With the 2017/18 Champions League well underway and living fully up to our expectations, Freebets.com have decided to take a look back in time at five of the biggest moments in Champions League history.
5. Ronaldo changes the course of footballing history
When Real Madrid visited Salford for the second leg of their 2002/03 Champions League quarter final with Manchester United, nobody could imagine what was to come. Though David Beckham put in an incredibly spirited performance for the Red Devils, it was Brazilian striker Ronaldo who stole the headlines with the first hat-trick from a visiting player at Old Trafford since 1992.
His display was simply flawless, resulting in a standing ovation from both the home and away fans as he sunk Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. Little did he know, his display had convinced one particular spectator named Roman Abramovich to invest his money into a football club.
4. Zinedine Zidane scores a left-footed screamer vs Bayer Leverkusen
They say ‘big games are for the biggest players’ and their aren’t many games bigger than the Champions League final. Enter the 2002 Champions League final, where plucky Bayer Leverkusen had earned their place against European giants Real Madrid.
Leverkusen had the game tied at 1-1 when Zizou struck this outrageously perfect volley with his apparently weaker left boot to give Los Blancos the lead and eventually win a ninth European Cup for Madrid.
3. Barcelona overturn an impossible deficit against PSG
Unai Emery and his side had one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals in the 2016/17 season after demolishing Barcelona 4-0 at Parc des Princes; but Luis Enrique and his team weren’t willing to give up the chase.
No side had EVER overturned a deficit of 4-0 in European Cup history. Los Cules had started exceptionally, taking a 3-0 lead early into the second half before Edinson Cavani netted a crucial away goal for the Parisians. Game over, surely?
Barcelona clearly hadn’t read the script. Neymar found the net twice in the final few minutes to keep the dream alive. With 94 minutes on the clock and the score at 5-1, PSG gave away a dangerous free-kick in their own half. Cue a half-clearance, Neymar’s delicious lobbed ball and Sergi Roberto finding the net to cause utter bedlam at Camp Nou.
2. Manchester United leave it ’til late in Barcelona
The 1998/99 Champions League final had been a bit of a drab affair for 90 minutes. Bayern Munich led Sir Alex Ferguson’s plucky Man United side thanks to an early Mario Basler free-kick, and much of the play had been in favour of the Germans until injury time began.
It was then that Manchester United fans witnessed a miracle. With the clock ticking down, Teddy Sheringham turned in Ryan Giggs’s loose effort from a corner to keep the game alive.
“Is this the moment?” asked the commentator. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer swiftly obliged, tapping home Sheringham’s headed flick on at the back stick from the following corner to turn the game completely on its head.
“Football, bloody hell!”
1. Liverpool win their fifth European Cup title in dramatic circumstances
The greatest Champions League success of all time, without a shadow of a doubt. It was half-time in the 2004/05 Champions League final and Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan had the game buried with a 3-0 advantage in Istanbul. So much so, that a handful of the Milan players were celebrating their success in the changing room. One passionate Steven Gerrard speech later, a Liverpool side full of confidence and pride emerged for the second half.
Captain marvel himself Gerrard scored a dipping header to give the Reds fans hope ten minutes into the second half, before Vladimir Smicer found the net from range just two minutes later to make it 3-2. Three minutes on and the comeback was complete, much to the amazement of football fans and bookmakers around the globe. Gerrard went tumbling in the Milan box and Xabi Alonso fired in the rebound from his own saved penalty.
After an arduous hour of defending a barrage of Milan attacks, including a ridiculous Jerzy Dudek double save from Andriy Shevchenko in extra-time, the match went to penalties.
Alas, with a little advice from Jamie Carragher, Dudek proceeded to ‘do the wobbly legs’ and imitate Kop legend Bruce Grobbelaar in the shoot-out. And it paid dividends. Dudek was the hero as Liverpool earned their fifth European Cup, unbelievably!