European Champions League News Previews Reports History
This page is dedicated to the UEFA european champions league and includes news reports previews fixtures results of the leading football competition in europe. Page includes information for the 2011 -2012 season – draw dates for each round & dates for each round
Chelsea are Kings Of Europe
May 20th 2012: Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in a dramatic penalty shoot out. It was 1-1afer extra time was played. After spurning a hatful of opportunities, Munich eventually took the lead on 83 minutes when Thomas Mueller’s powerful header evaded Petr Cech in the Blues goal. It looked over for the Londoners until their old hero Didier Drogba popped up in the 88th minute with a trademark header which took the game to extra time.
Both sides pushed for a winner in extra time but couldn’t manage to find that elusive killer pass. Ex Chelsea winger Arjen Robben missed a spot kick, which showed that he still lacks the nerve in major finals. Munich made a great start to the shootout as Chelsea missed their first penalty. Munich were in control until Ivica Olic and Bastien Schweinsteiger miscued from the spot. Chelsea’s Ivorian veteran Drogba won them the European cup with a decisive penalty. Chelsea become the first team in the 60 year history of the competition to bring the trophy back to London. Munich blew the best chance they are ever going to have of winning the Champions League. Their players came up short in their own backyard and superstars such as Robben, Ribery and Schweinsteiger still haven’t proved they have the credentials to win a major European trophy. A valiant effort from the Underdogs and a Chelsea victory seemed written in the stars all along.
Champions League Final Preview
April 27th 2012: Bayern Munich face Chelsea at their home, The Allianz Arena. Bayern playing at their home ground should give them a considerable advantage but it may mean additional pressure for them too. The German Giants have a decorated history in this tournament but have failed to lift the trophy since a win over Valencia back in 2001. Chelsea have appeared in numerous semi-finals in recent years and lost in the 2008 Moscow final to English counterparts Manchester United. The Blues seem to have had some fortuitous decisions and events go their way in the past few weeks which suggests to me it may finally be their year.
Munich have one of Europe’s finest strikers, the statuesque goal machine Mario Gomez. Controlled Germany skipper Phillip Lahm and midfield linchpin Bastein Schweinsteiger will be patrolling the midfield. Chelsea look to Ivorian marksman Didier Drogba and Spanish magician Juan Mata for attacking prowess. I anticipate a tight contest that Chelsea will emerge victorious from. I can see Munich controlling possessions and I do genuinely feel they are the stronger outfit but destiny seems to be with the West Londoners. Chelsea to finally achieve their and owner Roman Abramovich’s dream and become the first London club to lift this coveted trophy. Howemost Prediction Chelsea 2-1 Bayern Munich after extra time.
Champions League Semi-Final First Leg News
April 19th 2012: Bayern Munich will take a one goal lead into their second leg at Real Madrid after a 2-1 victory at the Allianz Arena. The 2001 winners took the lead when Frank Ribery scored on 17 minutes. Los Blancos battled back to capitalise on some poor Bayern defending and Mesut Ozil levelled the scores early in the second half. Bayern missed several good chances and it looked as if it just wouldn’t be their night until skipper Phillip Lahm tricked the overrated Fabio Coentrao and crossed for statuesque German striker Mario Gomez to bundle home a late winning goal. Bayern are in favourable position to reach the final on May 26th at their own ground but with Real having scored an away goal, the tie is fascinatingly poised.
Chelsea Upset the odds with a 1-0 home defeat of Barcelona. Barca dominated possession from the outset but were made to rue a hatfull of missed opportunities. Alexis Sanchez hit the bar and Cesc Fabregas was guilty of scueing a couple of golden chances. The Blues scored at a perfect time, right on the stroke of halftime. the brilliant Ramires crossed for veteran Didier Drogba to fire them in to a priceless lead. Replays showed that the Ivorain’s shot was scuffed and goalkeeper Victor Valdes could and should have done better to keep it out.
The Londoners were well disciplined and organzied wich made it hard for the Champions to breach their defence on a compact pitch. The closest they came in the second half was in the dying minutes when substitute Pedro’s low drive struck the post and Sergio Busquets clumsy rebound shot sailed over the cross bar. Roberto Di Matteo and his side deserve much credit for shutting out the World Champions and the fact that the Catalans were unable to notch an away goal could count against them in 5 days time. We are set for a mouthwatering second Leg on Tuesday and as good as Chelsea were, they will need to be even better to eliminate Barcelona on a pitch as spacious as the Nou Camp.
Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg News
April 4th 2012: Barcelona beat AC Milan 3-1 at the Nou Camp to reach their 4th semi-final in a row. Barca predictably flew out the traps and took the lead when Lionel Messi scored from the penalty spot. Antonio Nocerino levelled for the Rossoneri giving them an away goal which would have taken them through to the last four. Veteran defender Alessandro Nesta was foolish enough to conceded a blatant penalty and the incomparable Messi stepped up to convert with ease. Andres Iniesta’s second half goal took the steam out of an exasperated Milan side and the holders have a date with old nemesis Chelsea next.
Chelsea squeezed past a talented Benfica side to reach the Semi’s. The Portuguese giants began well and were played the better football throughout the contest. The away side paid the price for nonchalant defending and Frank Lampard hammered home a spot-kick to give the Blues a priceless 1-0 advantage on the night. Benfica would then be reduced to ten men when Oliviera was harshly dismissed for two yellow card offences. Despite going down to ten men Benfica continued to be the superior offensive outfit and would have regretted missing a whole host of chances. Benfica would eventually snatch their equaliser with 5 minutes left on the clock after capitalising on some of Chelsea’s naive defending. All of a sudden Stamford Brdige went from a joyous arena to a tense and nervous stadium as one more goal for Benfica would send them through on the away goals rule. The Portuguese pushed everyone forward and were caught cold on the counter attack when Blues sub Raul Merieles smashed the ball past the helpless goalkeeper to seal a 3-1 aggregate win. Chelsea now face the unenviable task of defeating Barcelona and based on this evidence I don’t give them a cat in hells chance.
Real Madrid thrashed Cypriot Champions Apoel Nicosia to advance to their second consecutive semi-final. The Prolific Cristiano Ronaldo hit his obligatory brace of goals but The Cypriot minnows will feel proud to have got on the score sheet at the famous Bernabeau. Los Blancos emerged victorious, 8-2 on aggregate and must overcome Bayern Munich to reach their first final in 10 years. Bayern Munich eased to triumph with a 2-0 defeat of Marseille. Croatian Ivica Olic was on the double for Bayern meaning their dreams of making the final in their own stadium are still alive. Munich won with a comprehensive aggregate score of 4-0 over the Frenchman.
March 30th 2012: UEFA have hit Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger with a three match ban and a hefty £33,000 fine for his conduct. The Frenchman is facing his third charge in just one year after furiously confronting match official Damir Skomina at the end of the Gunners 3-0 defeat of AC Milan which saw them exit the Champions League 4-3 on aggregate. Wenger was irate at the number of dubious free-kicks the Rossoneri were awarded that night at the Emirates and was unable to contain his rage at the final whistle. The defiant 62 year-old professor had this to say on the news of his punishment: ”It’s not justified and I will straight away appeal.”
Champions League Quarter Final News
March 29th 2012: Holders Barcelona drew 0-0 at the san Siro with AC Milan. Barca will be the happier of the two teams going in to the second leg but not scoring an away goal could come back to haunt the Spanish champions. Bayern Munich won 2-0 at Marseille. Strikes from Mario Gomez on the stroke of halftime and Arjen Robben midway through the second half have effectively booked Bayern’s place in the semi-finals.
The Only English side left Chelsea claimed an impressive 1-0 victory at Benfica. Chelsea were tactically astute and scored a priceless away goal when the lively Fernando Torres set up the clinical Salamon Kalou on 75 minutes.The Blues look on course to reach the last four if they can finish the job at Stamford Bridge next week. Spanish League leaders Real Madrid were frustrated by surprise package Apoel Nicosia for over an hour in Cyprus. The Cypriot Champions defensive discipline was shutting Los Blancos out until the introduction of 60 million pound Kaka from the bench. The Brazilian play maker set up one for Karim Bernzema and scored their third and final goal. Let’s hope Real don’t embarrass the minnows too much when they arrive in the Spanish capital for the second leg.
Champions League Quarter Final draw
Apoel Nicosia vs Real Madrid
Marseille vs Bayern Munich
AC Milan vs Barcelona
First legs to be played on March 27th/28th and second legs on April 3rd/April 4th.
The winners of Chelsea vs Benfica will face the winners of Milan vs Barcelona and the winners of Apoel vs Madrid take on the winners of the Bayern Munich vs Marseille tie.
Last 16 Second Leg News
March 14th 2012: Bayern Munich humiliated Swiss champions Basle at the Allianz Arena in the second leg of their Champions League tie. Bayern’s top marksman Mario Gomez struck an astonishing four of Muinch’s 7 goals in a 7-0 victory. Bayern had come in to the second leg a little nervy having lost 1-0 in Switzerland but the aggregate score ended up as 7-1.
