Greatest ever Champions League group games

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Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo inspired last-gasp win over Manchester City in their opening Champions League Group D clash was one of the most exciting ever group games in the competition.

Roberto Mancini’s side took the lead twice, but surrendered it and went behind in a madcap final five minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu, giving the watching fans a veritable feast of compelling European football.

It was a game that got GMF thinking about some of the best matches we have witnessed at this stage of the competition and it was incredibly enjoyable, so we have decided to share it you, the dear reader.

Here they are:

Manchester United 3-3 Barcelona, 1998

This match was all about David Beckham. The former England captain was in his pomp at the time and there really has never been anyone who can bend it like him.

He did it twice in the first half of United’s first group game in their treble-winning season; first was for Ryan Giggs to head home at the back post, the second was for Andy Cole to acrobatically draw a save from the Barça keeper Ruud Hesp, only for Paul Scholes to slam home the rebound.

Sonny Anderson pulled one back just after half-time and Giovanni equalised from the penalty spot on the hour mark. Just four minutes later Beckham produced a fantastic trademark free-kick from 30 yards, but he Catalonians would not be denied and Luis Enrique despatched a second penalty after Nicky Butt was dismissed for a handball on the line.

MANCHESTER UTD 3-3 BARCELONE (1998) by -metropolitan09-  

Barcelona 3-3 Manchester United, 1999

These two really knew how to put on a show in the 1998-99 version of the competition, serving up another classic at Camp Nou. Sonny Anderson scored again for the home side before Dwight Yorke equalised from the edge of the area.

Yorke and Andy Cole then combined brilliantly to score a famous goal – a dummy and quick one two on the edge of the box cut open the Barça defence for the latter to slot home. Then Rivaldo bamboozled Peter Schmeichel with a free-kick, only for Yorke to head Sir Alex Ferguson’s side back in front.

The great Brazilian then made sure the score would be a repeat of the corresponding fixture at Old Trafford by finding space between the United centre-backs, chesting the ball up and burying a spectacular overhead kick.

Barcelona v man united 25 11 98 by ukash56  

Hamburg 4-4 Juventus, 2000

It was a quite incredible match at Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion and the lead changed three times in the space of the 90 minutes.

First Juventus took an early lead through centre-back Igor Tudor’s header, but Ghana striker Tony Yeboah got the home side back into it a little over ten minutes later. Then Italian striker Filippo Inzaghi took over, scoring twice to give the visitors a 1-3 lead.

The Bundesliga side then embarked on a quite remarkable comeback, first through Mehdi Mahdavikia with a little under half an hour to go. The Iranian was fouled for the penalty to bring his side level, which was despatched by goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt, and then turned provider for Niko Kovac to give the home side an incredible lead.

They were denied a famous win, however, when Inzaghi went down easily in the box to win very a soft penalty, with just two minutes to go. The lethal striker took the kick himself to salvage a draw and take home the match ball from a memorable game.


Inter Milan 1-5 Arsenal, 2003

One of the great away performances from an English side in the Champions League, the Gunners dismantled Inter at the San Siro with a classic display of counter-attacking football to gain some revenge for the 3-0 humbling they were handed by the Italians at Highbury.

Thierry Henry orchestrated the win, giving Arsene Wenger’s team the lead midway through the first half, but an undeserved, deflected equaliser from Christian Vieri made sure it would be level at the half.

Arsenal came out firing in the second period and re-took the lead through Freddie Ljungberg early on, tapping in from Henry’s cross. What could have been a nervy final five minutes for the Gunners was eased by a fantastic solo goal from their talismanic Frenchman, before his compatriot Robert Pires and Brazilian Edu made sure the rout was complete.


Liverpool 3-1 Olympiacos

Liverpool went into this one, their final group game, needing to win by two clear goals to avoid being knocked out of the competition, but it did not start well. An early period of pressure did not produce a goal and the sucker punch came when Rivaldo curled in a free-kick on 26 minutes, leaving the Reds needing three to progress.

The second half brought renewed vigour and Florent Sinama Pongolle had the Merseysiders level just two minutes after the break, but the Greek side were content to frustrate, safe in the knowledge they were in a position of strength and would be going through as it stood.

Just when it looked as though Rafael Benitez’s side had run out of ideas, late substitute Neil Mellor stabbed in from close range to give the home side hope. The young Scouser was on hand again with just three minutes remaining, knocking the ball down on the edge of the area for star man Steven Gerrard to rifle home the goal that rocked Anfield and took them through.

It is interesting to remember how close the eventual winners were to elimination and stands as another example of the spirit that took them all the way to glory in Istanbul that year.

Sky Sports Classics - 2004-12-08 - Liverpool 3-1... by bouklesto18  

Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea

The Blues went into the game knowing a point would all but see them into the next stage of the competition, but defeat would leave their final two games distinctly uncomfortable.

It was not a great start to the game though, as Deco gave the Catalans the lead after just three minutes at Camp Nou. Frank Lampard got the Londoners back into it not long after half-time, but Chelsea old boy Eidur Gudjohnsen restored the lead five minutes later from close range.

Jose Mourinho's side looked certain to be losing a game that had been bad-tempered and littered with yellow cards - ten in all. However, Didier Drogba had been a thorn in Barcelona's side before and certainly would be again, so it was no great surprise when the Ivorian popped up with a dramatic 94th minute equaliser.

Chelsea - Barcelona 2-2 by alekcoc  

What was your favourite Champions League group game? Leave a comment below to let us know…

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