Two days before Barcelona and Manchester United clash at Wembley for the 2010-2011 Champions League trophy, both teams looking to win most prestigious club competition trophy for the fourth time, we take a look at the four best finals since the Champions League took off in 1992.
May 18, 1994, Athens – AC Milan 4 0 Barcelona
Barcelona, with head coach Johan Cruyff, were coming off winning their fourth consecutive league title, aiming for their second European Cup trophy (now the Champions League) in three years. AC Milan, also fresh off their third consecutive Serie A title, headed by Fabio Capello and fielding a much less ‘attractive’ side than Barcelona’s ‘Dream Team’, which included Romario, Stoichkov and one Josep Guardiola. Barcelona were heavily favored to win the match, but Milan turned out one of the most dominant performances in the history of the finals, handing out a 4-0 thrashing with a brace from Daniele Massaro, one genuis goal from Dejan Savicevic and a finisher from Marcel Desailly, becoming the first player to win the title with two different teams back to back.
May 28, 1997, Munich – Borussia Dortmund 3 Juventus 1
The mid 90’s – Juventus are the strongest team in Europe and the defending champions. Marcello Lippi’s side were heavy favorites, with Zinadine Zidane and Alessandro Del Piero (who didn’t start the match), despite the game being played in Germany. Dortmund were coached by Ottmar Hitzfield and a side featuring Andreas Moller, Paulo Sousa (a year earlier a Juve player) and Matthias Sammer, one of the last player to play the Libero role. Dortmund stunned Juve with a 3-1 win which included a young Lars Ricken coming off the bench for Dortmund, scoring a memorable chip over Angelo Peruzzi. Ricken’s career never had a better moment, peaking at 20 years old.
May 26, 1999, Barcelona – Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1
“Football, Bloody Hell” One of the most memorable matches in the history of the Champions League, maybe The most memorable match if it wasn’t for the next one. Manchester United winning the first ever treble by an English team with two dramatic injury time goals. Bayern Munich, with Ottmar Hitzfield at the helms, led early through a Mario Basler goal. They were much better than United for 70 minutes, with the Red Devils missing Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.
Being down and playing with a patched up lineup didn’t matter in the end. Bayern looked to be celebrating, and UEFA President Lennart Johansson already left his seat and made his way down to the pitch, ready to hand the trophy to Bayern. Two subs, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær, scored the winners for United.
After the second United goal, Bayern players couldn’t even pick themselves up to re start the match, with referee Pierluigi Colina helping some of them up. Samuel Kuffour memorably cried and pounded the grass while Lothar Matthaus is remembered for taking off the runner up medal immediately after receiving it. For United it was their first European Cup trophy since 1968 and the first English club to win the competition since the Heysel ban in 1985.
May 25, 2005, Istanbul – Liverpool 3 3 AC Milan. Liverpool won 3-2 after a penalty shootout
Another English club, another crazy, insane comeback. AC Milan were up 3-0 at half time. They opened the scoring in the first minute through Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo added two more before half time with Kaka providing a masterful half. Second half? Six minutes of something unexplained. Steven Gerrard with his head, Valdimir Smicer two minutes later and Xabi Alonso in the 60th minute, scoring the rebound off his own penalty miss. Dudek had one more incredible save, stopping Andriy Schevchenko from point blank range as the match rolled on to penalties. Dudek did the spaghetti legs things, and Liverpool won their first since 1984. Since then the match has been known as the “miracle of Istanbul”.