Marseille lost 2-1 at Inter Milan but reach the last 8 on the away goals rule. Inter took 67 minutes to level up the tie with a close range strike from Argentine Diego Milito. A stoppage time equaliser from Marseille’s Brazilian Brandao meant it was heartbreak for the 2010 winners and Giampaolo’s Pazzini’s penalty with the last kick of the game proved to be a mere consolation. Marseille advance 2-2 on aggregate and amazingly it’s the first time they’ve progressed to the quarter finals of this competition since they won it in 1993.
March 7th 2012: Arsenal displayed a spirited comeback against AC Milan but it wasn’t enough to prevent them from exiting the tournament at the second round stage yet again. The Gunners won the match 3-0 at the Emirates with first half goals from defender Laurent Koscielny the revitalised Tomas Rosicky and a penalty from skipper Robin Van Persie. They scored all these goals before half time but were unable to breach Milan’s defence in the entire second half. So Milan scrape through 4-3 on aggregate and on this evidence I give them little hope of defeating favourites Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Benfica progressed to the quarter finals with a 2-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg in Portugal. Strikes from Maxi Perreira and an injury time goal from Nelson Oliviera saw the two time Champions League winners seal their spot in the last 8 with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
Holders Barcelona Thrashed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 at the Nou Camp to emphatically reach the quarter finals. World player of the year Lionel Messi broke another record by becoming the first man in Champions League history to score five goals in one match. Barca win 10-2 on aggregate and after this performance it’s looking ominous for the contenders to their European crown.
Cypriot Champions Apoel continued their fairytale story with a dramatic penalty shootout win over French giants Lyon. It was 1-0 to Apoel on the night which meant it was 1-1 on aggregate and the tie had to be decided by the supposed lottery of penalty kicks. Goalkeeper Dionisis Chiotis was the hero for Nicosia as his two crucial saves in the shootout mean APOEL will be in the biggest underdog in the hat for the Quarter final
Last 16 News
Tuesday 21st Feb 2012 and Wednesday 22nd 2012: Spanish League leaders Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw in the freezing cold at CSKA Moscow. Real thought they had one foot in the last 8 after Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 21st Champions League goal in the Russian capital but an injury time strike from Moscow’s Pontus Wernbloom has given the Russians a lifeline heading in to the second leg. This is the first time Los Blancos have failed to win a match in this season’s Champions League but I just can’t envisage CSKA getting the result they require at the Bernabeau in 2 weeks time.
English giants Chelsea lost 3-1 to Napoli in Naples. Chelsea made a good start and took the lead after 25 minutes when their Spanish genius Juan Mata was left unmarked to side foot home from close range. The goal shook Serie A side Napoli into life and they equalised 10 minutes later with a goal from Argentine forward Eziquiel Lavezzi. The Londoners looked to be heading in at half time on level terms but Napoli’s outstanding Edison Cavani had other ideas as he powered a shot in to the top left hand corner of Petr Cech’s net to make it 2-1.
Chelsea spent most of the second half in disarray as they were unable to cope with the skill and intensity of Napoli’s football. Lavezzi sealed the victory on 65 minutes with an assist from his strike partner Cavani. Chelsea have a valuable away goal but on this evidence I wouldn’t place money on them to turn the tie round at Stamford Bridge and progress to the quarter finals.
Marseille beat 2010 Champions Inter Milan to give themselves an advantage going in to the second leg. Ghanian Andre Ayew struck a dramatic winner in the 92nd minute at the Velodrome. The game was fairly even and dull until Ayew came up with the goods in stoppage time but its only half time in this tie and Inter are still in with a fighting chance.
Swiss Champions Basle downed 2001 winners Bayern Munich 1-0 in a shock result. Neither side really deserved to emerge from this game victorious but midfield maestro Valentin Stocker won the first leg for Basle with an 86th minute strike through Oliver Neuer’s legs. Bayern will remain favourites as they still have to take their opposition back to the Allianz Arena but the failure to score an away goal may come back to haunt the German Giants.
Champions League Draw For The Last 16 & Predictions
First legs on February 14th/15th and February
21st/22nd and Second legs on March 6/7th and 13th/14th. Lyon vs APOEL Nicosia Napoli vs Chelsea AC Milan vs Arsenal Basel vs Bayern Munich Bayer Leverkusen vs Barcelona CSKA Moscow vs Real Madrid Zenit St Petersburg vs Benfica Marseille vs Inter Milan
Arsenal face Italian champions AC Milan which is the hardest draw they could have expected. The first leg is in the San Siro and the second at the Emirates which may give the Gunners an advantage. I envisage a tight contest over two legs and the return of midfield dynamo Jack Wilshere could be key for Arsenal. Milan are the 7 times winners and Arsenal have yet to win it once, only appearing in one final. The Rossoneri’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have the final say in this two legged encounter but Milan’s aging defence must be wary of Dutch striker Robin Van Persie. I predict Milan to squeeze through narrowly as this isn’t the same Arsenal side who beat them in the San Siro back in 2008. Howemost Prediction is AC Milan
Chelsea face Napoli the side that knocked out English giants Manchester City. Chelsea have been in great form of recent and seem to have rediscovered their defensive solidity. Napoli showed against Man City that they have a quick hard working football team with a cutting edge in top scorer Edison Cavani. The second leg being in London will give Chelsea an advantage and I expect them to draw in Napoli but win at the Bridge to take them through to the last 8. Howemost Prediction is Chelsea.
