Champions League Archives

Champions League Archives Part XII: 2013-2017—Ronaldo and Zidane Revive the Los Blancos Dynasty

2012/13 Champions League—Bayern Triumph at Wembley

Wembley stadium hosted the first all-German final as Borussia Dortmund, recent two-time winners of the Bundesliga, faced Bayern Munich who themselves were chasing a glorious treble during Jupp Henckes’ final season in charge.

Chelsea became the first defending champions to be eliminated in the group phase but were consoled by winning the Europa League.

Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga were the surprise package of the tournament as they topped a group which included Milan, Zenit and Anderlecht. The Boquerones would eventually lose to Dortmund in the quarter-finals in controversial fashion as two questionable Dortmund goals scored during a dramatic two-minute period of stoppage time eliminated the Spaniards. Dortmund had qualified with an undefeated record from a tough group containing Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City with their highlight result being a 2-1 home win over Los Blancos.

Bayern encountered difficulties in the last-16 against Arsenal despite gaining the initiative with a 3-1 first-leg win in London. In Munich the Gunners only had three efforts on target but managed to scored twice, leaving Bayern to scrape through on away goals.

The semi-finals were a battle of Spain versus Germany. Robert Lewandowski scored four goals as Dortmund beat Real Madrid 4-1 in Germany. Real scored two late goals at the Bernabeu but Dortmund held on to make their first final since 1997. Meanwhile Munich hammered Barcelona with a perfect counter-attacking gameplan to win 4-0 in Munich and then 3-0 in Barcelona.

At Wembley, Arjen Robben scored a last-minute winner as Jupp Heynckes joined the elite group of Ernst Happel, José Mourinho and his predecessor in Munich, Ottmar Hitzfeld who had all won the European Cup with two different clubs—Heynckes won his first European Cup with Real Madrid in 1998.

Final (Wembley): Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund

 

2013/14 Champions League—The Battle of Madrid

Twelve months after the battle of Germany at Wembley, the 2014 final was a clash of the Spanish capital as Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid met in Lisbon.

Pep Guardiola had taken over Bayern and so understandably there were high expectations. Their campaign had started well as they topped a group which contained Manchester City. For the second season in succession they met and eliminated Arsenal early in the knock-out rounds and then faced Manchester United. Managed by David Moyes the Red Devils were struggling domestically. However, they did give Bayern a scare in Germany but Guardiola’s side prevailed 4-2 on aggregate.

In the semi-finals Real Madrid lay in wait and although Guardiola now coached Bayern, it felt like an extension of Real’s recent battles with Barcelona. Los Blancos’ motivation drove them to a perfect game plan as they won both legs to record a 5-0 aggregate victory. Real were chasing La Decima, their elusive 10th European Cup triumph, and under the tutelage of Carlo Ancelotti combined with Ronaldo’s seemingly perpetual goals they were strong contenders to win their first title in 12 years.

Across town Atletico Madrid, managed by Diego Simeone, had drastically improved. That season they broke up Spain’s infamous duopoly by winning the La Liga title and reached the Champions League final by beating an all-star list of opponents in the knock-out rounds—Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea.

The final was a predictably cynical affair, with theatrical performances from most players. Diego Godín headed Atletico into the lead from a corner and as the game wore on it seemed the Rojiblancos would complete a remarkable double. However, deep into injury-time Sergio Ramos scored an equaliser to force extra-time. Atletico seemed to tire as Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo wrapped up the win in the second period of extra-time.

Final (Lisbon): Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid (AET)

 

2014/15 Champions League—A Star-Studded Attack Wins Another Crown for Barcelona

After the Calciopoli scandal had decimated a star-studden Juventus, the Bianconeri firmly re-established themselves among Serie A’s elite by winning a hat-trick of Italian league titles and then reaching the 2015 Champions League final to met Barcelona in Berlin.

La Vecchia Signora qualified fairly comfortably ahead of Olimpiacos in the group stages and then deposed Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid in the knock-out rounds. Meanwhile Barcelona, who had further strengthened their Argentina-Brazil frontline axis of Messi and Neymar by signing Uruguayan Luis Suarez from Liverpool, beat Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich en-route to the final.

In a match largely dominated by Barcelona, Juventus’ Morata equalised Ivan Rakitic’s opener to give the Italians hope of an upset. The Catalans swiftly regained the upper hand as Gianluigi Buffon spilled a shot from Messi for Suarez to score. Juventus tried to force another equaliser but Marc-André ter Stegen kept Juve’s attacks out. Neymar and Suarez combined for the Brazilian to settle the match deep into stoppage time as Barcelona won their fifth European Cup—their fourth in 10 seasons.

