The UEFA Champions League final is one of the greatest sporting events in the world with an estimated half a billion people viewing it worldwide every year. With such attention, the teams are always under pressure to put up the performance of a lifetime because not many people get the chance to witness such a spectacle. Now, it takes the best teams to reach the UCL final but that doesn’t always determine how epic a game will be. The most epic moments are generated when teams beat the odds and emotions hit their peak with super goals and epic comebacks. Here is a look at the most epic finals since the competition was rebranded as the UCL in 1992.
AC Milan VS. Liverpool- 2005
With the likes of Cafu, Kaka and Maldini in the lineup, AC Milan were the favourites to win the match and no one thought Liverpool would amount to anything having struggled to qualify for the match in the first place. The match started as expected and AC Milan scored three goals in the first half. The much was pretty much finished until Steven Gerard headed a goal home at the beginning of the second half. Liverpool managed to stun Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan with the big names on the pitch sending the stadium wild. A perfect save by Dudek saw Liverpool win the match 3:2 on penalties making it the greatest comeback in Champions League history. The locals said Liverpool fans drank Istanbul dry that day.
Barcelona VS. Arsenal- 2006
Arsenal desperately needed to win the UCL in 2006 which would make their first UCL trophy since the competition was rebranded. Arsenal had given the best fight in the competition beating Real Madrid, Juventus and Villareal without conceding a single goal. Arsenal started off on the wrong foot with goalkeeper Jens Lehmann getting sent off for a challenge on Samuel Eto’o. The 10-man Arsenal still managed to get the lead through Sol Campbell but Barcelona got one back through Eto’o and s second through Juliano Belleti sealing Barca’s second UCL and a huge disappointment for Arsenal who hasn’t been to the final again since then.
Manchester United VS. Chelsea- 2008
This was a real battle of the Titans which marked the first-ever All-English UCL final and the first ever to be played in Russia. United had just beaten that season’s favourites Barcelona in the semis while Chelsea knocked out England’s all-time UCL winners Liverpool. Being Chelsea’s first-ever final, tensions were high. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring with a goal in the 26th minute only to be cancelled out by Didier Drogba before the first half ended. The tense second half didn’t bear any goals; Just a red card for Drogba who slapped Nemanja Vidic. Ronaldo failed to score but so did John Terry causing the Penalties to move to the sixth and seventh which United won when Van Der Sar saved a Nicklas Anelka penalty.
Real Madrid VS. Atletico Madrid-2014
This was the first time the UCL final was played by teams from the same city and Real Madrid were clear favourites but Atletico wasn’t gonna be easy on their city rivals. Diego Simeone’s defensive record was put to the test once again after he knocked out AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea. With nine UCL trophies to their name at the time, Real needed to win it to secure the “La Decima” (10th tittle) for the Bernabeu. Diego Godin scored for Atletico in the 36th minute and the team used their defensive prowess to secure the victory until the 93rd minute. In the very last minute of extra time, Sergio Ramos headed a goal home for Real and the game was on. In extra time, Real Madrid came back to life scoring three goals to win the Match 4:1 in one of the most epic comebacks in the competition’s history.
Real Madrid VS. Atletico Madrid- 2016
Real Madrid came into the final hungry having last won the competition in 2002. Real Madrid was hunting for their 11th title but Atletico had every reason to redeem themselves after their disappointment in 2014. Atletico had won the La Liga that season and wouldn’t allow their greatest rivals to deny them their biggest trophy. Real Madrid got the first goal through Sergio Ramos who was obviously offside but there was no VAR then so the goal stood. Atletico got a penalty in the 46th minute but Fernando Torres failed to convert leading to a tense stadium. Yannick Carrasco saved Atletico Madrid in the 79th minute when it seemed as if all was won for Real Madrid. The match went into a penalty shootout and a miss by Juanfran saw Cristiano Ronaldo seal the win for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid VS. Liverpool- 2022
A Sergio Ramos tackle on Mohammed Salah (Liverpool’s best player that season) saw the Egyptian taken off with a dislocated shoulder and a disheartened Liverpool side lose 3:1 to Madrid in Kyiv. That made the 2022 final a must-win for Liverpool who came chasing a treble after missing out on the EPL trophy by a single point to Manchester City. Liverpool won the match in all ways but goals as the 59th minute Vinicius Junior goal ensured that Mohammed Salah and Jurgen Klopp never got their revenge. Madrid on the other hand got their 14th trophy is a cold manner winning the match with only two shots on target which they put to good use and acrobatic saves from Thibaut Courtois.
Manchester United VS. Bayern Munich- 1999
This is another comeback that the UCL will never forget. Bayern had secured the first goal in the match after just six minutes and it seemed as if the game was won as they held onto their lead until the 90th minute. However, a bottom corner goal by Ryan Giggs just 30 seconds into a 3-minute injury time brought the dead game back to life. Then came the magic of Fergie time through Oleguner Solskjaer who poked a corner into the Bayern roof just 43 seconds before the match ended. The officials had already decorated the trophy in Bayern colours by the 90th minute. The referee described the roar of United fans after the match as a roar of lions as United secured their second UCL trophy.
Chelsea VS. Bayern Munich- 2012
Like Arsenal in 2006, Chelsea desperately needed to win their first Champions League trophy having lost to Manchester United in 2008. Bayern Munich were the favourites coming into the match because they had some of the best players in the world and they had knocked giants like Real Madrid and the 2011 champions Barcelona. Bayern was also the first team to play the Champions League in their home ground since the competition was rebranded.
Chelsea had a bad domestic season having finished the league outside the top six and having fired their manager leading to assistant coach Roberto Di Mateo leading the team in Munich. Chelsea put up the best defence in the history of the competition holding Bayern off until the 83rd minute when Thomas Muller got one for Bayern. Didier Drogba then stunned Manuel Neuer with a hard-fought goal in the 88th minute. Chelsea continued their defence stunts through extra time and two Petr Cech saves in the Penalty shootout ensured a first-ever UCL trophy for the Blues.
AC Milan VS. Liverpool- 2007
Having stunned AC Milan in Istanbul two years earlier, the tensions coming into this game were high. AC Milan fans were further angered by the UEFA claims that some Liverpool fans had entered the Olympic Stadium in Athens illegally with the UEFA spokesman calling Liverpool fans the worst in Europe. Liverpool were still the underdogs though because Milan had a similarly strong team as what they had in 2007. The man of the day was Filippo Inzaghi who score a goal in the first half and a second in the second half before Liverpool could equalize. While Dirk Kuyt got one back for Liverpool, their 2005 magical comeback did not repeat and thus Milan got their revenge on Rafael Benitez’s men.
Barcelona VS. Manchester United- 2011
The Match went down as the biggest disappointment in Manchester United’s history because the club had the chance to win the UCL in England as the competition was held at the New Wembley Stadium. Coming into the finals, United had beaten their 2008 rivals Chelsea, Shalke 04 and Marseille. Barcelona had a more difficult run having to beat their archrivals Real Madrid, Arsenal and Shakhtar Donetsk. United had every reason to beat Barcelona, including revenge for the loss Barca inflicted on them in 2009.
Both teams had won their respective leagues and with Wayne Rooney equalizing for United after they went down in the first half, Wembley was tense going into the second half. Alex Fergusson’s team capitulated under the pressure though allowing Barcelona to disappoint the biggest club in English football at Wembley.