Basle take on German giants Bayern Munich. Munich have an illustrious history in the competition having won it on 4 separate occasions. Basle impressed as they eliminated Manchester United especially young winger Shakiri. Munich have so much talent in their ranks though and if it’s not top scorer Mario Gomez who will hurt you then its Frank Ribery of flying Dutchman Arjen Robben. I think Munich will progress to the quarter finals with ease. Howemost prediction is Bayern Munich
Marseille face 2010 winners Inter Milan. The French side upset the odds with a magnificent comeback on Match day 6 to reach the last 16. Inter squeezed through an easy group as winners but are no force to be reckoned with in this tournament. I anticipate a tight affair over two legs but i believe the exuberant youth of Marseille will overcome a tired Inter side. Howemost Prediction is Marseille
Reigning champions Barcelona face Germans Bayer Leverkusen. Barca breezed through their qualifying group and any doubt that they are still Europe’s best side was quashed with their 3-1 win at Real Madrid. Leverkusen are a solid outfit and could cause Barca problems in Germany but are unlikely to cope in the Nou Camp against the genius of Lionel Messi. Howemost prediction is Barcelona
Nine time winners Real Madrid face Russian side CSKA Moscow. Los Blancos were fantastic in qualifying as they scored goals for fun and maintained a 100 per cent record. Moscow squeaked through on Match day 6 and have a couple of dangerous forwards but nowhere near the quality of Real. I expect Real with the second leg at The Bernabeau to progress to the last 8 with relative ease. Howemost Prediction is Real Madrid
French side Lyon meet surprise Cypriot outfit APOEL Nicosia. The Cypriot champions have shocked everyone by winning their group and becoming the first Cypriot side to make the draw for the last 16. Lyon qualified in unprecedented circumstances with a 7-1 win at Zagreb in the final match taking them through on goal difference. Lyon have the experience at this stage of the tournament and although I believe Nicosia could make history by reaching the quarter finals it is rather unlikely. Howemost Prediction is Lyon
Benfica take on Russians Zenit St Petersburg. Benfica have impressed in this seasons competition with their skilful and attacking style of play. St Petersburg qualified without any real fireworks but they know they can make life difficult for The Portuguese side in the first leg in Russia. Zenit have a chance but if Benfica play to their ability then I expect them to overcome Zenit and throw their name in the hat for the last 8. Howemost Prediction is Benfica.
Champions League Results 7th December
2011 finalists and English champions Manchester United crashed out at the group stage for the first time since 2005. United’s 2-1 loss in Basle meant they finished third and suffer the embarrassment of playing Europa League football in the new year. The Swiss side’s win means they qualify as runners up. Benfica top the group after their 1-0 home defeat of Romanian Minnows Otleul Galati
Spanish giants Real Madrid topped finished with a 100 percent record courtesy of an impressive 3-0 win in the Dutch capital against Ajax. Boss, Jose Mourinho put out a second string team and a brace from Roman Callejon showed the strength in depth that Real have. Ajax were knocked out after Lyon achieved the unthinkable by overturning a huge goal difference. Perennial knockout stage team Lyon thrashed Dinamo Zagreb 7-1 on their own patch. Bafetibs Gomis notched 4 goals and scored the fastest ever Champions League hat trick in just 7 minutes..
Group winners Inter Milan lost 2-1 at home to Russians CSKA Moscow. A late winner from Berezutsky confirmed Moscow as runners up and they will be in the hat for next Friday’s draw. Lille played out a drab 0-0 draw at home to Turkish side Trabzonspor and the French champions will be sorely disappointed to exit the tournament in this fashion
The richest club in the world, Manchester City joined rivals United in the Europa league despite winning 2-0 at home to Bayern Munich. Goals from star players Yaya Toure and David Silva were not enough to seal qualification as Italians Napoli won 2-0 in Villarreal to finish second behind Bayern Munich.
Champions League Results 6th December
Chelsea progressed to the last 16 as group winners with a 3-0 win over Valencia. Didier Drogba was back to his best with a double and Brazilian Ramires took advantage of some diabolical defending to score the other. Bayer Leverkusen finished as runners up in Chelsea’s group after a 1-1 draw
in Belgium with Belgian champions Genk. Swiss Striker Eren Derdiyok got the Leverkusen leveller after the German side went behind. Group winners Arsenal made nine changes from the weekend and lost 3-1 at Olympiakos.
