McManaman, Zidane and the 10 Greatest Champions League Final Goals
With the 2014 Champions League final almost upon us and the prospect of some amazing offensive play in store, this is an opportune time to look back on some of the more memorable goals to have been scored in previous finals.
Whether your favourite is Dejan Savicevic's sensational lob for AC Milan in 1994 or Zinedine Zidane's wonderful volley for Real Madrid in 2002, it was a tough task to reduce this list to just 10 goals.
Have I included your favourite? Or is there a goal I've listed that is not worthy of a place among such lofty company? Please let me know in the comments below.
Steve McManaman, REAL MADRID 3-0 Valencia (2000)
Former Liverpool winger Steve McManaman finds his way on to this list courtesy of his well-struck volley in the 2000 decider with Valencia at Paris’ Stade de France.
Real Madrid took the lead against their fellow Spanish rivals when Fernando Morientes headed home in the 39th minute.
But the Englishman struck in what was to prove to be his finest hour in a Real shirt, volleying home in the 67th minute to put the game beyond Valencia.
McManaman’s strike was an instinctive yet controlled effort, latching on to a clearance at the edge of the box with a scissor-like execution before guiding the ball into the bottom right corner.
Zinedine Zidane, REAL MADRID 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (2002)
What is there to say about Zinedine Zidane’s wonder strike that helped Real Madrid claim their last Champions League title back in 2002 that hasn't already been said?
The French international was 29 and at the peak of his immense powers, and he was an attacking feature in a team that included Roberto Carlos, Raul, Luis Figo and Fernando Morientes.
Raul had opened the scoring for Real in the eighth minute only to see that lead wiped out just five minutes later through Lucio.
Enter Zidane, who stepped up to fire home a stunning left-foot volley just before half-time for what proved to be the winner to secure Madrid’s third title in five years at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.
There didn’t look to be too much danger when Santiago Solari sent Carlos chasing down the left wing, under pressure from his marker, and even less when Carlos could only hook a high, hopeful cross to the edge of the area.
When the ball eventually came down from the heavens, Zidane was poised underneath, ready to make the most of the situation. And, while most players would not have taken on a first-time volley, let alone execute the skill with such devastating perfection, Zidane knew immediately that was what was needed.
He seemed to take an eternity to ready himself, left his left leg back, pivot on his right, and swing with power and precision an arrow-like volley past Hans-Jorg Butt in the Bayer goal.
Rory Smith of The Telegraph said of the goal:
It was the moment of Zidane’s apotheosis, more so than the 1998 World Cup final, because of the moment’s grace and beauty, because of his control of everything around him.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, MANCHESTER UNITED 2-1 Bayern Munich (1999)
In terms of pure drama, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s late strike will be cemented in the memory of any football fan lucky enough to have witnessed one of the greatest Champions League turnarounds in history.
Trailing 1-0 to an early Mario Basler free-kick, Bayern Munich’s colours and name were being put on the famous old trophy when the game entered the three minutes of added time.
However, substitute Teddy Sheringham’s goal in the first of those three minutes gave Manchester United and their fans the first glimmer of hope that this could be their night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.
No sooner had the United faithful composed themselves following the equaliser, fellow sub Solskjaer reacted first to Sheringham’s flick on from David Beckham’s corner to poke the ball past Oliver Kahn to the devastation of the Bayern players and fans.
For United, it was the crowing moment of an unprecedented treble, and their first European Cup since 1968.
It may not have been the prettiest of goals, it may not have been executed with the same quality of technique or skill that some of the others on this list were, but in terms of sheer excitement and emotion, not to mention its importance, Solskjaer’s strike is hard to beat.
Vladimir Smicer, LIVERPOOL 3-3 AC Milan (2005)
For a game with six goals and such high drama, Steven Gerrard is deservedly credited with spearheading Liverpool’s spectacular comeback from 3-0 down to AC Milan in Istanbul.
Although Gerrard did start the ball rolling with a superb header from a John Arne Riise cross, the game’s best goal belonged to either Hernan Crespo or Vladimir Smicer.
And, since history generally favours the victor, I’ll plump for Smicer’s speculative, opportunistic effort that crept just inside the post in 56th minute, just two minutes after Gerrard had got the first.
Xabi Alonso stepped up to guide home the rebound of a saved 60th-minute penalty to complete one of the most remarkable sporting comebacks of all time, before the Reds went on to win the penalty shootout after extra time failed to separate the teams.