Final (Berlin): Barcelona 3-1 Juventus

 

2015/16 Champions League—The Battle of Madrid II

Manchester City had finally assimilated to European football and finished top in their group, ahead of previous finalists Juventus plus Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach. Holders Barcelona remained dangerous and made easy work of group opponents Roma, Bayer Leverkusen and BATE Borisov. Arsenal were yet again paired with Bayern Munich but a home win over Germans helped them progress as the group runner-up.

Simeone’s side frustrated Barcelona in the quarter-finals and eliminated them 3-2 on aggregate and then repeated the trick on Bayern Munich in the semi-finals to advance via away goals. Real Madrid started strongly with 16 points and 19 goals scored in a group which contained the cash-flushed Paris Saint-Germain. PSG finally performed well in Europe as they beat Chelsea 2-1 twice to reach the quarter-finals. There the Parisians would meet another Middle-Eastern owned club, Manchester City, with a semi-final place at stake.  A 2-2 all-action draw in Paris set the scene nicely for the return leg in Manchester. Sergio Aguero missed a penalty on the night, matching Ibrahimovic who did the same in Paris weeks before. Kevin De Bruyne scored the winner late in the second half and City progressed to meet Real.

The first-leg produced a battling 0-0 draw which left City requiring a score draw to reach the final. The match was decided by a solitary goal where Fernandinho deflected a Gareth Bale cross into his own net. In the other semi-final an Antoine Griezmann away goal proved decisive against Bayern Munich.

The final in Milan was far more open than the previous encounter and Sergio Ramos, who had not scored in the Champions League since the 2014 final, netted again to give Los Blancos the lead. Griezmann missed the chance to level shortly after the interval as his penalty struck the crossbar but Yannick Carrasco equalised in the 79th minute to force extra-time. There were no goals in the 30 minutes and so the game was decided by penalties whereby Ronaldo scored the decisive spot-kick  to give Real their second Champions League title in three seasons.

Atletico created some unwanted history by being the first team to lose its first three finals in the European Cup—a record they previously shared with Barcelona and Juventus (two).

Final (Milan): Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid (Real won 5-3 on penalties)

 

2016/17 European Cup—Zidane Wins Successive European Cups

The Champions League era had never witnessed a successful defence of the trophy with Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan being the last to win back-to-back European Cups in 1990.

The surprise packages of the tournament were English champions Leicester City whose heroics in the tournament probably had a detrimental impact on their defence of the Premier League championship. The Foxes topped their group, which contained Porto, and then knocked out Sevilla in the last-16. Their European adventure came to an end at the hands of Simeone’s Atletico.

Monaco kick-off their Champions League exploits with a 2-1 win over Spurs at Wembley. They then eliminated Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund to reach the semi-finals before Juventus claimed two victories to win 4-1 on aggregate.

Juventus who won their sixth consecutive Scudetto, were strong contenders. Having sold Paul Pogba for a world-record fee the previous summer, the Bianconeri invested the proceeds in Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain and Roma’s Miralem Pjanic. Before meeting Monaco they had comfortably beaten Barcelona 3-0 in the quarter-finals.

Although Barcelona failed to impress in this season’s tournament, their comeback win against Paris-Saint Germain will go down in Champions League folklore. PSG incredibly won the first-leg in Paris with what should be a perfect home leg advantage (4-0). The French knew there would be pressure at the Camp Nou and although they found themselves 3-0 down on the night, Cavani’s goal after 62 minutes restored some order meaning Barcelona would need to win 6-1 to progress. Neymar scored what seemed a consolation free-kick in the 88th minute to make it 4-1 but two minutes later the Brazilian converted a penalty to set up a grand stand finish. Five minutes deep into added time Roberto scored to spark wild Catalan celebrations while there was despair in the PSG camp.

Elsewhere Arsenal were hammered 5-1 in Munich and then 5-1 again in London by Bayern which prompted some irate Gunners’ fans to demonstrate against Arsene Wenger and the club’s Board to no avail.

The defending champions Real beat Bayern in the quarter-finals but only after extra-time, and then eliminated Atletico in the semi-finals. Their final against Juventus was their second European Cup final against the Italians—their first since 1998.

Although Juventus started brightly, their energetic approach quickly wore off as Ronaldo put Real infront. Croat Mario Mandzukic did acrobatically equalise for Juve but in the second half Real upped the pace as they cruised to a 4-1 win to become the first back-to-back winners for almost 30 years. Zinedine Zidane has now added two back-to-back Champions League titles as a coach in addition to the lavish trophy haul he would have accumulated during his time as one of the world’s best players.

Cristiano Ronaldo finished top scorer in Champions League for an unprecedented fifth year running.

Final (Cardiff): Real Madrid 4-1 Juventus

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