Last week we saw the return of the UEFA Champions League. There were some real mouthwatering ties with Manchester City hosting Barcelona and Arsenal entertaining Bayern Munich. Perhaps this week’s clashes aren’t quite as exciting as the aforementioned, but it’s always great to watch your team playing against elite foreign competition. The group stages are a little pedestrian at times, so we were even more eager to see our respective teams in action where every game matters. Over at Cosh Headquarters (our highly confidential facebook thread), this got us thinking about the best Champions League knockout ties we’ve ever seen. Searching through our extensive mental archives coupled with some very secretive googling took a lot of time out of our lives, but we’re happy to have come up with some fantastic games that will have you going “OH MY GOD, I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT THAT GAME.”
Alex’s Pick: Juventus 2- 3 Manchester United – 1999
“This match was the epitome of drama on a big European night. I even remember my dad making an extra large bowl of popcorn before we sat down in front of the television for this one. Juve were favourites, and fulfilled their role by going 2-0 up in 11 minutes, Filippo Inzaghi with both goals. The Italian goal-hanger’s celebration after his second suggested that he thought it was all over. Then came Roy Keane. The one-man Irish ‘engine room’ took the game by the scruff of the neck and clawed Utd back into it with a bullet header, before sacrificing himself by taking down Zinedine Zidane, receiving a yellow and getting suspended in the event that Utd reached the final. Dwight Yorke converted a cross from Andy Cole to make it 2-2 at half time and complete the come-back, with Utd set to go through on away goals. Juve pushed and pushed for a third in the second half, transitioning from one striker to three. Inzaghi had his hat-trick goal ruled out for offside. In the heart of the Man Utd defense, Jaap Stam and the often overlooked Ronny Johnson were immense, and Andy Cole put Juve to the sword in the final minutes, on the counter-attack.
This was an epic match and a famous victory for Sir Alex Ferguson. Juve were at their imperious best in the late 90s and had a team full of footballing giants…Zidane, Inzaghi, Deschamps, Peruzzi, Davids, Conte, Di Livio (certainly not a real giant)… Utd had Jesper Blomqvist on the left, and Nicky Butt in the middle. Crazy times.”
Bernie’s pick: Barcelona 1-0 Inter Milan – 2010
“This is one of my favorite Champions League matches. Perhaps not for the quality of this one game alone but the tie as a whole. I’m cheating a bit, but indulge me, please. Inter Milan won the first leg 3-1. They were accused of sanding down the pitch to disrupt Barcelona’s smooth passing game. If this is what they truly did then it worked like a charm. Barcelona didn’t look like themselves and Inter hit them on the break swiftly and effectively, but even at 3-1, Barcelona were never out of it. The return leg at the Nou Camp was one of the most tense matches I’ve ever witnessed. Jose Mourinho unashamedly parked the bus and the jet that brought them to Spain. Wave after wave of Barca pressure crashed against the Italian team but their defense could not be broached. With the onslaught they were facing there would have to be a casualty and that man was Thiago Motta. Motta was sent off and Barca turned up the pressure unbelievably. Late into the game Barcelona got their rewards as Gerard Pique scored a splendid goal 10 minutes from time (although it should have been ruled out for offside). Could Barcelona score one more goal to take them through on away goals? They did… but it was disallowed for a Yaya Toure hand-ball in the build up, though this time it probably should have stood. For a second Barcelona were in the final on away goals, and the next second it was taken away from them. Inter Milan somehow managed to hold on for dear life. That wasn’t the end of it. Jose Mourinho celebrated Inter Milan’s advancement to the final by gallivanting around the Nou Camp, celebrating in the faces of the Blaugrana. Victor Valdes took offense and tried to remove Jose. The Special One could not be stopped. This day belonged to him and he wasn’t going to let anyone forget it. This was the game that gave birth to the Mourinho-Guardiola rivalry, and the final chapter of that story is yet to be written.”
Mohaned and Rishay’s pick: Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool – 2009
“This game just had to make the list. This was goal-fest in the truest sense of the phrase. Chelsea were known for their defensive prowess, and under Rafa Benitez Liverpool were also very solid at the back. What we saw here was a complete abandonment of the concept of defending. In all honesty, we’re so happy that this game turned out the way it did. Chelsea’s brief but intense love affair with Guus Hiddink was greatly aided by this game and their progression to the semi-final by way of Liverpool. It did much to quell the ghosts of the phantom goal that Benitez’s men gained over the Londoners some years earlier. Liverpool were without ‘Captain Fantastic’ Steven Gerrard due to injury, but they almost pulled off a famous victory without the hero of Istanbul. In fact, it didn’t look like they missed him at all as they went 2-0 up thanks to goals from Fabio Aurelio and a Xabi Alonso penalty. Chelsea should have been knocked out, but early in the second half Chelsea scored two – a Reina howler from a Drogba effort and an Alex strike. Having gained the momentum, Frank Lampard gave Chelsea a deserved lead and the Blues seemed through. However, Liverpool came storming back with two goals in a minute from the unlikely Lucas, and Dirk Kuyt. The travelling fans were jubilant. All hope was soon dashed as Frank Lampard scored again with one minute to go. There would be no Liverpool miracle on this night. Chelsea had seen it out. Just barely, but Hiddink’s men had done it. WOW!”