The Best UEFA Cup Finals Ever
1. 2001: Liverpool 5-4 Alaves (on golden goal)
Aiming to heighten the tension, in 1998 UEFA changed the two-legged final to a one-off showpiece. It didn't initially produce thrillers, with two 3-0 wins followed by a cagey goalless draw between Arsenal and Galatasaray – but then came this cracker.
Gerard Houllier’s men had already despatched Roma, Porto and Barcelona en route to this final but surprise Spanish outfit Alaves put up as stiff a fight as any of those illustrious names.
At half-time the game seemed a foregone conclusion, with Liverpool 3-1 up. But Jose Esnal’s side came out swinging after the break and a spirited attacking display saw Javi Moreno bag a five-minute brace to level the match. Super sub Robbie Fowler looked to have sealed it with 15 minutes left on the clock, but Jordi Cruyff nodded in a last-gasp equaliser to take the game to extra time.
Both sides had goals disallowed in the first period but Alaves were, ultimately, the architects of their own downfall. They saw two red cards for second bookable offences, and a Delfi Geli golden own-goal gifted Liverpool a unique cup treble.
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2. 2007: Sevilla 2-2 Espanyol
Holders Sevilla had only made it to the final thanks to goalkeeper Andres Palop's injury-time last-16 equaliser against Shaktar Donetsk, but the clubs served up a Spanish sizzler at a moist Hampden Park.
A goal each in the opening half-hour kept the game at a frenetic pace, both sides constantly surging forward and forcing the keepers into stunning saves – UEFA's report counts 43 shots on goal. Espanyol suffered when Moises got a second yellow on 70 minutes, sacrificing top striker Raul Tamudo, but clung on until the end of extra-time – even scoring a late equaliser after Fredi Kanoute seemed to have won it for Sevilla.
And so to penalties, where Palop was the hero once again, saving three out of four spot-kicks to make Sevilla the first team to retain the trophy since Real Madrid 21 years earlier.
3. 1989: Napoli 5-4 Stuttgart (agg)
A year after Leverkusen’s heroics, the Germans nearly witnessed another UEFA Cup comeback. A Maradona-inspired Napoli had notched a slender 2-1 win in the home leg, and extended their lead in Stuttgart, going 3-1 up ion the night by the 60th minute.
But the Neapolitans had a hapless half-hour as Stuttgart battled back with two goals, levelling the match on the night and coming within one strike of levelling the tie. A nerve-racking final few minutes for Ottavio Bianchi’s men never produced the vital goal, however, and Napoli received their highest European honour to date.
4. 1988: Bayer Leverkusen 3-3 Espanyol (agg)
A 3-0 first-leg win put Espanyol in a commanding position, and when the Spanish side were still 3-0 up on aggregate at half-time in the second leg, the trophy seemed destined for Barcelona.
But an astonishing second-half surge saw Leverkusen level the tie by the end of the 90 minutes. After a goalless extra time, the tie went to penalties, and with Espanyol missing three penalties in a row, Leverkusen lifted the cup to complete one of the most incredible comebacks in European history. Who else could manage to come back from three goals down with 45 minutes to play, eh?
5. 1981: Ipswich 5-4 AZ (agg)
"That’s the best of Dutch football and we’ve blitzed it," said Bobby Robson after the first leg of this final, in which Ipswich ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. John Wark and Paul Mariner scored either side of a deeply disloyal goal from Frans Thijssen.
The Dutchman was at it again, facial hair and all, with a wonderful volley in the fourth minute of the return leg to give Town an apparently unassailable lead.
But Ipswich took their foot off the pedal and were punished: AZ netted four times to have the travelling faithful chomping on their nails. Fortunately for Ipswich they weren’t all without reply. After AZ’s second, John Wark popped up to equal the record of 14 goals in a European competition and ultimately ensure that the trophy was beyond the Dutchmen. Well, except the two in the Ipswich team.
