The Champions League final is often seen as the pinnacle of club football, and for good reason; European giants have been slugging it out for the better part of a century now. As this year’s competition edges ever nearer to its inevitably dramatic conclusion, and with Liverpool putting one foot firmly in next season’s competition with a win over West Ham United on Sunday, we take a look back at which finals most deserve to go down in the history books — though we’re pretty sure you’ll know which one tops the list!
- Glasgow 1960 – Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3
127,000 fans piled into Hampden Park to witness the highest scoring final of all time. With two of the greatest players of all time at the peak of their powers, Real Madrid were at their rampant best – Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas shared the seven goals between them.
Eintracht Frankfurt took the lead in the 18th minute but Madrid quickly responded with six unanswered goals. Eintracht Frankfurt had made exceedingly short work of Rangers in the semi-final (12-4 on aggregate) so it’s understandable that the native Scots watching the game were shocked at just how easily Madrid were able to tear apart such a mighty Eintracht Frankfurt team. 1960 marked Real Madrid’s fifth consecutive European Cup in the five years since its inception.
- Lisbon 1967 – Celtic v Inter Milan 2-1
Celtic became the first British team to taste European glory in 1967. Inter had won the trophy in two of the last three years, and went into the final as heavy favourites. All eleven of Celtic’s players were born within a 30-mile radius of Glasgow and after their historic victory they became immortalised in the football canon as the Lisbon Lions.
Despite conceding a goal via penalty within minutes of kick-off, Celtic were resolute in their attacking conviction and they were eventually rewarded for it in the 63rd minute when Tommy Gemmell scored past Inter goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti. Inter’s world-famous catenaccio defence was breached again in the 84th minute by Stevie Chalmers. The win was heralded, even by Inter’s manager, as a ‘victory for sport.’
- Athens – 1994 – AC Milan v Barcelona 4-0
Widely considered to be the greatest team performance in a Champions League final of all time, a severely depleted Milan side (without Marco Van Basten, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta) ran riot in Athens against Barcelona.
Prior to the game, Cruyff infamously remarked that ‘they [Milan] base their game on defence, we base ours on attack,’ making the four-goal margin of victory even more surprising. His attitude towards the final was bemoaned by everyone, from the players to the staff, with his presumption of victory reportedly unsettling his team.
- Istanbul -2005 – Liverpool v AC Milan 3-3 (3-2 penalties)
One of the greatest comebacks of all time, on world football’s biggest stage no less, secured Liverpool’s place in footballing folklore forever. Facing a three-goal deficit, against a Milan line-up that reads like a list of legends, Rafa Benitez’s team surged back from the brink of defeat.
Spearheaded by captain Steven Gerrard, Liverpool blasted in three goals in a six-minute period in the second half. Only the exceptional performance of goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek ensured that the Reds ended extra time with the 3-3 score line intact. Dudek’s theatrical pre-penalty routine did enough to unnerve some of Milan’s penalty takers, and when his left hand blocked Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty, Liverpool claimed the Champions League trophy for a fifth time – allowing them to keep the trophy for good!
Has reading about the heroics of Istanbul inspired you to make a footballing comeback of your own? Before you go rummaging around in the shed for your old football – team equipment is essential for training properly. And with a bit of luck, you will be able to revive memories of Istanbul with a blistering comeback in a local Sunday league or five-a-side game.