The biggest kicks: The 10 most awesome UEFA Champions League Finals.
Real Madrid 7 Eintracht Frankfurt 3
Hampden Park, Glasgow
If you like grainy, b/w, seemingly slo-mo football reels from yesteryear, you’ll love this. Watch Ferenc Puskas rattle one home. If Cruyff and Beckenbauer introduced “Total Football,” a sample of Di Stefano tangoing across the field is proof. Some 127,000 fans packed Hampden Park as Di Stefano scored three goals, Puskas got four, while Real Madrid won their fifth straight European Cup. The 10-goal thriller had a five-minute spell that alone saw four goals!
AC Milan 3
(Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties)
Atatürk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul
For Liverpool fans who’d only heard of Bob Paisley and Kenny Dalglish, silverware was as elusive as an Ian Rush miss in front of an open goal. Then came the “Miracle of Istanbul,” arguably the greatest comeback in CL history. Down 3-0 at the break, goals from Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso brought Liverpool level. In the penalties, Jerzy Dudek (Liverpool goalie) made three crucial saves to seal it.
Real Madrid 2
Bayer Leverkusen 1
Hampden Park, Glasgow
This final had only one talking point—that goal. Zinedine Zidane became the player of his generation with a goal that would make Rudolf Nureyev blush, such was its balletic beauty. Up against the team mocked as “Neverkusen” with the match level at 1-1, a Roberto Carlos cross from the left flank looped harmlessly into the penalty box, and Zidane used his right foot as pivot and swivelled to connect a thunderous left that rocketed into the crossbar and bounced inside the goal.
Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1
Camp Nou, Barcelona
Had it been for the first 90 minutes and 36 seconds of this match, it would have never made it here. What happened in the two minutes after that is legendary and left Bayern players in tears. Exactly 36 seconds into stoppage time, David Beckham bent one from the corner, and Teddy Sheringham equalised. In the 93rd minute, Beckham curled another corner, Sheringham got the initial touch before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer poked the ball into the roof of the net. Game over!
Nottingham Forest 1 Malmo 0
The final may have been ordinary but the narrative ran far deeper. Two years before it, Forest were a provincial second division club. But under super manager Brian Clough, they lined up for the European Cup final. Swedish side Malmo’s run was even more spectacular. Under young English manager Bob Houghton (who would later coach India), they built a team from within a 40-km radius of the small Swedish town. The hero was Trevor Francis, who headed in the winner.
AC Milan 4
Olympic Stadium, Athens
This should have been a cruise for Cruyff’s dream team of Hristo Stoichkov, Romario de Souza Faria and Pep Guardiola against a Milan that had lost its Dutch masters—Marco van Basten to injury, Frank Rijkaard to a transfer and Ruud Gullit to a loan deal. As it turned out, Milan had wizards: Serbian Dejan “The Genius” Savicevic, who scored a skilful third goal with a delicate lob over Barcelona goalie Andoni Zubizarreta, and Marcel Desailly, who’d just come in from Marseille.
AC Milan 0
Ernst Happel Stadium, Vienna
At an average age of 23, Louis van Gaal’s Ajax wasn’t expected to trouble an experienced Milan side. The De Boer twins—Frank and Ronald, Edwin van der Sar, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Patrick Kluivert weren’t names to reckon with in 1995. Ajax did have one experienced player in Frank Rijkaard. In his last CL final in 1990, he’d scored the winner for Milan against Benfica. This time, he led Milan’s downfall with a through ball in the 85th minute that Kluivert slotted in.
Real Madrid 4
Stade De Reims 3
Parc des Princes, Paris
The inaugural final of the League was as good as any that has taken place since. Real Madrid conceded two early goals, playing at what was a home venue for French side Stade De Reims. But the Spanish majors clawed their way back to 2-2, only to fall behind again. However, two sensational goals in the final 20 minutes helped them become the first champions of Europe, a feat they would repeat each of the next four years, to become among the most feared sides in the CL.
Manchester United 4 Benfica 1
Wembley Stadium, London
A year after Celtic became the first Brit side to win the continental prize, Man U became the first English team to win the CL. Coach Matt Busby and forward Bobby Charlton were two of the survivors of the Munich air crash of 1958, and this helped them ease the pain. Playing in unfamiliar blue, it was a red letter day for Man U. After a gruelling 90-minute deadlock, George Best cheekily put Man U ahead two minutes into extra time, and two more goals sealed it.
Real Madrid 3
Led by Mozambique import Eusebio da Silva Ferreira, Benfica did what many thought impossible—beat Real Madrid in a final. Even though they were defending champions, having beaten Real’s rivals, FC Barcelona, Benfica were underdogs against the masters of Europe. They soon found themselves 1-3 down, with Ferenc Puskas racking up a first-half hat-trick. However, they levelled before Eusebio marked his first major final with two goals to set off some hysterical scenes.