The Greek champions were all set to qualify as runners up until dramatic circumstances occurred in Dortmund. Borussia Dortmund were 2-0 up against Marseille and the French side were exiting the competition until a late rally. Loic Remy drew a goal back before half time and then a header from Ghanaian Andre Ayew made the scored level. French international Mathieu Valbuena came off the bench to hit a stunning goal in the dying seconds. Marseille, against all the odds shattered Greek dreams and progress as runners up behind Arsenal.
Group winners and holders Barcelona beat Bate Borisov 4-0 at the Nou Camp. Pep Guardiola made ten changes to his side but with the incredible talent they have at youth and reserve level they managed to coast to victory. Pedro marked his return to the first team with a brace for the Catalans.
Plezn drew 2-2 at home with second place AC Milan to ensure they snatch a Europa League place. The Rossoneri went 2-0 ahead through Brazilian duo Alexandre Pato and Robinho who got his first Champions League goal for Milan. The Czech side showed great spirit though to score in the 89th and in the 90th minute substitute Michael Duris made it 2-2 on the night.
Apoel Nicosia lost 2-0 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk but still managed to progress as group winners with just nine points. Russians Zenit St Petersburg followed the Cypriots in to the last 16 with a 0-0 draw at Portuguese Champions Porto.
Wembley To Host 2013 Champions League Final
UEFA has chosen Wembley Stadium to host the 2013 Champions League final. UEFA president Michel Platini said that the choice of Wembley for the second time in three years was in recognition of the Football Association’s 150th anniversary. which he said ” was an important anniversary in our game to respect.”
The choice of Wembley for the final is underpinned by facilities available at the stadium which in 2011 made preparation for the final easy to organise as it did not need to supplement them with temporary marquees to host media coverage or corporate hospitality.
Following criticism of the 2011 ticket prices the UEFA President apologised for their high cost al and said it might be possible to introduce a cheaper family category in the future. The cheapest tickets in the 2011 final were £150 plus a £26 administration fee whilst the cheapest package for for one adult and a child was £338.
Champions League Dates Of Future Draws 2011 -2012
16 March 2012 Quarter-Final/Semi-Final
Champions League Match Fixtures 2011 -2012
The current format for the Champions League is 32 teams who are drawn in to 8 groups of four teams each. The two top sides from each group progress to the last 16 and if you finish second then u must meet a winner from another group. Sides from the same country are prevented from meeting each other until the quarter final stage.
14/21 2012 February 2nd Round 1st Leg 6/13 2012 March 2nd Round 2nd Leg 27 March 2012 Quarter-Final 1st Leg 3 April 2012 Quarter-Final 2nd Leg 17 April 2012 Semi-Final 1st Leg 24 April 2012 Semi-Final 2nd Leg
19 May 2012 Final Allianz Arena (Munich)
The History Of Champions League 1955 – 2011
The Champions League started life as the European Cup in 1955. The idea was conceived by French journalist Gabriel Hanot. Hanot was reportedly angered by the claims of the English press that Wolverhampton Wanderers were the ‘Champions of the world’ after a string of victories against top European sides in friendly games. Hanot suggested a tournament should be created to decide who the best team really is and so the European champions club cup was initiated with the first season being the 1955/56 campaign.
The most successful club in the tournament’s history is Real Madrid who were the first winners of the inaugural competition. Los Blancos won the first 5 European cups and have 9 titles to their illustrious name, they banished any myth that Wolverhampton Wanderers were the best team in the world. A large part of Madrid’s success was their prolific striking duo of Alfredo Di Stefano and Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas. During Real’s dominant era they were met twice in the final by the now relatively unknown French outfit Stade De Reims. De Reims now play in France’s Ligue 2 but reached the very first final in 1956 where they lost to Madrid and again in 1959 where once again they were defeated by the Spaniards.
Portuguese side Benfica briefly took control of the tournament in the early 1960′s with successes in 61 and 62. Striker Jose Aguas and playmaker Mario Coluna were instrumental in Benfica’s stronghold and both scored in their first ever triumph over Barcelona in Bern, Switzerland. AC Milan are the second most successful club in the history of the tournament with 7 titles the first of which was won in 1963. AC’s city rivals Inter Milan prized the trophy away from the Rossoneri with a win in the 1964 final and then retained the trophy in a 1-0 win over Benfica at the San Siro. Benfica were arguably the best side in european football during a lot of the 1960′s but after winning the cup in 1961 and 1962 they could only manage to finish as runners up three times in the rest of the decade.
