2004/05 European Cup: The Miracle of Istanbul
Liverpool were involved in a dramatic finale to Group A as a late 3-1 win at Anfield against Greeks Olympiacos secured their place in the knock-out rounds. The Reds, managed by experienced Champions League manager Rafa Benitez and led by their inspirational captain Steven Gerrard, struggled through the domestic season but the dramatic win at Anfield gave them momentum in Europe.
Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea also qualified for the knock-out stages resulting in England having the highest number of representatives—one more than Spain and Germany.
The former pair fell at the first hurdle as they were beaten by Bayern Munich and Milan respectively. Milan then faced another fierce encounter with the cross-city rivals Inter in the quarter-finals which the Rossoneri won comfortably 2-0 and 3-0.
Liverpool avenged their 2002 defeat by Bayer Leverkusen by beating the Germans 6-2 on aggregate and Chelsea, now managed by Jose Mourinho, performed remarkably at Stamford Bridge to beat Barcelona 4-2 and secure a 5-4 aggregate victory.
The Reds then faced the mighty Juventus, who themselves had knocked out Real Madrid after extra-time in the previous round. A 2-1 win at Anfield, with goals from Sami Hyypiä and Luis Garcia, before a 0-0 draw in Turin saw the Reds progress to the last four. There they would meet Chelsea as the Londoners beat Bayern Munich, adding to their scalp of Europe’s heavyweights, in another high-scoring 6-5 tie.
In the semi-finals, Milan were pushed hard by PSV Eindhoven and only an injury-time goal from Ambrosini sufficed for the Rossoneri to reach the final via away goals. In the all-English semi-final, Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 through a controversial winner where Mourinho, having led the Blues to the Premier League title, bitterly claimed the ball had not crossed the line to no avail. The Reds would face Milan in Istanbul.
The match was one of the European Cup’s best finals. Despite Liverpool playing well in the first half, a penetrative Milan led 3-0 at half-time as Hernan Crespo, on loan from Chelsea, scored twice. The deficit seemed insurmountable but in the space of six second-half minutes Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso had levelled the tie. From there on Milan had opportunities to win the tie both in regular time and extra-time but the Reds held on for penalties. Liverpool goalkeeper Dudek became a hero as he saved two penalties as Liverpool amazingly won their fifth European Cup.
Final (Istanbul): Liverpool 3-3 Milan (Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties)
2005/06 European Cup: Barcelona Shine in Paris
Rules were amended following Liverpool’s 2005 win to allow the holders an opportunity to defend their trophy as they finished fifth in the league. Fourth place was claimed by Merseyside rivals Everton and UEFA bent their own rules whereby only four clubs were allowed from the leading coefficient countries to partake in the competition and therefore England started the competition with five representatives.
Everton, who had finished ahead of Liverpool in the league, were eliminated in the play-offs by Villarreal. The Spaniards proved to the surprise package of the tournament as they finished above Benfica, Lille and surprisingly Manchester United—who did not qualify from their group.
Liverpool and Chelsea were drawn into the same group and two ties spanning the North-West and South-East of England failed to produce a single goal. The 0-0 draws however aided both teams to progress to the knock-out rounds.
Barcelona, managed by former European Cup star Frank Rijkaard, faced Chelsea for the second year running in the knockout stages and this time beat the Londoners 3-2 across the two matches. At the same stage defending champions Liverpool were beaten home and away by Benfica. The Portuguese then faced Barca in the quarter-finals where Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o pushed Barcelona closer towards their first European Cup final in over 10 years. A solitary Ludovic Giuly goal was enough to beat Milan in the semi-finals and book the Catalan tickets to Paris.
Glasgow Rangers qualified from a tough group with included Internazionale and Porto but were eliminated in the last-16 by Villarreal—the third British scalp for El Submarino Amarillo, whose own adventure ended in the semi-finals against Arsenal.
