For better or for worse, we’re going to remember Manchester City’s 2018-19 Champions League exit for a long time. A VAR decision in stoppage time chalked off Raheem Sterling’s potential winner, and Tottenham Hotspur progressed to the semi-finals of Europe’s premier competition for the first time in their history. We thought there would be no better time to look back through the annals of history at the greatest football matches of all time.
1) Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich (1999)
In the 1999 Champions League final, Manchester United left it late for one of the most memorable finishes in football history. 1-0 down for much of the game, Teddy Sheringham turned home Ryan Giggs’ scuffed shot in the 91st minute to equalise. Not willing to settle for extra time, however, Alex Ferguson’s team pushed on and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s (whatever happened to him?) flick into the roof of the net sent the Camp Nou into bedlam.
2) Liverpool 3-3 Milan - Liverpool win on penalties (2005)
United’s arch-rivals Liverpool have a Champions League final story of their own, though! 3-0 down at half-time, the Reds fought back in Istanbul to level the scoreline thanks to goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer, and Xabi Alonso, and the stunning saves of goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek meant Liverpool forced a penalty shootout. Waving arms and legs in every direction, Dudek flung a foot up behind him and saved Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty to hand Rafael Benitez’s men the title.
3) England 4-2 West Germany (1966)
In their home World Cup, England sealed the deal against West Germany in an enthralling game at Wembley. Striker Geoff Hurst broke clear in the dying minutes of extra time and rifled the ball into the net to complete his hat-trick, and hand his team the trophy.
4) Manchester City 3-2 QPR (2012)
You can still hear the famous commentary now if you close your eyes… Needing a win to pip Manchester United to the post and win the league title for the first time since 1968, it came down to the last second. Mario Balotelli held the ball up and found the on-rushing Sergio Aguero, who burst into the box and fired a fierce shot past goalkeeper Paddy Kenny.
5) Barcelona 6-1 PSG (2017)
This was one of the most stunning results in recent times. Having won the first leg of their round-of-16 tie 4-0 back in the French capital, PSG would have felt good about progressing to the next round. However, Barcelona’s goals built up, but an Edinson Cavani goal on the hour would have settled Parisian nerves. In the 88th minute, Barcelona needed three goals to progress to the next round. Neymar nailed a free kick in the 88th minute, then tucked home a penalty in the 91st, and with everyone committed forward at the death – Barca’s Sergi Roberto latched onto a ball in behind to complete the comeback to end all comebacks.
6) Liverpool 3-3 West Ham - Liverpool win on penalties (2006)
A year after their Champions League final drama, Liverpool had more silverware in the cabinet after a heart-stopping encounter. West Ham stunned Liverpool in the FA Cup final to take a 2-0 lead in the first-half, although the Reds had levelled mid-way through the second-half after goals from Steven Gerrard and Djibril Cisse. Paul Konchesky’s looping cross handed West Ham the lead again, and it seemed Liverpool had run out of ideas. Until, of course, Gerrard hit a stunning volley from 30 yards out in the 90th minute to equalise again. Pepe Reina was the hero in the shootout this time, with the Spaniard letting just one penalty past him.
7) Brazil 1-7 Germany (2014)
This game was the very definition of ‘jaw-dropping’. In the World Cup semi-final, those watching around the globe seemed to be expectant of Brazil’s progression to the final in their own backyard. It seemed to be something of a formality, and when Thomas Muller turned home a corner in the 11th minute, you still would have been forgiven for backing Brazil to fight back and win on the night. But then Miroslav Klose scored. And then Toni Kroos smashed one into the bottom corner. Then Kroos rolled into an empty net. Then Sami Khedira slid a ball past Julio Cesar. On the half-hour mark, hosts Brazil were 5-0 down. They would go on to lose 7-1.
8) Netherlands 5-1 Spain (2014)
Back in the group stage though, there had been an equally memorable encounter. A rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, many expected a largely similar Spain squad to repeat their success of four years ago. They were stopped in their tracks back in the group stage, however, as the Netherlands recorded a famous win – immortalised by Robin van Persie’s flying header.
9) Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona (2005)
The 2005 El Clasico edition at the Bernabeu saw Ronaldinho go into some kind of new dimension. In the second half, the Brazilian picked the ball up on the left-wing and drove at the hapless Real defenders and slotted past Iker Casillas. Then, he did exactly the same thing, again. This time, the Los Blancos faithful had to stand and applaud the magician.
