Champions League Archives

Champions League Archives Part X: 2000-2004—From Zidane’s Magic to the Arrival of the Special One

1999/2000 European Cup: Arsenal’s European Home at Wembley

Another year, another format change. On this occasion UEFA decided to implement two group stages. Three qualifying rounds would precede the initial and existing group stage (which was now extended to 32 teams—eight groups). The top two from each group would then move into second group phase and the winners plus runners-up of each group would participate in the quarter-finals.

Arsenal were playing their home matches at Wembley and benefited with huge attendance numbers by selling tickets for only £10—a snip for a Premier League club. However, Arsene Wenger’s troops found it hard to replicate their excellent Highbury form at Wembley as they lost against Fiorentina and Barcelona. The Gunners finished third but had the consolation of going into the UEFA Cup where they went on the reach the final.

Chelsea made their debut in the tournament and finished top in their first group stage, ahead of Galatasaray and serial European champions Milan.

Hector Cuper’s Valencia impressed as they finished above 1999 finalists Bayern Munich in their group. In the second group phase the Els Taronges were paired with holders Manchester United, Fiorentina and Bordeaux and despite losing away to United and Fiorentina, still managed to qualify for the knockout rounds. They then faced Lazio, who had assembled a lavish playing squad to win the 1999 Cup Winners’ Cup and European Super Cup. The first leg was held at the Mastalla and a Gerard hat-trick helped his team to a 5-2 win which would be enough to win the tie.

Their opponents in the semi-final would be Barcelona, who beat Chelsea in extra-time, and potentially could set up an El Clasico European Cup final. The first-leg was at the Mestalla and Valencia reproduced the attacking football which destroyed Lazio in the quarter-finals. They attacked Barcelona with purpose and intent resulting in a 4-1 win. Gaz Mendieta scored at the Camp Nou to increase the aggregate score to 5-1 before Frank De Boer and Phillip Cocu narrowed the deficit.

In the final Valencia would face another Latin opponent in Real Madrid. Los Blancos had won their first European Cup in over 30 years in 1998 and were now in their second final in three years. Unfortunately Valencia could not replicate their earlier form and lost 3-0 after goals from Morientes, McManaman and Raul sealed Real’s eighth European Cup.

Final (Paris): Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia

 

2000/01 European Cup: Hitzfeld Joins the All-Time Greats

Three English clubs had qualified for the quarter-finals—Manchester United, Leeds United and Arsenal. United faced old foes Bayern Munich, who themselves had the chance to avenge their 1999 final defeat. Ottmar Hitzfeld directed his side brilliantly side as the Germans won both games, 1-0 in Manchester and then were 2-0 up by half-time in Munich as they won 3-1 on aggregate.

At the same stage Leeds beat Deportivo 3-2 on aggregate but Arsenal lost on away goals to Valencia—the Spaniards were still going strong in Europe and would face Leeds in the semi-finals. Another renowned attacking performance at the Mastalla stadium yielded a 3-0 win on aggregate after a goalless draw at Elland Road to reach a successive Champions League final.

In the other semi-final, Bayern continued their scalp of former winners as they beat Real Madrid home and away to record a 3-1 aggregate victory.

The 2001 final was the battle of the 1999 and 2000 losing finalists which ensured that one side would endure heartache once more. Valencia opened the scoring via a penalty and then Bayern missed their own spot-kick before converting another with no further goals in the match. After a goalless extra-time period, the game moved to a penalty shoot-out where Bayern emerged victorious as they ended the Bavarians long wait for another European Cup—25 years after their last triumph—and Hitzfeld joined the illustrious group of managing two clubs to a European Cup.

Final (Milan): Bayern Munich 1-1 Valencia (Bayern won 5-4 on penalties)

 

 2001/02 European Cup: Zidane Magic Lights up Hampden Park

Holders Bayern Munich reached the quarter-finals where the defence of their crown was ended by Real Madrid’s Guti. Bayern won the first leg 2-1 in Munich but Helguera scored at the Bernabeu to make it 1-0 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate. Although Real were heading to an away goals victory, Guti sealed Bayern’s fate five minutes from time.

Both of England’s most successful clubs had also reached the quarter-finals. Manchester United beat Deportivo with two wins while Liverpool were unable to hold onto their first-leg win as surprise package Bayer Leverkusen, who had Michael Ballack and Dimitar Berbatov in their ranks, won 4-2 at the BayArena.

The semi-finals served up the first ever El Clasico in European Cup football where Zinedine Zidane inspired Real Madrid to a 2-0 win at the Camp Nou. A 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu sent Real through to their third final in five years, much to the annoyance of Barca.

The final held in Scotland was won by a match-winning goal of absolute technical beauty by Zidane. With the scores locked at 1-1, Zidane pivoted and caught a lofted ball perfectly with a left foot volley which sailed past Leverkusen goalkeeper Butt and into the top corner—one of the best European Cup final goals, scored by one of the best European players.

Final (Glasgow): Real Madrid 2-1 Beyer Leverkusen

 

2002/03 European Cup: Serie A Finale

The last eight clubs were dominated by La Liga and Serie A. In a clash of the titans Real Madrid beat Manchester United courtesy of hat-trick from Brazil’s Ronaldo who showed the world that despite his injuries he remained as one of the world’s best strikers.

Juventus beat Barcelona after extra-time in Spain and Inter ended Valencia’s interest in the competition. The Milan clubs met in the semi-final with AC winning courtesy of away goals. Juventus faced holders Real Madrid who won the first-leg 2-1 at the Bernabeu but Juve managed to overturn the deficit in Turin thanks to Buffon saving a crucial penalty from Real’s Luis Figo, as the Bianconeri triumphed 3-1 in Italy to advance to the final.

The final itself was an anti-climax as Juve and Milan played out a dull 0-0 draw. Penalties followed and even those were executed poorly as only half of the 10 taken were converted.

Final (Manchester): Milan 0-0 Juventus (Milan won 3-2 on penalties)

 

2003/04 European Cup: The Special One

There was another format change in 2004 as the second group phase was abolished for a straight-forward knock-out round.

In the group stages Monaco beat Deportivo 8-3 in France as Croatian Dado Pršo scored four times. Arsenal stunned Inter in their group with a vintage display that saw the Gunners win 5-1 at the San Siro, after Inter had won 3-0 at Highbury.

Chelsea, now owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, had spent lavishly on players to become a major force both in the Premier League and Champions League but their coach Claudio Ranieri was under pressure to perform. In the group stage Chelsea swept aside Lazio, Sparta Prague and Besiktas to top their group.

In the first knock-out round Jose Mourinho’s Porto, who had won the UEFA Cup in 2003, were drawn against Manchester United. A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford was enough to send Porto’s fans, and Mourinho, wild.

The quarter-finals had some hugely entertaining games. Chelsea, having lost to Arsenal three times in the domestic season already, beat the English champions 2-1 at Highbury to knock them out of Europe. Elsewhere Monaco and Deportivo were the comeback kings. Monaco trailed Real Madrid 4-2 after the first leg but a 3-1 home win was enough to progress via away goals. Similarly, but more extraordinary, Milan raced into a 4-1 lead in the first leg but Deportivo hammered them 4-0 in Spain—two of Europe’s heavyweights had been humbled after commanding first leg advantages.

In the semi-finals, Porto narrowly beat Deportivo 1-0 on aggregate while Ranieri blew a winning position as Monaco beat Chelsea 5-3 on aggregate.

Porto, who had won the domestic double, won the final 3-0 as the young coach Mourinho made his mark in Europe with successive European trophies.

Final (Gelsenkirchen): Porto 3-0 Monaco

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