The UEFA Champions League final is the pinnacle of club football and the sporting world will stop to watch as Chelsea and Manchester City bid to be crowned the continent’s finest this weekend.
This weekend’s clash sees the two Premier League rivals bid to become champions of Europe, in the third all-English final and eighth final contested between teams from the same country.
Manchester City will head in as favourites with leading bookmakers like Betway as they look to seal a historic treble on what is the club’s first appearance in the final. Pep Guardiola’s men will come up against a Chelsea team who have reached this stage twice before, winning a maiden Champions League crown in 2012.
Ahead of what promises to be a fascinating match-up in Porto, we’ve decided to look back at 10 of the most iconic Champions League final moments ever.
Savicevic’s genius stuns Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona ‘Dream Team’ (1994)
AC Milan’s 1994 triumph against Barcelona remains one of the most iconic finals of all time, the Rossoneri heading into the clash with their preparations in chaos against the overwhelming favourites.
Milan were missing names including Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Marco van Basten, but upset the odds to stun Barcelona in the most convincing final win of the Champions League era.
Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ had conquered all before them to win four consecutive league titles and a first European Cup two years earlier, but the Catalans crumbled in Athens as Milan ran riot to secure an emphatic 4-0 success.
Daniele Massaro scored twice in the first-half, but it was Savicevic’s moment of magic that remains ingrained in the memory, audaciously lifting a finish over Andoni Zubizarreta to make it three.
When Dejan Savićević scored this insane goal vs Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League final. pic.twitter.com/VEKPo359Rv
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) March 19, 2020
Marcel Desailly beat the offside trap to score Milan’s fourth, the biggest winning margin in Champions League final history.
Kluivert becomes youngest ever final scorer to crown Ajax champions (1995)
Ajax returned to the summit of European football in the mid-nineties, an incredible collection of young players enjoying an unforgettable season under Louis van Gaal to finish the league season unbeaten and lift the Champions League.
Hopes of a dynasty similar to their consecutive European Cup successes in the 1970s were ended as the Dutch side were cherry-picked by clubs across the continent, though for that season Ajax reigned supreme after edging holders Milan in the final.
It was one of the club’s most precocious talents that made the difference, teenage substitute Patrick Kluivert prodding home a winner to become the youngest ever final scorer, aged just 18 years and 327 days.
‘And Solskjaer has won it’ (1999)
Manchester United’s 1999 final success is difficult to beat when it comes to pulsating heart-in-mouth drama, the Red Devils snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with two late, late goals against Bayern Munich.
The Germans had dominated for much of the final and led through Mario Basler’s sixth-minute free-kick as the final entered stoppage-time, only for Teddy Sheringham to turn home after Bayern failed to clear a corner to seemingly send the showpiece into extra-time.
That proved just the start of an incredible conclusion however, as Sheringham’s flicked header from another David Beckham corner was met by the outstretched toe of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just moments later, sparking a euphoric eruption from the travelling Mancunians behind the goal.
Just when all hope appeared lost, United turned had the tie with Solskjaer’s winner sealing a historic treble for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Zidane’s zenith at Hampden (2002)
The greatest players deliver on the biggest stage and the 2002 final belonged to the finest footballer of a generation, Zinedine Zidane writing himself into the competition’s history with arguably the most iconic final goal.
Zidane had arrived from Juventus as part of Real Madrid’s Galactico project in a world-record deal the previous summer, ending his debut season in the Spanish capital with a moment of inspiration.
The Spanish side were faced with determined underdogs Bayer Leverkusen who had upset the odds to reach the final, the decider poised at 1-1 after Lucio had cancelled out Raul’s early opener for Real.
The Frenchman often appeared to possess an ability to slow time down when on the confines of a pitch, a trait perhaps never more evident than when Zidane and his iconic Adidas boots lashed home Roberto Carlos’ hoisted cross on the volley to score one of his greatest goals.
Dudek evokes inner Grobbelaar as Liverpool come back from the brink (2005)
Liverpool’s incredible Istanbul comeback against AC Milan stands as the greatest Champions League final of all time, a night of unmissable action that even the finest script writers would have struggled to create.