The Gunners dropped only two points in their group stage, which included Ajax, and continued this form into the knock-out rounds as Arsenal did not concede a single goal in the knock-out rounds en route to their maiden European Cup final. The feat was all the more impressive considering the high calibre teams and the resultant hostile away grounds they encountered. Having beaten Real Madrid (1-0), Juventus (2-0) and Villareal (1-0) Arsenal were not overawed by meeting Barcelona in the final.
Under Arsene Wenger the Gunners had won three domestic titles, including two league and cup doubles and went through one entire league season undefeated to earn The Invincibles tag. Before the 2005/06 season Arsenal’s excellent domestic achievements did not traverse well in Europe but by reaching the Paris final, Wenger dispelled that notion. However the Gunners’ hopes of a maiden European Cup were dashed early on as goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was sent-off after 20 minutes. Yet, even with one less player, Sol Campbell headed Arsenal in front but late goals from Eto’o and Juliano Belletti ensured Barcelona won their second European Cup.
Final (Paris): Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal
2006/07 European Cup: Milan Even the Score
Two years after the epic night in Turkey, Liverpool and Milan faced each other once more in a Champions League final.
To get to the final Liverpool once again overcame Chelsea in the semi-finals, locking horns for the third season in succession, in another close tie which required penalties to separate the two sides. Liverpool had eliminated the holders Barcelona in the last-16 on away goals before beating PSV, who themselves had beaten Arsenal, comprehensively in the quarter-finals.
Still in the last eight, Manchester United conquered Roma 8-3 but Milan ensured Italy had the last laugh over English clubs as they beat Manchester United in a thriller of a semi-final match-up as a 3-2 Red Devils win at Old Trafford was overturned by a rampant Milan 3-0 at the San Siro.
Athens hosted the final which was another entertaining final between Liverpool and Milan. Pippo Inzaghi scored twice as Milan ran out 2-1 winners and won their seventh European Cup.
Final (Athens): Milan 2-1 Liverpool
2007/08 European Cup: The All-English Final
England had representation in the last three Champions League finals and with four English clubs reaching the quarter-finals in 2008 an all-English final was an auspicious possibility.
Liverpool faced Arsenal in the quarter-finals and the Gunners where well beaten 4-2 at Anfield, which resulted in another Liverpool versus Chelsea semi-final (their third semi-final in four seasons). The previous two meetings had been devoid of goals and resulted in two victories for the Reds but in 2008, Jose Mourinho had been dismissed, and Chelsea won 3-2 after extra-time at Stamford Bridge to set up an all-English final against Manchester United.
Despite United’s sustained dominance domestically Ferguson’s record in the European Cup had come under scrutiny with only one trophy win, particularly since bitter rivals Liverpool had played in two of the preceding three finals. However, with an attack boasting of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, the Red Devils had a ferocious forward line, which was supported ardently by Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes in midfield.
The final was a tense affair with Ronaldo and Frank Lampard scoring in a 1-1 draw and the game moved to penalties. John Terry let the opportunity to win the final slip as he missed a decisive spot-kick. In sudden death Nicolas Anelka missed and Ferguson had won his second European Cup with the Red Devils.
Final (Moscow): Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (United won 6-5 on penalties)
2008/09 European Cup: Guardiola Begins his Barcelona Dynasty
Barcelona’s 2006 European Cup triumph had papered over cracks at the Camp Nou. Although the Catalans roster contained all-star players such as Ronadinho, Deco and Eto’o, their age and lack of hunger meant an overhaul was necessary if the Cules were to dominate Europe.
Ex-club captain Pep Guardiola had impressed coaching Barcelona B and yet despite his inexperience was appointed the head coach of the first team. His appointment reaped immediate dividends as Barcelona won silverware aplenty with a swagger which exceeded even the most exorbitant expectations.
Defending champions Manchester United hoped to finally emulate the great Arrigo Sacchi Milan side of the late 1980s by winning back-to-back titles. Once again, four English clubs had qualified for the quarter-finals where Liverpool met Chelsea for the fifth year running. Liverpool suffered a first-leg 3-1 loss at Anfield but wiped out the deficit inside 30 minutes at Stamford Bridge as they led 2-0. A rejuvenated Chelsea scored four in the second half to draw 4-4 and claim a 7-5 aggregate win.