Didier Drogba, CHELSEA 1-1 Bayern Munich (2012)
Chelsea’s unexpected triumph in 2012 was founded on a resilient rearguard and a lot of luck, as Roberto Di Matteo’s side overcame a number of obstacles—most notably Barcelona—en route to the final with the hot favourites Bayern Munich.
Just as it looked like Chelsea’s luck had run out, with the Germans leading 1-0 at the Allianz Arena, up stepped talisman Didier Drogba with the most vital of goals two minutes from time to send the game to extra time.
Drogba used his strength and awareness to get to Juan Mata’s right-wing corner first, ahead of Jerome Boateng, and direct his header beyond Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal.
The Ivory Coast man further confirmed his legend status among the Chelsea followers by converting the fifth and final penalty to ensure the trophy would reside in London for the first time in the competition’s history.
David Villa, BARCELONA 3-1 Manchester United (2011)
With players of the calibre of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, it’s no wonder Barcelona have been successful these past few years.
The club have also added quality names on high transfer fees, with David Villa among the club’s most high profile and costly additions in that time following a €40 million move from Valencia in 2010.
The Spanish striker’s best moment in a Barca shirt came in the 2011 Champions League final against Manchester United at Wembley when, with his side already leading 2-1 thanks to goals from Pedro and Messi, he collected a pass outside the box in the 69th minute.
Looking like he had all the time in the world, the striker kept his composure, surveyed the options before him and unleashed an unstoppable right foot shot into the top-right corner to give the Catalans an unassailable advantage.
Lars Ricken, BORUSSIA DORTMUND 3-1 Juventus (1997)
As you’d expect, this list is full of key moments of inspiration from some of the game’s greatest players. Others are beneficiaries of being in the right place at the right time to write themselves into the history books.
Like Smicer, Lars Ricken is another player that will forever be remembered for a moment of brilliance in European football’s greatest competition.
The Dortmund native was just 20 years old when he was summoned from the bench in the 1997 Champions League by his beloved Borussia against Italian giants Juventus.
His side were 2-1 up after an early brace from Karl-Heinz Riedle, was halved by substitute Alessandro Del Piero in the 65th minute. The goal forced manager Ottmar Hitzfeld into making two swift changes before the 70th minute.
Ricken was the second of those changes, and a mere 16 seconds after he came on for Stephane Chapuisat, the midfielder latched onto a through ball before lofting the ball over Juve goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi with his first touch to give Dortmund a 3-1 cushion they would never relinquish.
Diego Milito, INTER MILAN 2-0 Bayern Munich (2010)
Argentine Diego Milito was in the prime of his career when he arrived at Inter Milan ahead of the 2009-10 season, during which he was to play a pivotal role as Jose Mourinho’s side romped to a memorable treble.
The forward’s most telling contribution came in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu, with his two goals that night guiding the Italians to victory.
Though his first strike in the 35th minute was also a thing of great beauty, Milito’s second in the 70th minute was better still.
Picking up the ball from Samuel Eto’o on the left wing, the then 30-year-old drove forward despite the close attentions of defender Daniel Van Buyten.
With blistering pace, close control, a quick drop of the shoulder and change of direction, Milito left the Belgian in his wake, before opening up his body to place a right-foot shot past Hans-Jorg Butt in the Bayern goal.
Dejan Savicevic, AC MILAN 4-0 Barcelona (1994)
With AC Milan already two goals to the good through Daniele Massaro’s first-half brace, the Italians added a third within two minutes of the restart to put the contest beyond a stunned Barcelona.
Former Yugoslavian legend Dejan Savicevic lays claim to that goal after showing great bravery and instinct to dispossess a dithering Miguel Angel Nadal on the right touchline with little danger imminent.
The forward then spotted an opportunity few others would have. Noticing Andoni Zubizarreta off his line, he executed an ambitious, left-foot looping volley, which went over the Spaniard and into the net to the delight of the Milan fans in the Olympic Stadium in Athens.
Marcel Desailly added a fourth later on to confirm the rout in one of the finest team performances in European final.
Lionel Messi, BARCELONA 2-0 Manchester United (2009)
I found it hard to decide between the goals of Samuel Eto’o and Lional Messi in Barcelona’s 2-0 victory over Manchester United in the 2009 decider in Rome.
However neat a finish the former’s 10th-minute strike was, there is always something special about a headed Messi goal, and this is perhaps one of his finest.
The diminutive Argentine was spotted by Xavi sneaking in behind Rio Ferdinand in the 70th minute, and the four-time World Player of the Year somehow managed to guide his header back across goal and beyond Edwin van der Sar.
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