Benfica were by the Mozambique born superstar striker Eusebio who finished as the competitions leading goal scorer on three occasions between 1965 and 1968. Manchester United won their first of three Champions league titles with a victory over Benfica at Wembley in 1968. A 21 year-old George Best was the man of the match and managed to get on the score sheet in a 4-1 triumph for the red devils.
A new force emerged in the early 1970′s in the form of Dutch club Ajax of Amsterdam. That teams superstar was Dutch legend Johan Cruyff but there were other reasons why they were the best side in Europe with players such as striker Sjaak Swart and the infamous defender Johan Neeskens. Ajax won the trophy three years in a row between 1971 and 1973 with wins over Greek side Panathanaikos and Italian giants Juventus and Inter Milan. It was during this golden era that the world first got to see’ Total football’ which was arguably the most entertaining and attacking style of football that the world had seen at that point.
The Bayern Munich era followed Ajax’s stranglehold on the competition and Munich just like their Dutch counterparts went on to win three European finals in succession. Munich were the best team of the mid 1970′s and were lead by legendary Captain Franz Beckenbauer and Munich’s leading goal scorer of all time Gerd Muller. Bayern beat English sides Leeds United in Leeds’ only final appearance in 1975 courtesy of strikes from Muller and creative midfielder Franz Roth. It was during this period that Bayern’s star players were influential in West Germanys International achievements as they lifted the World Cup in 1974. There was a shift in the balance of power though in 1977 and England became the dominant force in European football.
Liverpool won their first European cup in 1977 with a 3-1 win over German outfit Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome. The reds had become the kings of English football and how they were beginning to rule the European stage as well. In 1978 Liverpool retained their European crown with a 1-0 win over Belgian side Brugge. Liverpool heroine Kenny Dalglish announced himself to the world with a winning 65th minute goal in front of their home country at Wembley.
In 1979 reigning English champions Nottingham Forest achieved what seemed like the impossible under the charismatic Brian Clough. Forest defeated Swedish champions Malmo 1-0 thanks to a goal from Britain’s first million pound footballer Trevor Francis. The unthinkable happened a year later in 1980 when Forest defied the odds by retaining the European cup with a John Robertson goal which earned them a 1-0 win over Hamburg. Liverpool kept the trophy in England with their third European title in just 4 years. Paris was the setting for Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat of the mighty Real Madrid. Bob Paisley had become the most decorated manager in European cup history with his third trophy and he remains the most successful manager in the tournament to this very day.
Another English team sprung from nowhere to maintain England’s control of the European cup, this time it was Aston Villa. Villa’s talismanic striker Peter Withe scored the solitary goal in their 1-0 win over 3 times champions Bayern Munich. It was a remarkable achievement for the Midlands club and remains the finest hour in the clubs illustrious history. Liverpool won their last European cup for 21 years in 1984 with a nail biting penalty shoot out against Roma in the Italian capital. Roma couldn’t make home advantage count and succumbed to the might of Merseyside. Liverpool’s victory mean that an English team had won the European cup every year between 1977 and 1984 which is a feat which has never been replicated by another country.
In 1985 Liverpool reached their fifth final in 8 years and lost to Juventus but their defeat was overshadowed by the tragic events which have come to be known as the Heysel disaster. Thirty nine fans which were largely Juventus supporters were killed after being charged by Liverpool fans. The incident saw English sides banned from the competition for 6 years. It was Juventus’s first of two European cup glories and the game was won by a Michel Platini spot kick.
In 1986 Romanian champions Steau Bucharest shocked the world by becoming the first eastern European side to claim the coveted trophy. Bucharest got the better of Spanish giants Barcelona in their won backyard and their goalkeeper Helmuth Dackdum was hailed as the ‘Hero Of Seville’ after his heroic saves won them their first and only European cup.
At the end of the 1980′s AC Milan finally regained their moniker as kings of Europe. The Rossoneri thrashed two time finalists Bucharest 4-0 in from of 97,000 people in Barcelona’s Nou Camp. Dutch duo Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit were Milan’s match winners with both of them netting doubles that night. AC ensured back to back victories in 1990 as they beat former European champions Benfica 1-0 in Vienna, Austria. Milan are the last side to defend the trophy successfully as of 2011.
