The 2012/13 UEFA Champions League makes a long awaited return tonight (Tuesday), with Real Madrid, AC Milan and Arsenal just three of the big names in action when the first whistles are blown.
Chelsea begin their defence of the trophy on Wednesday with a clash against Italian giants Juventus, and there is plenty of optimism at Stamford Bridge after last year’s victory over Bayern Munich in Germany.
That match, which saw Didier Drogba slot home a penalty to break German hearts, was one of the great finals in the twenty years of the re-formatted European Cup.
And, to celebrate tonight’s big kick-off, GMF remembers five of the best finals over the past two decades as teams begin their challenge for ‘old big ears’. Think we’ve missed a match out? Don’t forget to leave your thoughts at the bottom….
AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (2-3 on pens) – 2005
The greatest final of them all? Liverpool came back from three goals down to force the game into extra-time, and then won the penalty shootout with Jerzy Dudek the hero.
Paolo Maldini and a brace from Hernan Crespo appeared to be enough for the Serie ‘A’ giants, but a rousing second-half performance with goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso turned the game completely.
Serginho and Andrea Pirlo missed Milan’s opening two penalties, but it was Andriy Shevchenko’s fifth effort which eventually handed Reds boss Rafa Benitez victory.
Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich – 1999
If Liverpool’s fightback from three goals was dramatic, then Manchester United’s injury-time double against Bayern Munich was on another scale entirely.
The Red Devils were behind early, when Mario Basler’s free-kick went around the wall and left Peter Schmeichel rooted to the spot.
However, two late David Beckham corners proved to be the difference, with Teddy Sheringham hooking home the first on 91 minutes before nodding down to for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who poked home the winner two minutes later.
Chelsea 1-1 Bayern Munich (4-3 on pens) – 2012
Last year’s showpiece at the Allianz Arena certainly lived up to the pre-match hype, with a defensive-minded Blues keeping Bayern at bay for long spells before responding when a goal was needed.
Thomas Muller appeared to put the Bundesliga outfit on cause for victory when he headed home at the far post on 83 minutes, but Didier Drogba had other ideas, and his 88th minute effort pulled Di Matteo’s side level in spectacular fashion.
Petr Cech saved Arjen Robben’s penalty in extra-time, but it was misses from Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger that gave Drogba his legendary moment during the shootout.
Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal – 2006
Will the Gunners ever get closer to lifting the famous trophy than this, when ten-men almost proved enough against the mighty Barcelona.
Jens Lehmann saw red after just ten minutes in Paris, with the German stopper sent-off for bringing down Samuel Eto’o outside the box. It was Arsenal who took a first-half lead however, with Sol Campbell heading home the opener.
It took the Blaugrana until the 76th minute to get back in the game, with Samuel Eto’o firing past Manuel Almunia before Juliano Belletti repeated the trick four minutes later. The dream was dead.
AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona – 1994
When the giants of Italian and Spanish football went head-to-head in Athens on May 18th, 1994, few could have predicted the 4-0 scoreline that was to follow.
Barca began the match as favourites, but the formbook was ripped apart in 90 minutes as Daniele Massaro scored twice for the Rossoneri in the first-half.
More followed in the second period, as goals from Dejan Savicevic and Marcel Desailly secured the trophy for Fabio Capello. Pep Guardiola and Romario could hardly believe what happened.