Three English clubs reached the semi-finals in addition to Guardiola’s Barcelona. An early Michael Essien goal looked to be enough for Chelsea to reach their second successive final but in the third minute of added time Anders Iniesta scored a brilliant snap shot—the Catalan’s first shot on target—to eliminate Chelsea on away goals. In the other semi-final Ronaldo’s wreaked havoc at the Emirates as Manchester United beat Arsenal home and away.
In the Rome final Barcelona’s Lionel Messi displayed his class, by scoring twice, as Guardiola’s La Masia pupils secured the Cules’ second European Cup in four seasons.
Final (Rome): Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United
2009/10 European Cup: Mourinho Achieves the Treble
Jose Mourinho had joined Inter after being dismissed at Chelsea. The Nerazzurri already had a strong squad due to being the beneficiaries following the Calciopoli scandal where rivals Juventus and Milan were handed significant sanctions aiding Inter to rule Serie A. However, by closing in on a domestic treble Mourinho would join a select group of treble winners.
The Italians negotiated a tough group which included defending champions Barcelona.
In the knock-out rounds Inter drew Chelsea, the Londoners themselves were desperate to win the Champions League, but Mourinho, with a point to prove, ensured they would be waiting at least another year as Inter beat Chelsea both home and away. At the same stage Manchester United drew Milan and after winning 3-2 in Italy they hammered the Rossoneri 4-0 at Old Trafford. Arsenal too were high scorers at home as they put five unanswered goals past Porto at the Emirates stadium.
The Gunners’ reward for their fine performance was a quarter-final with Barcelona where the Catalans put on an absolute first-half masterclass in London to lead 2-0 but still ended up drawing the match 2-2. Man of the moment Lionel Messi scored four times at the Camp Nou in the return leg as Barca won 4-1. England’s participation ended at this stage as Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery led Bayern Munich to an away goals victory over Manchester United.
In the semi-finals, Mourinho faced Guardiola again (after meeting in the group phase where Barca won 2-0 at home and drew 0-0 in Italy) and produced a defensive display akin to Herrera’s famous Inter of the 1960s. A 3-1 win at the San Siro was enough as Barcelona dominated possession at home but could only win 1-0. The defending champions were out to leave one more hurdle—Bayern Munich, who comfortably beat Lyon across the two legs.
Argentine Diego Milito scored both goals as Inter won 2-0 in a season where in addition to the obvious collective silverware, individually he stood out with 30 goals in all competitions and his contribution in the final earned him international recognition.
The Guardian wrote:
Vision, timing, flawless technique and sangfroid – these two goals had everything a great striker needs, plus a sense of lyricism in the fluency of his movement. The 30-year-old Milito is hardly a fancy striker, not a Messi taking your breath away with a trick or a Tevez galvanising the stadium with elemental force, but his economy has been just as devastating.
Final (Bernabeu): Inter 2-0 Bayern Munich
2010/11 European Cup: Messi Lights Up Wembley
Mourinho left Inter after the winning the treble to join Real Madrid. Ex-Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez replaced him and expectations were high. In the group stages Inter were drawn alongside Tottenham Hotspur in addition to Werder Bremen and FC Twente. When Spurs visited the San Siro they were 4-0 down within 40 minutes but although a sublime Gareth Bale hat-trick could not save Spurs on the night, it was a taste of things to come at White Hart Lane. Although Bale did not score in London he gave the Nerazzurri defenders the run around as Spurs won 3-1, eventually claiming top spot in the group.
The Londoners reward was a daunting tie against Italian champions Milan but on their second visit for the season to the San Siro Spurs produced an unlikely 1-0 victory. A 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane meant the glorious European nights from the early 1980s had momentarily returned the white half of North London.
Manchester United overcame Chelsea in the quarter-finals while Spurs maiden Champions League adventure ended following an early dismissal for Peter Crouch at the Bernabeu which contributed to a heavy 4-0 defeat in Spain.