The 1991 final saw two sides debut in the final, Red Star Belgrade and Marseille played out a rather boring goalless draw in Bari, Italy. The Belgrade team had players who would go on to become successes in mainland Europe such as Dejan Saviecivic and Robert Prosinecki. The final was settled by the lottery of penalties and prolific Belgrade striker Darko Pancev scored the winning goal. A remarkable accomplishment for Red Star who became the second Eastern European side in only 5 years to become European champions. 1992 saw Spaniards Barcelona win their first ever European cup. Despite their galactic reputation the Catalans had never managed to win European footballs biggest prize. Wembley was the scene of Barca’s initiation into Europe’s elite and the mesmerizing side managed by Barca idol Johan Cruyff beat Italians Sampdoria with a stunning free-kick from set piece expert Ronald Koeman. Wembley holds a special place in the hearts of the football club so much so that Barcelona bought a place of the old stadium to keep in their trophy laden museum.
In August 1992 the European cup underwent a huge transformation and was renamed the UEFA Champions League. The competition was at its commercial peak and a Champions League theme song an adaptation of George Friedrich Handel’s ”Zadok the priest” was composed by Englishman Tony Britten. Marseille were the first winners in the Champions League era as they beat favourites AC Milan 1-0 in Munich courtesy of a 43rd minute goal from Basile Boli. Marseille are surprisingly the only French side to win the trophy in the history of the competition. Milan bounced back the following year though to thrash Spanish champions Barcelona 4-0 . Frenchman Marcel Desailly became the first player to win the tournament in consecutive years with two different clubs as he was part of the Marseille team that had defeated Milan a year earlier.
Dutch giants Ajax claimed their fourth and last European cup with a 1-0 win over reigning champions Milan in 1995. An 18 year old Patrick Kluivert scored the late winner for the Dutchmen it what was a drab affair. Italy’s most successful side Juventus were becoming a major force again in the mid 1990′s and they would meet current holders Ajax with home field advantage in Rome. It was terribly hard to pick a winner in this game and the final went the distance and was settled with penalty kicks. Vladimir Jugovic scored the winning penalty in one of the most thrilling finals in years. The old lady of Turin lifted their second Champions League trophy and hoped that this victory would propel them on to many more but those dreams have failed to materialise.
German club Borussia Dortmund had come from nowhere to announce themselves on the European stage. European footballer of the year, defender Matthias Sammer was the driving force behind their success in the 1990′s. Juventus were the champions and the majority of pundits made them favourites to recapture their European crown in the 1997 final. Borussia defied the odds though awith a convincing 3-1 victory in Munich. Karl Heinze-Riedle was the star of that final as his brace saw Die Borussen celebrate their first and only Champions League triumph.
The venue for the 1999 Final was the beautiful city of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. The players of Manchester United and Bayern Munich entered the atmospheric Nou Camp to the sound of Freddie Mercury and opera diva Monsterrat Cabelle’s epic masterpiece ”Barcelona”. United hadn’t won Europe’s elite competition for 31 years and it looked as if it was going to end in heartbreak until two goals at the death from substitutes Teddy Sherringham and then Ole Gunnar Solkjsjaer gave the red devils the most dramatic of wins. In 2001 Bayern managed to exercise some of those demons by winning their 4th piece of Champions League Silverware. Munich defeated Spanish outfit Valenica who lost their second final in consecutive years after losing in the all Spanish Millenium final to Real Madrid.
Los Blancos went in to the 2002 final at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland having won two of the last four finals. Madrid’s opponents were the surprise package of Bayer Leverkusen who had a future German captain Michael Ballack in their ranks. The Germans had defeated 1999 winners Manchester United in the semi-final but just couldn’t handle the Galacticos in Glasgow. The final was famous for a piece of genial magic from the incomparable Zinedine Zidane. Zidane’s volley will always be remembered as one of the magical moments in the history of this illustrious cup. That Real side included Striker Raul Gonzales who holds the record as the competitions leading scorer of all time with 71 goals.
2004 was a strange year for the Champions League which saw a certain contoversial figure announce himself to the football world. Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho was in charge of the Porto team which broke the monopoly of football’s elite such as AC Milan and Real Madrid who had dominated in the previous decade. Mourinho’s Porto upset the odds by knocking out English champions Manchester United which saw Mourinho’s infamous run down the Old Trafford touchline. Porto met another surprise finalist in Monaco who had beaten Londoners Chelsea in the semi final. Spanish striker Fernando Morientes, a young Patrice Evra and Ludovic Giuly were the backbone of that Monaco side. Porto would go on to secure a comfortable 3-0 win in the final with future superstar Deco on the score sheet that night in Gelsenkirchen. Mourinho’s managerial achievements would see him land the job at billion pound club Chelsea in the summer of 2004.
