Ranked! The 25 greatest Champions League games... EVER
16. Ajax 5-2 Bayern Munich
Semi-final, second leg, 1994/95
The Amsterdam side were dominant in Europe in the 1970s, but their mid-'90s vintage was almost as iconic. It was an incredible team featuring Edwin van der Sar, Clarence Seedorf, Marc Overmars, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert and the De Boer twins – a collection of starlets easily as exciting as Man United’s Class of ’92.
They may not have won three straight European Cups like Cruyff & Co. had done 20 years before, but they did manage to secure one. The most devastating performance of that run was their demolition of Bayern at Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium.
After a goalless first leg in Germany, Louis van Gaal’s side took an early lead courtesy of a Jari Litmanen header, only to be pegged back by Marcel Witeczek. But with half-time approaching, the Dutch giants took a stranglehold: Finidi George rocketed one in from just outside the box and Ronald de Boer netted for 3-1. A minute into the second half, Nwankwo Kanu threaded through Litmanen, who walloped home number four.
Mehmet Scholl got one back from the spot but the Germans were buried. Overmars scored a fifth in the final two minutes to put the icing on a phenomenal display and ensure Ajax’s place in the final, where they would defeat Milan 1-0.
15. Barcelona 1-0 Inter Milan
Semi-final, second leg, 2009/10
“The players left their blood out on the pitch,” Jose Mourinho proudly announced after a narrow defeat at the Camp Nou that was enough for his Inter side to scrape into the 2010 final. Their performance was typically Mourinho: dogged, defensive and decisive – a plan borne of necessity due to the early red card for Thiago Motta.
A terrific 3-1 first-leg win had put the treble-chasing Italians in control, but with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic among their ranks, the reigning Spanish and European kings were more than capable of recovering.
Motta’s dismissal – for appearing to catch Sergio Busquets in the neck – was farcical thanks to the Barça midfielder’s comic overreaction. Busquets hit the deck clutching his face before peeping at the referee through his fingers. Inter were not amused. Even Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o mucked in defensively as the Nerazzurri clung on for dear life.
Gerard Pique scored late on, but it wasn't enough. When the full-time whistle finally sounded, Mourinho maniacally sprinted across the pitch, windmilling his arm like an Iberian Mick Channon. His celebrations were only halted when a Camp Nou groundsman turned on the sprinklers.
14. Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool
Quarter-final, second leg, 2008/09
In an era when all-English clashes were 10 a penny, this encounter was surely the pick of the bunch. Chelsea had won 3-1 at Anfield, but appeared in danger after a cheeky Fabio Aurelio free-kick and Xabi Alonso penalty brought the Reds level by the interval.
Second-half strikes by Didier Drogba, Alex (a bullet of a free-kick) and Frank Lampard turned the tide, only for Lucas and Dirk Kuyt to quickly put the visitors back ahead on the night. Lampard’s late strike settled Blues nerves and ensured a semi-final showdown with Barcelona (and Tom Henning Ovrebo).
13. Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona
Last 16, second leg, 2004/05
The birth of two rivalries – Chelsea vs Barcelona and Jose Mourinho vs football. After a 2-1 first-leg defeat at the Camp Nou in which Didier Drogba was sent off, Chelsea gaffer Mourinho accused Barça counterpart Frank Rijkaard of entering the referee’s room during half-time for a cosy chat with Anders Frisk. The Swede subsequently received death threats and soon quit the game. UEFA referees’ committee chairman Volker Roth labelled Mourinho “the enemy of football”.
Chelsea flew out of the blocks in the return leg with Eidur Gudjohnsen, Frank Lampard and Damien Duff firing Chelsea into a 3-0 advantage after 20 minutes. Ronaldinho halved the aggregate deficit from the spot 10 minutes later, then provided the most incredible moment of the tie.
Andres Iniesta shifted the ball into the Brazilian’s path, then burst towards the box expecting a return pass. Ronnie instead poked the ball with the outside of his boot beyond a jungle of players into the bottom corner. Chelsea now trailed on away goals, but a John Terry header sent the Blues through on a night which ended in chaos – a Barç-powered tunnel scrap.
12. Liverpool 3-1 Olympiakos
Group stage, 2004/05
Liverpool’s other European miracle of 2004/05. The Reds entered the final group match three points behind the Greeks, needing a win by two clear goals to sneak through on head-to-head having lost 1-0 away.
Rivaldo put Olympiakos 1-0 up, but the unlikely duo of Florent Sinama Pongolle and Neil Mellor made it 2-1. With the minutes ticking down, Jamie Carragher lobbed the ball into the box for Mellor, who nodded it down for Steven Gerrard to wallop home.
11. Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United
It's hard to imagine a team ever playing quite as well as this again. This was surely the pinnacle for Pep Guardiola’s Barça, who wiped the floor with United in trademark style.
Pedro’s cool finish put the Catalans in front at Wembley, only for Wayne Rooney to sweep home the equaliser. But then Pep’s men started to move up several gears. Lionel Messi surged forward to regain the lead, before David Villa bent a glorious third past Edwin van der Sar from distance. A masterclass.
10. Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid
If ever a contest came to define the destinies of two participants, then it was the 1974 European Cup Final. When Bayern Munich equalised with the last kick of the game - winning a replay two days later 4-0 – they went on to retain the trophy twice and become a European superpower.
Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, became el Pupas; “the jinxed one”, doomed forever to be bridesmaids. Diego Simeone’s men may have won the La Liga title for the first time since 1996, but the hangover from a 14-year winless streak over los Blancos remained.
Diego Costa lasted only eight minutes – having failed to recover from a hamstring injury picked up in Atletico’s title-winning draw against Barcelona the weekend before – but los Colchoneros were the epitome of a Simeone team, Diego Godin opening the scoring (having also netted at the Camp Nou).
Heroic in defence, Atletico kept Real at bay until 92 minutes and 48 seconds when Sergio Ramos repeated history to equalise. Shattered and out of substitutes, Atletico were battered in extra time as Real clinched their 10th European Cup with goals from Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo. Because if there had been one thing inexplicably missing from this game, it was CR7 with his top off.
9. Werder Bremen 5-3 Anderlecht
Group stage, 1993/94
With his side 3-0 down with 24 minutes to play against the Belgian champions, things weren’t looking too rosy for Bremen’s manager Otto Rehhagel. But he always believed, mainly because he had Wynton Rufer in his ranks. The New Zealander may not be a household name, but so impressed was Rehhagel with the forward’s technique in his first training session that the coach asked him: “Why aren’t you playing for Real Madrid?”
Rufer’s dinked 66th-minute effort offered hope; a Rune Bratseth header six minutes later, genuine belief. Panic duly infected Anderlecht’s rearguard, and the goal avalanche ended with Rufer’s second.
The Miracle of the Weser – the river which runs through Bremen – was born.