Ranked! The 25 greatest Champions League games... EVER
Words: Andrew Murray, Nick Moore, James Maw
25. Dinamo Zagreb 1-7 Lyon
Group stage, 2011/12
Hands up if you can tell us who scored the Champions League’s fastest hat-trick. Hands up if you were at a freezing cold Maksimir Stadium that December night to watch Lyon frontman Bafetimbi Gomis put hosts Dinamo Zagreb to the sword 7-1? Er, we suspected not.
Needing a second-placed Ajax to lose against Real Madrid and a seven-goal swing to reach the knockout stage, Lyon trailed to Mateo Kovacic’s rebound before all hell broke loose. Gomis tapped in on half-time, Maxime Gonalons scored in the 47th minute and then the former bagged another two in the 48th and 52nd minutes to secure his hat-trick. Lisandro Lopez, Jimmy Briand and a fourth effort from Gomis completed the massacre. Ajax lost 3-0 and so Lyon progressed.
Dinamo sacked boss Krunoslav Jurcic afterwards, apologising to fans “for the embarrassment”. FFT’s poor fingers have only just recovered.
24. Leeds 4-1 Stuttgart
First round, second leg, 1992/93
The rebranded competition got off to an inauspicious start when Leeds and Stuttgart had to face a ‘replay’ of their first-round tie after drawing 4-4 on aggregate.
Confused? Well, so were the Bundesliga champs, who won the first leg at the Neckerstadion 3-0 before being trounced 4-1 back in Yorkshire. That should have put them through on the away goals rule, but in throwing on Yugoslavian defender Jovo Simanic as an 83rd-minute sub, Stuttgart coach Christoph Daum had unwittingly used more than the three foreign players allowed. Leeds were awarded a 3-0 win, levelling the score on aggregate.
UEFA decided the solution was a replay on neutral territory – the Camp Nou – but the German side weren’t impressed, claiming that Leeds’s Welsh-born Gary Speed was not a ‘home-grown’ player. UEFA disagreed, and Leeds won a play-off 2-1 thanks to Gordon Strachan and Carl Shutt.
23. Inter Milan 2-5 Schalke
Quarter-final, first leg, 2010/11
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s Manuel Neuer heading clear a through-ball with a Superman dive 27 seconds into a Champions League tie. Unfortunately for the Schalke goalkeeper, Dejan Stankovic was lurking on the edge of the centre circle and fired a first-time volley over the German's head head.
The 89 minutes that followed were no less enthralling, a 33-year-old Raul rolling back the years thanks to awful defending by the holders.
22. Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Juventus
“You go on and score the decisive goal,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld instructed Dortmund midfielder Lars Ricken just before replacing Stephane Chapuisat in the 1997 final. It took the one-club man 16 seconds to follow his manager’s orders, his delicious chip – with his first touch – securing a famous 3-1 win.
It had been a game of substitutes: Alessandro Del Piero replaced Sergio Porrini at the break to re-energise the Old Lady after Karl-Heinz Riedle’s first-half double. Riedle had his own premonition, waking at 3.30am on the day of the game in a cold sweat. “I just dreamt that I’ll score two goals,” he panted.
21. Hamburg 4-4 Juventus
Group stage, 2000/01
List all of the essential ingredients for a group-stage classic. An early goal? A keeper scoring? A thrilling comeback? A late and contentious equaliser? Tony Yeboah?
Just five reasons why Hamburg’s 4-4 draw against Carlo Ancelotti’s Juventus deserves mythical status. Igor Tudor’s sixth-minute header – and maniacal celebration in which the Croat ran half the length of the pitch – set the tone for a see-saw encounter, with former Leeds hero Yeboah in the thick of it. When Hamburg keeper Hans-Jorg Butt levelled from the spot for 3-3 with 18 minutes remaining – after a bizarrely stuttering run-up for a man who had scored nine times in the previous campaign – still the game was not done.
Nor when Niko Kovac tapped in from six yards in the 82nd minute. Luckily for Juventus, gravity failed Filippo Inzaghi inside the penalty area with two minutes to go after a shirt pull. The frontman dusted himself down and secured a first 4-4 draw in the Champions League.
Hamburg boss Frank Pagelsdorf said at full-time: “It’s not often that you're in a position to overturn a 3-1 scoreline against a club like Juventus. But the players put in a great performance and they won’t forget that one in a hurry.”
20. Barcelona 0-4 Dynamo Kiev
Group stage, 1997/98
In 1986, a nine-year-old child had to be evacuated from his home in Kiev’s suburbs after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor 80 miles north exploded, spewing a radioactive cloud into the atmosphere.
Eleven years later, Andriy Shevchenko was scoring a hat-trick against a Barça side that featured Rivaldo and Luis Figo. “In Kiev, we had beaten Barcelona 3-0 and a friend said, ‘Let’s see how you do in the return’,” Sheva later laughed. “He bet me that I wouldn’t score three goals. He ended up buying dinner.”
Kiev reached the semi-finals the following season before Shevchenko moved on to Milan.
19. Inter Milan 1-5 Arsenal
Group stage, 2003/04
Arsenal fans could have been forgiven for arriving at San Siro with some trepidation. True, they had won 10 of their opening 13 league matches, but defeats to Inter (3-0) and Dynamo Kiev (2-1) plus a goalless draw with Lokomotiv Moscow left the Gunners bottom of their group with only four points from as many matches.
On the plus side, they did have Thierry Daniel Henry. Twenty-six and at the peak of his powers, the French forward tore apart an Inter defence that contained future World Cup winners Marco Materazzi and Fabio Cannavaro.
Beginning with a first-time sidefoot from the edge of the area, Henry was unstoppable, also setting up Freddie Ljungberg four minutes after the interval to fire the Londoners into a 2-1 lead. Henry’s movement and probing proved far too much for a shattered Nerazzurri rearguard, who allowed Henry, Edu and Robert Pires to each find the net in the last five minutes.
“Some players, when they have got the will, are uncontrollable,” wrote Italian paper Gazzetta dello Sport the day after Arsenal’s emphatic win. “Yesterday, Henry had all the will in the world. He massacred Inter. Nothing controversial, no sorrow, only applause for Mr Attack.”
“The only performance I can compare this with was England’s 5-1 in Munich,” said Ashley Cole at full-time. “But this was even better.” So good, in fact, that the Gunners won this game comfortably despite Pascal Cygan’s presence at centre-back...
18. Monaco 8-3 Deportivo La Coruna
Group stage, 2003/04
Croatian forward Dado Prso benefited most from a staggeringly open game, netting four times in the competition’s highest-scoring match until Dortmund’s 8-4 win over Legia Warsaw last season. Deportivo were certainly no mugs, having finished second in La Liga in 2001/02 above Real Madrid and Barcelona, but this was a day they’d wish to forget.
It was only once the score reached 7-3 on 52 minutes that the teams seemingly chose to play a little more cautiously. Monaco went on to make the Gelsenkirchen finale, where their own defensive fallibility cost them against Porto.
17. Manchester City 5-3 Monaco
Last 16, first leg, 2016/17
This see-saw thriller at the Etihad Stadium ushered in the ‘arrival’ of Leonardo Jardim’s dynamic young side, despite defeat. An unexpectedly open match - the first time eight goals had been scored in the opening leg of a Champions League knockout tie – swung to-and-fro, with the Ligue 1 upstarts leading 2-1 and 3-2 before City came on strong with efforts from Sergio Aguero, John Stones and Leroy Sane.
The Sky Blues thought they’d had a lucky escape, until a 3-1 loss in the return leg three weeks later sent Pep Guardiola’s men packing.