2005 and Istanbul was the sight of Liverpool’s 5th and perhaps their most famous Champions League success. A reds side which had a poor domestic campaign finishing 5th in the English Premier League had been lead by Spanish tactician Rafael Benitez to the final to face 6 time champions AC Milan. Milan went 3-0 up by half time and their Argetine striker Hernan Crespo tore Liverpool’s defence to shreds with his brace. At 3-0 it seemed as if the game was done and dusted and the second half was pointless. The reds emerged from the tunnel at half time and against all the odds they scored three times in the second half to take the game to extra time. Captain marvel Steven Gerrard drove his boyhood team on and Milan failed to recover from the shock of Liverpool’s unprecedented come back. Liverpool won the penalty shoot out and became European champions for the fifth time in their history.
English side Arsenal had been in the Champions League for 8 years running without making a mark on the competition. The Gunners were struggling domestically but something special happened to their young team when they were competing in the Champions League. Arsenal’s defence and goalkeeper Jens Lehmann broke the record of consecutive clean sheets by securing 10 in a row. On their way to the final in Paris Arsenal recorded a famous 1-0 win at the Bernabeau against Real Madrid thanks to their all time top goal scorer and club legend Thierry Henry.
Arsenal met Spanish champions Barcelona in the final who were managed by ex Barca player Frank Riijkard and had world player of the year and Brazilian magician Ronaldinho in their ranks. Ironically it was their German keeper Jens Lehmann who cost Arsenal their first ever title by fouling Samuel Eto’o in the opening minutes which saw Arsenal reduced to ten men for the rest of the match. Despite going a man down the Londoners went 1-0 ahead through a Sol Campbell header but the team tired as the contest wore on and conceded goals to Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Beletti which broke English hearts but gave Barca their second European cup. Cameroon striker Eto’o won his first of 3 Champions League medals in just 4 years and would go on to repeat Marcel Desailly’s incredible achievement of winning the trophy two years in a row with separate clubs. Eto’o scored and was part of the Barcelona side who won the 2009 final and then at his new club, Inter Milan he won the 2010 final against Bayern Munich.
In 2007 AC Milan would exact their revenge over Liverpool in the Greek capital of Athens. Rafa Benitez’s side had restored their European reputation and despite their inability to win the English Premier League they were thriving in Europe. The Rossoneri defeated English opponents Man United in the Semi-finals with an emphatic victory at the San Siro. Milan’s superstar at that time was Brazilian playmaker Kaka and he was the one man that Liverpool felt they had to stop more than any other but they were unable to and Kaka played a huge role in assisting the wily veteran Pippo Inzaghi whose double gave AC a 2-1 triumph. Milan’s win saw club captain Paolo Maldini claim a staggering 5th Champions League winners medal and the Italian is arguably the competition’s greatest ever defender.
Manchester United would win their third Champions League title with a memorable penalty shoot out victory in an all English final with Chelsea. Blues skipper John Terry stepped up to score what would be the winning penalty but he slipped in the Moscow rain and hit the post. Nicolas Anelka’s casual spot kick was easily saved by Edwin Van Der Sar and United won their second Champions League title under the incomparable Scotsman Sir Alex Ferguson.
In 2010 we witnessed captivating manager Jose Mourinho win his second Champions League winners medal with his second different club. Mourinho was in charge of Italian champions Inter Milan and his side were full of defensive rezilience and character. Inter defeated reiging champions and hot favourites Barcelona on the semi-finals after playing with ten men for much of the second leg at the Nou Camp. The Portuguese who had enjoyed some verbal jousting with his former employees in Catalonia celebrated the success in the most bold fashion by running on to the Nou Camp pitch waving his finger in the air. Inter won the final against German giants Bayern Munich relatively easily. Aging striker Diego Milito had been plucked from obscurity by Jose Mourinho and he went on to score both goals in the final and was named as player of the tournament by UEFA.
In 2011 we witnessed a rematch from the 2009 final between English champions Manchester United and Spainish champions Barcelona. the venue was Wembley and although its United’s home country it is viewed as holy ground by Barcelona as it was the sight of their very first Champions League win back in 1992. Barca had beaten bitter adversaries Real Madrid in a controversial semi-final encounter. The red devils had disposed of English counterparts Chelsea in the quarter finals and thrashed Surprise Semi-finalists Schalke in the last four. Barca under young coach Pep Guardiola have been hailed the greatest side in Europe ever since they defeated United 2-0 in Rome in 2009. Barca were everyones favourites but Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United were convinced they could shock the world and steal the monkier of Europe’s best team.
Once again Barcelona’s incredibly attractive brand of attacking football was too much for a Manchester United side who certainly aren’t the greatest that Alex Feguson has ever had with him at Old Trafford. World player of the year and arguably the greatest player to ever take to the pitch, Lionel Messi scored along with David Villa and Pedro Rodrigues to give the Spaniards another comprehensive victory. Messi has been the competitions top scorer two years running and its hard to see how anyone will dethrone both himself and this amazing Barcelona team in the years to come.