10) Netherlands 2-1 Argentina (1998)
In the quarter-final of the 1998 World Cup, Argentina were sunk by a certain Dennis Bergkamp. With time ticking away in the 90th minute, the forward plucked a long ball out of the sky and manoeuvred himself around the covering defender to work a shooting opportunity. Sticking it in the top corner, Bergkamp wheeled away in celebration, safe in the knowledge he’d just scored one of the best goals in World Cup history.
11) Italy 4-3 West Germany (1970)
Ask your Grandad, and he may tell you this is the best game of all time. The final of the tournament is remembered for Brazil’s procession as perhaps the greatest team ever assembled, but this semi-final is an encounter that should never be forgotten. Italy struck early, with a goal from Roberto Boninsegna, and then tried to deliver an Italian defensive masterclass to progress to the final on the back of a 1-0 win. A Karl-Heinz Schnellinger goal in the last minute put to bed those hopes, however, and extra time was forced. You may notice at this point, that a game that was 4-3 after extra time, was 1-1 after 90 minutes. It was suitably chaotic. Trading the lead in a frantic period, it fell to substitute Gianni Rivera to bag the winner in the 114th minute.
12) Brazil 4-1 Italy (1970)
In that final, Brazil put on a clinic. The names roll off the tongue and into history – Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho, Rivellino, Pele. It would be Pele to open the scoring that afternoon, and the final goal is something etched into the minds football fans all around the globe. If you’ve never seen it, I recommend you go and watch it!
13) Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool (2009)
3-1 down after the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash with Chelsea, Liverpool were never going to go down quietly. Early goals from Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso showed the Blues they’d have a fight on their hands, and they responded to the challenge well in the second half. Three unanswered goals from Didier Drogba, Alex, and Frank Lampard had put Chelsea back in the ascendancy, but Liverpool were catapulted into contention once again after Lucas and Dirk Kuyt netted. Pushing for the winning goal, Liverpool were caught out by Frank Lampard who booked his side’s ticket to the semi-final. 4-4 on the night, and an enthralling encounter for the neutral.
14) Chelsea 1-1 Bayern Munich - Chelsea win on penalties (2012)
A Chelsea side beset by injuries and suspension wasn’t given much of a chance in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, especially with the Bavarians playing at their own ground. When Thomas Muller headed his team ahead with less than 10 minutes remaining, it seemed as though the result that everyone expected was moments away from realisation. Those people had failed to account for Didier Drogba, however. A late header of his own forced extra time and the Ivorian striker would calmly slot home the penalty to win the trophy.
15) Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle (1996)
A 1996 Premier League encounter between Liverpool and Newcastle delivered and then some, with the Reds leaving it late once again to do the business. A ball to the left-wing bounced in behind the defence, and on-rushing forward Stan Collymore pounced to hoist his team over Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle. The irony of that result is that it played a large part in handing Manchester United the Premier League title!
16) Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle (1997)
And a year later – it happened again! Liverpool would throw away a three-goal lead this time before Robbie Fowler was on target in stoppage time to give the travelling Geordies a strong sense of deja vu.
17) Watford 3-1 Leicester - 3-2 on aggregate (2013)
In the 2013 Championship play-off semi-final, the last-minute drama at Vicarage Road lives on in the minds of English football fans. With the score 2-2 on aggregate, Leicester won a penalty in the 96th minute. Anthony Knockaert stepped up for the Foxes and saw his spot-kick saved. It was about to get worse for Leicester. The Hornets recovered the ball and pushed it down-field, and a cross found its way into the on-rushing path of Troy Deeney who crashed a volley into the net with ferocious power.
18) England 4-1 Netherlands (1996)
At Euro 96, England were in need of a positive result against the Netherlands if they wanted to progress to the next round. Facing off against a talented Dutch team, that was no guarantee either! Timely, then, for Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham to finally work out how to play alongside one another. The pair grabbed a brace each, and a late Patrick Kluivert goal seemed inconsequential – but actually served to knock Scotland out on goal difference. A perfect English result if ever there was one…
19) England 3-6 Hungary (1953)
This is recognised as one of the most important football results in history. England welcomed Hungary to Wembley in 1953, confident in their ability to defeat all-comers from all corners of the world. Hungary, however, were different. Making England’s formation look outdated, a Hungarian team spearheaded by enigmatic forward Ferenc Puskas blew past them, prompting a period of serious introspection and alteration in English football. A pivotal moment.
20) Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal (2011)
One of the most gripping Premier League encounters of recent times, the match will be forever remembered for the long-range volley from the late Cheik Tiote thundering against the net. St James’ Park is known for being one of the loudest stadiums in English football, and it certainly lived up to its reputation that day.