8 Standout Moments from the UEFA Champions League

Alex Richards@@AA_RichardsContributor IApril 22, 2013

8 Standout Moments from the UEFA Champions League

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    Since it was rebranded back in the 1992 as the Champions League, European football's premier club competition has become without a doubt the biggest and most lucrative club competition in world football.

    Over the past 21 seasons the Champions League has arguably become the litmus test for professional footballers—perhaps even more so than the World Cup—where they prove to the world that they can cut it at the top level.

    There have been a number of top-quality moments since the Champions League's inception in 1992, when the format of the competition changed from the straight knockout style of the old European Cup.

    Therefore, here's a look at eight of the standout moments in the recent history of the UEFA Champions League.

Steven Gerrard Scores Against Olympiakos

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    That Liverpool would go on to be champions of Europe after struggling so much to get through their group was laughable.

    Reds supporters will always have Steven Gerrard to thank for making it possible.

    A dismal first half stood the English side on the precipice, with Rivaldo's goal having given the Greek side Olympiakos the lead.

    Needing three goals to qualify for the knockout stages in the second 45 minutes, Anfield had seen its side get two back with the match heading into the final five minutes.

    Jamie Carragher clipped a cross into the penalty area which Neil Mellor, in an act of tremendous awareness, nodded down to the edge of the box.

    Waiting poised to strike was the Liverpool skipper, whose crashing half-volley thundered into the net, dragging Rafa Benitez side into the knockout stages.

    Without this goal, there would have never been that night in Istanbul.

Mauro Bressan's Bicycle Kick

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    It was the first group stage of the 1999-2000 campaign and Barcelona were in Florence to meet Fiorentina.

    Amongst the home-sides ranks were Mauro Bressan, a journeyman Italian midfielder who during his two year stay with La Viola was by no means a regular.

    However, in the 14th minute of a 3-3 draw between the two sides in a match full of attacking intent, Bressan wrote his name into Champions League folklore with one of the competition's greatest ever goals.

    With impeccable timing and technique, Bressan unleashed a 25-yard bicycle kick which bewildered spectators and left Barcelona goalkeeper Ruud Hesp clutching at thin air as the ball bounced in off of the underside of the crossbar.

    It was a moment which will forever ensure Bressan's place in Champions League history.

Jose Mourinho's Touchline Run

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    Old Trafford was tense as Manchester United held onto a slender lead against Portuguese champions Porto back in 2004.

    The Red Devils should have been clear but had been unable to sink their challengers.  Deep into stoppage time the away side had one final chance with a free-kick.

    South African striker Benni McCarthy took aim but his effort should have been simple enough for United goalkeeper Tim Howard.

    Instead, the American spilled and couldn't react in time to stop Portuguese international midfielder Costinha from turning in the rebound, which saw Porto's young manager Jose Mourinho embark on a celebration down the Old Trafford touchline.

    Luck shone on Mourinho that night and his iconic jumps for joy in Manchester endeared him to the European public. He would lead his Porto side to Champions League glory that season with a 3-0 final win against Monaco in Gelsenkirchen as his final act as Porto manager before embarking on a career as the self-proclaimed "Special One."

Lars Ricken's First Touch

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    Borussia Dortmund led 2-1 against favourites Juventus in a tough match at Munich's Olympic Stadium in the 1997 final, when BVB coach Ottmar Hitzfeld turned to his bench and instructed 20-year-old Lars Ricken, the homegrown midfielder, to get ready.

    The feeling was that after Alessandro Del Piero had reduced the arrears the Italians were in the ascendancy and Ricken's energy would enable Dortmund to steady the ship and he replaced Swiss striker Stephane Chapuisat.

    Within 16 seconds however, Ricken's impact had been felt at the other end and the youngster had secured the European title for the German club.

    Racing clear down the right wing, Ricken latched onto a defence-splitting pass from Andreas Moller and, noticing the Bianconeri 'keeper Angelo Peruzzi off his line, proceeded to lob the Italian with his first touch from almost 30 yards.

    It was perhaps the most memorable introduction a player has ever had in a Champions League final and it sent the German crowd into raptures, as Dortmund secured their first European Cup success.