6. 2003: Porto 3-2 Celtic (aet)
Something in the region of 80,000 Bhoys fans travelled to Seville desperate to see their side win their first European trophy since the 1967 European Cup. In their way were the Portuguese champions, managed by a young, but no less special, Jose Mourinho.
The Bhoys battled back twice, the talismanic Henrik Larsson levelling goals from Derlei and Dmitri Alenitchev. But in extra time Porto punished Bobo Balde's second yellow card, Derlei destroying the Celtic dream.
Mourinho would go on to win the Champions League with Porto the following season, securing a move to Chelsea and greater fame.
7. 2002: Feyenoord 3-2 Dortmund
Feyenoord seemed destined to win the UEFA Cup in 2002. They surprisingly squeezed past Rangers, beat Dutch rivals PSV on penalties and saw off Inter Milan to give themselves a chance of winning their first European final since 1974. A final that, coincidentally, was to be played at their home ground.
Pierre van Hooijdonk’s set-piece masterclass and Jon Dahl Tomasson’s cool finishing put them 3-1 up after 50 minutes, and the legions of red and white fans thought it was all over. Ten-man Dortmund had other ideas, and Czech giant Jan Koller scored a sumptuous 25-yard volley to inspired wave after wave of Dortmund attacks.
But Feyenoord saw them out, holding on for the first European triumph for a Dutch club in seven years, and continuing their own remarkable streak of never losing a European final in four attempts.
8. 1976: Liverpool 4-3 Club Brugge (agg)
At half-time in the first leg of this Final, things couldn’t have been going much worse for Liverpool. The Belgian champions had fired two goals without reply and nothing the Reds tried seemed to come off – partly due to the fine performance of Birger Jensen in the Brugge goal.
This bad luck seemed have carried into the second half, but then, on the hour, it came: the moment that changed the whole tie. Steve Heighway gathered a loose ball on the edge of the area and put it on a plate for the charging Ray Kennedy, who smashed a stoomer into the top corner from 20 yards.
Liverpool now had belief and momentum, and Jimmy Case and Kevin Keegan both netted in the following five minutes to secure a 3-2 win. Three weeks later in Belgium, Keegan equalised an early Brugge penalty and Liverpool lifted their second UEFA Cup in four years. The following year, they would turn their attention to Europe's senior cup with equal success.
9. 1998: Inter 3-0 Lazio
The 1990s saw Italy stamp its authority on European football. The European Cup had an Italian finalist every year from 1992 to 1998, while the nine UEFA Cup finals prior to this had brought six Italian winners. And Inter were the stand-out team, beating Roma in 1991 and Salzburg in 1994 and only succumbing to Schalke on penalties in 1997.
With French schemer Youri Djorkaeff pulling the strings behind Ivan ‘Bam-Bam’ Zamorano and world record signing Ronaldo, even Sven-Göran Eriksson’s impressive Lazio side stood little chance in the first one-legged final. The Aquile were torn apart.
Zamorano’s close-range volley put Inter in front after five minutes, before a stunning 20-yard half volley from Javier Zanetti flew in off the bar to extend their lead on the hour. The win was sealed 10 minutes later when Ronaldo burst clear, dazzling the goalkeeper with step-overs before coolly finishing. The Nerazzurri had won their third UEFA Cup title.
10. 2006: Sevilla 4-0 Middlesbrough
A dire warning for Fulham about the dangers of losing focus. Like the Cottagers, Middlesbrough enjoyed a remarkable European campaign, with surprising and thrilling wins and some top-class scalps.
Like Fulham, in the final they were underdogs against Spanish opposition, but held their own for much of the contest. Only 1-0 down with 15 minutes left, they had a penalty appeal controversially turned down, and Sevilla immediately sought to punish their angry opponents’ lack of concentration.
Enzo Maresca netted just two minutes later, and he and Freddi Kanoute each struck in the last five minutes to turn a tight game into a 4-0 rout. The rest, as they say, is history. Middlesbrough haven’t been the same since and just four years on find themselves preparing for a second successive season in the Championship. Beware, Fulham!