Milan’s collapse from a three-goal advantage as the Reds’ roared back in a frantic six-minute spell lives long in the memory, with Steven Gerrard at the centre of Liverpool’s thrilling comeback.
Amongst the heroes of the hour was goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek who – after making an astonishing double save to deny Andriy Shevchenko in extra-time – made another telling contribution in the resulting shoot-out.
Under instruction from Jamie Carragher, Dudek copied the wobbly-legged routine made famous by former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, saving from Andrea Pirlo and Shevchenko as Rafael Benitez’s side were crowned champions.
Terry’s tears after slipping in Moscow (2008)
The home-grown hero and captain of Chelsea, handed the chance to take the fifth penalty and win his side a maiden Champions League crown following a gripping all-English final in Moscow, it appeared the stuff of dreams for John Terry.
That dream turned rapidly into a cruel nightmare, however, as the centre-back slipped upon contact on a rain-soaked pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium, his penalty cannoning off the post and leading to sudden death.
Edwin van der Sar’s save from Nicolas Anelka later crowned Manchester United as winners of the Champions League, leaving a despondent Terry inconsolable after spurning the chance to win Europe’s biggest prize for his beloved Blues.
Tiki-take takes over (2011)
“They’re the best in Europe, no question about that. In my time as a manager, I would say they’re the best team we’ve faced. Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that. It’s not easy when you’ve been well beaten like that to think another way. No one has given us a hiding like that.”
Sir Alex Ferguson’s words after Manchester United were beaten by Barcelona in 2011, the second final meeting between the teams in three seasons with both times the Catalans proving successful.
Rather than a single moment, it was several, pass after pass as Pep Guardiola’s side outclassed the Red Devils in arguably the most complete final performance the Champions League has witnessed.
Drogba-inspired Chelsea beat Bayern in their own backyard (2012)
Few gave an undermanned and understrength Chelsea any chance ahead of the 2012 final, the west London side missing four players through suspension and facing the behemoth that is Bayern Munich in their own Allianz Arena.
Chelsea defended with determination before Thomas Muller’s goal seven minutes from time handed the German giants the advantage, leaving the Blues staring down the barrel as the full-time whistle approached.
As so often had been the case in his Chelsea career and on his final appearance for the club, Didier Drogba rose to the occasion to equalise with seconds remaining, powering home a header to force the final into extra-time.
Drogba then stepped up to score the decisive kick in the resulting shoot-out, as Chelsea were crowned champions of Europe for the first-ever time.
Ramos rescues Real’s bid for La Decima (2014)
Real Madrid’s pursuit of the Champions League is an annual obsession, though Los Blancos’ bid for a record-extending 10th title and the fabled La Decima took their fixation to new heights.
Over a decade had passed since Zidane’s brilliance sealed a ninth crown at Hampden Park, before Carlo Ancelotti’s troops reached the 2014 final against Atletico Madrid – the first ever showpiece between teams from the same city.
Diego Godin’s first-half goal looked to have won Atletico a maiden European crown against their arch-rivals with just seconds of stoppage-time remaining, before Sergio Ramos powered home a header in one of the most dramatic conclusions to a Champions League final.
Ancelotti’s side overpowered their stunned opponents in extra-time to win 4-1, Ramos’ rescue act the catalyst for the club’s historic 10th crown.
Bale’s brilliance downs Liverpool (2018)
Loris Karius’ capitulation in this same fixture could well have featured in our list of iconic final moments, but Gareth Bale’s incredible impact off the bench deserves its place amongst our tributes.
Bale had been a notable omission from the Real Madrid side as they faced Liverpool in Kyiv, though was called upon with the scores poised at 1-1.
Just two minutes after his arrival from the bench, the Welsh winger produced one of the most glorious goals the Champions League has ever seen, a perfect moment of technique and athleticism to execute an exquisite overhead kick beyond Karius.
Bale later netted a second to seal Real Madrid’s record-extending 13th Champions League title, a third in succession for Zinedine Zidane’s dominant outfit and fourth in just five campaigns.
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The post 10 of the most iconic Champions League final moments ever first appeared on The Football Faithful.
Author: Harry Diamond