Jerzy Dudek's Double-Save from Andriy Shevchenko

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    This was the moment when you knew Liverpool's name was on the trophy back in 2005, during that sensational night in Istanbul.

    Having fought back with three goals in six minutes to level the scores during the second half, Liverpool had stunned AC Milan.

    But in extra-time the Italians were pressing back for the win, having been somewhat shell-shocked by the turn in events earlier in proceedings.

    And when Brazilian wing-back Serginho swung over a cross in the second period of extra-time and a powerful header from Shevchenko, beaten away by Dudek, landed back in the Ukrainians path, it looked for all the world as though Milan were about to retake the lead.

    One yard from goal hearts were in mouths, he couldn't miss, and Liverpool's spirit had been for nothing.

    Except that when Shevchenko fired the ball at the goal it was met by the outstretched arms of Dudek, which miraculously turned the ball over the crossbar.

    Disbelief and relief were the overriding emotions for everyone watching and with the entire world incredulous, it was then that you knew that Liverpool wouldn't be denied a fifth European Cup.

Messi's Solo Goal Against Real Madrid

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    World's best player. Home of his club's greatest rivals. Champions League semi-final. A moment of absolute jaw-dropping quality.

    A fractious affair at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2011 saw Barcelona leading this semi-final first leg 1-0 against their eternal rivals Real Madrid, heading into the final two minutes.

    Events were poised ahead of the Nou Camp return six days later when the competitions leading goalscorer decided that he would win the tie and all but secure a place in the final then and there.

    Picking the ball up on the halfway line Lionel Messi rolled the ball into a team mate and took it back before dashing past five opponents into the opposing penalty area and sliding the ball past a World Cup winning goalkeeper to double his sides lead.

    It was this goal in 2011, the 52nd of a remarkable season, that saw people genuinely begin to ask not merely whether he was the best player in the world, but whether he was perhaps the finest ever.

    Magnificent. Sublime. There simply aren't enough superlatives.

Fernando Redondo's Backheel

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    When people offer their opinions on great matches between Manchester United and Real Madrid, usually the 2003 tie at Old Trafford is given as being the pinnacle.

    However, whilst that tie was all but over when Ronaldo scored early in proceedings, the 2000 vintage was an affair between two evenly-matched sides and was the greater showing between the two combatants.

    It was during the quarter-final in 2000 when Fernando Redondo, a player hailed as "tactically perfect" by Fabio Capello, produced a moment of complete magic which left United defender Henning Berg so utterly bewildered that it virtually ensured the Spaniards progression into the semi-finals.

    Redondo gave a majestic performance as the sole central midfielder in Vicente Del Bosque's 5-1-3-1 formation (which really shouldn't have worked) but his coupe de grace came in the 52nd minute to secure Real's progression to the semi-finals.

    Shepherded by Berg as he broke down the left-wing with the score 2-0 to the Madridistas, Redondo proceeded to backheel the ball round one side of the flummoxed Norwegian and collected the return round the other before teeing up Raul for goal number three.

    Magnificent in its execution, the Real Madrid skipper had produced one of the iconic Champions League moments.

Zinedine Zidane's Champions League Final Volley

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    £47 million was the fee spent by Real Madrid to sign Zinedine Zidane from Juventus in 2001.  In this one moment at Hampden Park the following May, the £47 million it had taken to get the Frenchman to the Spanish capital was worth every penny.

    Raul had given Real Madrid an early lead, before Brazilian defender Lucio had leveled for Bayer Leverkusen. The German underdogs had given as good as they'd got against the Spanish aristocrats, and were arguably the better side.

    But then, on the stroke of half-time, came Zidane.

    When Roberto Carlos tossed the ball into the Scottish night sky it could have gone anywhere. What happened next was nothing short of greatness, the sort of greatness that will ensure Zinedine Zidane's place amongst football's immortals.

    The French legend waited on the edge of the penalty area for the ball to drop for what seemed like an eternity before expertly controlling a left-foot volley with such poise and balletic beauty that you knew where it was going to end up the moment it left his foot.

    "Oh fantastic," said Clive Tyldesley in the commentary box. He wasn't wrong.

    It was a moment of genius from the mercurial playmaker, perhaps the highlight in a career that had more than most. The man for the big occasion had proved it once again.

    It is very much THE standout moment in the history of the Champions League.