the best title deciders ever.
3. Barcelona-Manchester United 3-1 (2011)
Barcelona were clearly the favourites before the rematch of the 2009 final won by the Catalans 2-0, as the side put together by Guardiola was at its peak, thriving, playing dominant football and marching through Europe confidently. However, the fans of United were hoping that Sir Alex Ferguson would be able to name a line-up that can handle the pressure Barcelona put on their opponents.
Ferguson understandably fielded an unusually defensive side in the Wembley Stadium, with Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney matching Barca’s midfield triangle of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets. Antonio Valencia and Park Ji-sung were handed the task of protecting the back four on the wings and Javier Hernandez played as a lone striker and a target for long balls sent forward.
United were able to control the opening minutes and after that sat back, trying to absorb the pressure Barcelona put on them. Lionel Messi and co. dominated the game in the first half heavily, creating chances after chances and hardly giving the ball away. They duly took the lead with a goal from Pedro in the 27th minute, however the Red Devils equalized seven minutes later on the break. Rooney’s goal came against the run of play and against the odds provided by online sportsbooks in the EU, but did not upset the Blaugrana.
The Catalans continued to dominate after half-time and they performed an exhibition of total football. Messi, playing the role of the false nine, picked up the ball relatively far from the United backline, and with space in front of him to accelerate, marched forward to put the ball into the low left corner of Edwin van der Sar’s goal. David Villa added a second with a beautifully curled shot after 15 minutes of additional dominance to secure Barcelona’s third title in six years.
4. Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid 4-1 (2014)
Twelve months ago in Lisbon it seemed until the 92nd minute that Atletico Madrid can win the first Champions League title in club history, however they weren’t able to last until the end of injury time. Atletico’s manager, Diego Simeone made only one mistake that indirectly influenced the outcome of the game. He named his most valuable player, Diego Costa in the starting line-up, though he was struggling with an injury. The Brazilian born Spaniard had to be substituted after nine minutes, though having that extra option later would be enough for Atletico to win the final.
The disciplined, hard-working Colchoneros took the lead with a typical header from Diego Godin, and defended well after that. Real were desperately seeking an equalizer so they were pushing throughout the second half. All their attempts were missed our parried though, and Atletico only had to survive five minutes of stoppage time to lift the trophy. Had Simeone didn’t use all of their substitutions, they would have been able to burn vital seconds by making a change in injury time.
However the Argentine made three changes before – including one involving Costa just after the start of the game –, and Real were able to use all the extra minutes to force in an equalizer. Sergio Ramos scored with a header after a corner in the 93rd minute, and Atletico’s fate was sealed. They survived until overtime, but they were exhausted and Real put three past Thibaut Courtois, as Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo all scored, to win the first final of the Champions League era in overtime delivering La Decima.
5. Barcelona-Arsenal 2-1 (2006)
Just like Atletico, Arsenal also had a shot at capturing their first ever Champions League title in Paris after Sol Campbell took the lead for the Gunners with a header after a set piece. However, Arsenal were already down to ten men that time, after goalkeeper Jens Lehmann fouled Samuel Eto’o outside the penalty area in the 18th minute, stunning those who bet on sports in the UK.
Frank Rijkaard was cautious when picking his starting eleven, fielding both Edmilson and Mark van Bommel to Barca’s midfield leaving out Xavi and Iniesta. However, with a one goal deficit and enjoying a one man advantage, he took off his two defensive midfielders and sent Iniesta and Henrik Larsson in. Deploying the Swede was a decisive act, as he provided an assist for Eto’o 15 minutes after entering the game and also set up Juliano Belletti’s goal ten more minutes later.
After turning the game over, Barcelona were controlling the match and playing confidently for the closing minutes to secure the second European Cup/Champions League title in club history. That success initiated the period that brought three European titles for the Catalans in six years, and which can be extended to four in ten, if Luis Enrique’s team will be able to beat Juventus this weekend in Berlin.