10 Champions League shocks that shook Europe

Plenty of the continent's most powerful sides have gone down against the odds, writes Robert O'Connor

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Newcastle 3-2 Barcelona, 1997/98

In 1997, Europe’s top competition broke with 40 years of tradition and ceased to be exclusively the fare of champions. Eight league runners-up from Europe’s strongest leagues were admitted to pit themselves against the continent’s best, and the ‘Champions’ League became a nominal homage to a simpler time. 

Newacstle were pipped to the post by Sporting CP as the first non-champions to score in the competition, but more remarkable was the Faustino Asprilla hat-trick inside 49 minutes that lit the touch paper for a famous and unlikely win against old hands Barcelona. Late goals from Luis Enrique and Luis Figo weren't enough to deny the Magpies a famous win. 

Dynamo Kiev 2-0 Real Madrid, 1998/99

Unless current boss Alyaksandr Khatskevich has something remarkable up his sleeve this season, 1998/99 was the closest Kiev are ever likely to get to lifting Europe’s greatest prize.

On their spectacular run to the semis they racked-up a handful of worthy scalps, but the way in which they saw off holders Madrid in the quarter-final showed Valeriy Lobanovskiy’s tactical prowess at its best. Andriy Shevchenko was again the marksman on cue to crush los Blancos, but this was a team whose gears turned seamlessly throughout.

Deportivo 4-0 Milan, 2003/04

Everything is context as far as Milan’s sorry collapse at the hands of Deportivo La Coruna in the 2004 quarter-finals is concerned.

The Italians had danced to a 4-1 win at San Siro in the first leg, and travelled to Galicia safe in the knowledge that no side had ever overturned a three-goal aggregate deficit in Europe’s top competition. Amid such hubris, however, are Champions League dreams turned to ashes: Milan were pelted 4-0 at La Riazor (having smashed the same opposition by the same scoreline on the same ground the previous season) and skulked home wondering what had hit them.

Real Mallorca 1-0 Arsenal, 2001/02

Arsenal have been no strangers to opening-day defeat in Europe. In 2001 it was Champions League newcomers Real Mallorca who condemned the Gunners to a torrid start, after Ashley Cole’s clumsy challenge on Albert Luque led to a dismissal, penalty and mountain to climb.

Things got worse for Arsene Wenger when his side lost in Athens to Panathinaikos the following month, and only by virtue of a 3-1 win over the Spaniards at Highbury in December did they squeak through from a less-than-arduous first group stage. They didn't make it past the second, though, bowing out with Juventus behind Bayer Leverkusen and Deportivo.    


Celtic 2-1 Barcelona, 2012/13

Celtic Park is famed for its raucous Champions League nights, but this incredible result produced the mother of all atmospheres as Neil Lennon’s side sent Lionel Messi & Co. packing – famously, with a competition record low of just 16.4% possession. 

Tony Watt’s legendary goal, which put Celtic 2-0 up, came between Victor Wanyama’s opener and a consolation from Messi. Barça had won the competition twice in the previous four years, but went down in Glasgow despite fielding the likes of Dani Alves, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Javier Mascherano, Alexis Sanchez and Messi. 

The win helped Lennon's men reach the last 16 – the last time they made it to the knockout stage – but their run was ended there by Juventus in a 5-0 aggregate defeat. Worth it, though.