Almost 10 years since the last El Clasico in the Champions League, Real Madrid and Barcelona were paired again at the semi-final stage. The high stakes of the game and resultant theatrics were unmistakable but two Lionel Messi goals, the second sublime, at the Bernabeu set up the platform for a 3-1 aggregate Barca win.
So as per Milan and Liverpool earlier on, Barcelona and Manchester United would come face to face for the second Champions League final in three seasons—but this time on English soil. United had wrapped up the Premier League title with several games to spare so Ferguson invested a substantial amount of time working on a game plan to trump Guardiola and win his third European Cup.
In an open and exciting Wembley final United started brightly but Barcelona, particularly after taking the lead, were at their imperious best. Wayne Rooney did equalise for United but Barca remained calm and continued on the offensive, never wavering from their embedded La Masia methodology. They peppered Edwin van der Sar’s goal and eventually in the second half Messi and David Villa scored two brilliantly executed goals to secure Barcelona’s second European Cup in three seasons—Ferguson was himself trumped by a Barcelona masterclass.
Final (Wembley): Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United
2011/12 European Cup: Chelsea Break Bayern Hearts
Although Roberto Mancini had an open cheque book at Manchester City, Champions League progression remained beyond the Blues as City were eliminated in the group stages—admittedly after being allocated a tough group alongside Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal.
The other half of Manchester fared just as poorly as failure to beat Benfica and Basel at home meant United could not progress to the knock-out rounds.
APOEL Nicosia of Cyprus caused an upset by finishing top of their group ahead of Portuguese giants Porto plus Zenit St Petersburg and Shakhtar Donetsk. APOEL would have further joy as they knocked out Lyon on penalties before succumbing to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals.
Less than a year after being appointed Chelsea coach Andre-Villas Boas had been sacked and Roberto Di Matteo replaced him in a caretaker capacity. The Italian’s first task was to keep Chelsea in the Champions League after a first-leg 3-1 deficit in Naples. At Stamford Bridge the Blues managed a 3-1 win over Napoli and then scored the winning goal in extra-time. Two wins over Benfica followed before Chelsea faced Barcelona in the semi-finals. Ramires and Fernando Torres scored to give 10-man Chelsea an unlikely 2-2 draw in Spain, enough to secure a place in the final to face Bayern Munich, who had overcome Real Madrid on penalties.
It was the first time since 1984 that one of the finalists was playing at home. Back then, it was Roma against Liverpool at the Stadio Olimpico and Roma lost of penalties. Would history be repeated?
Bayern largely held the upper hand throughout yet were unable to capitalise until Thomas Müller headed in with seven minutes remaining. The cup was swaying towards Munich for a fifth time but Didier Drogba levelled in the 88th minute with a powerful header which sent the game into extra-time. Drogba then turned villain but a clumsy tackle to give Bayern a penalty but Petr Čech saved Arjen Robben’s spot-kick.
The match moved into a penalty shoot-out where the high drama continue and Drogba went full circle by scoring the winning penalty as Chelsea won 4-3.
Final (Munich): Chelsea 1-1 Bayern Munich (Chelsea win 4-3 on penalties)
- Champions League Archives Part I – The Birth of the European Cup
- Champions League Archives Part II: The 1950s—Real Madrid’s Five Star Era
- Champions League Archives Part III: Early 1960s—Latin Nations Continue to Rule
- Champions League Archives Part IV: Late 1960s—The First Non-Latin Winners
- Champions League Archives Part V: 1970-1973—Total Football
- Champions League Archives Part VI: 1974-1976—Der Kaiser Leads Bayern Munich to Greatness
- Champions League Archives Part VII: 1977-1985—When England Ruled Europe
- Champions League Archives Part VIII: 1986-1992—English Clubs Banned
- Champions League Archives Part IX: 1993-1999—The European Cup Becomes the Champions League
- Champions League Archives Part X: 2000-2004—The Arrival of the Special One
Categories: Champions League Archives
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