The Champions League is undoubtedly the most prestigious trophy available in club football, and it’s certainly provided its fair share of iconic moments over the decades. Here at NetBet, we’ve taken a trip down memory lane and compiled a list of the top five moments we’ve been lucky enough to witness in finals of the historic competition.
5 – Didier Drogba secures Chelsea European glory – Saturday 19th May, 2012
When Andre Villas-Boas was sacked after less than a year in charge and Chelsea registered their worst domestic finish in a decade, it was unthinkable that the Blues could triumph on the continent – especially given they faced Bayern Munich at their home stadium, the Allianz Arena.
Thomas Muller broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute, but Drogba levelled things late on to send the game into extra time. Following a spirited defensive performance in which former Chelsea man Arjen Robben was denied from the spot, the Blues forced the game to penalties. The responsibility fell to Drogba to bring home the trophy with his final kick of an eight-year stint with the club. Just four years after John Terry’s slip and Chelsea’s heartbreak, Drogba sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way and secured their first ever Champions League trophy.
4 – Gareth Bale bicycle kick earns Real Madrid hat-trick – Saturday 26th May, 2018
Gareth Bale’s time in Spain has been somewhat turbulent, but he will always be remembered for his performance in the 2018 Champions League final. Real Madrid came into the tie having won the previous two competitions, with Liverpool making their first appearance since defeat to Milan in 2007.
With the game finely poised at 1-1, substitute Bale was introduced with half hour left to play. Just two minutes after arriving on the pitch, the Welshman scored what might just be the greatest ever goal in a European Cup final. Marcelo whipped in a cross from the left flank and Bale met the ball mid-flight with an acrobatic overhead kick, sending the ball arrowing into the top corner of Loris Karius’ net. The sensational strike proved to be the decisive goal and wrapped up a hat-trick of Champions League victories for Los Blancos.
3 – Lionel Messi magic seals Barcelona triumph – Saturday 28th May, 2011
In 2011 at the famous Wembley stadium, the world witnessed a masterclass in modern football. Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona epitomised the beautiful game as they passed Manchester United off the park in an incredible display of technical prowess. Of course, Lionel Messi was at the heart of what Sir Alex Ferguson described as the best team he had ever faced.
The moment of the match came in the second half with the game tied at 1-1. With United clinging on for dear life, Messi picked up the ball some 25 yards out and drilled a left-footed strike past a helpless Edwin Van der Sar. He had orchestrated the Barcelona attack from the moment the whistle blew, and it was only fitting that he netted the all important goal. Footballing philosophy was shifting, and the Argentine was Pep Guardiola’s conductor.
2 – Steven Gerrard leads miracle comeback in Istanbul – Wednesday 25th May, 2005
Istanbul played host to one of the most scintillating European finals of all time in 2005. Milan fielded what can only be described as one of the greatest teams of all time, featuring an endless list of superstars. The likes of Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Kaka and Hernan Crespo lit up the pitch as the Rossoneri strolled to a 3-0 half time lead. What happened in the second half was quite simply unbelievable.
Led by captain Steven Gerrard, Liverpool mounted a miracle comeback. Gerrard himself headed home the first, before Vladimir Smicer fired home from range to chop the deficit to one goal. The captain was at the heart of things again when he was tripped, earning his side a penalty. Midfield maestro Xabi Alonso missed the spot kick but converted the rebound to complete the spectacular comeback. Liverpool went on to win on penalties in one of the greatest games the competition has seen.
1 – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completes unprecedented treble – Wednesday 26th May, 1999
With Bayern Munich leading 1-0 and time ticking away, the German giants looked set to lift the trophy. When the fourth official’s board went up signalling three minutes of injury time, there’s not a single soul who could have predicted the chaos which was about to unfold. In three of the most remarkable minutes in the history of football, Manchester United made the impossible possible.
Teddy Sheringham turned in a wayward Ryan Giggs shot to level the tie, with the crowd and coaches gearing up for extra time. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had other ideas. The Norwegian substitute won his side a corner and David Beckham jogged over to swing in a trademark delivery. With the cross flicked on at the near post, Solskjaer was on hand to jab the ball into the roof of the net, sending Sir Alex Ferguson and the United faithful into uproar. The Red Devils had completed an astonishing comeback and completed the treble, one which had never been done prior and one that still hasn’t been done since. When you think of iconic Champions League moments, this one tops the lot.
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