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Ranked! The 25 best Champions League games... EVER

Best Champions League games

It’s 25 years since Europe’s holy grail got a total revamp – so FFT is counting down the best and most bonkers matches

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Words: Andrew Murray, Nick Moore, James Maw

25. Dinamo Zagreb 1-7 Lyon

Group stage, 2011/12

Dejan Lovren, in happier times

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

Eric Cantona beats future Manchester City 'keeper Eike Immel

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

Benedikt Hôwedes and Raul celebrate

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

Final, 1996/97

Ricken celebrates scoring Dortmund's third

“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

Zidane sees red

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.