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Fantastic finals

ESPN staff
May 20, 2010
Steven Gerrard produced a captain's performance as Liverpool won their fifth European Cup in 2005 © Getty Images

With the Champions League final set to bring the curtain down on another season, we take a look back at some other great European occasions.

Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan - 2005 Champions League final
The greatest comeback of all time? Liverpool's run to the 2005 final had been full of history and late goals. Steven Gerrard's last-minute volley in a 3-1 win over Olympiakos put Rafael Benitez's side into the second-round on goal difference. Their semi-final win over Chelsea had also gone the distance as the Londoners failed to respond to a controversial Luis Garcia goal. The final would prove just as dramatic. Milan raced into a three-goal lead through Paolo Maldini and two Hernan Crespo strikes. Liverpool's response was three goals in six stunning second-half minutes. Extra-time came and passed, with Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek producing an unbelievable save at point-blank range from Andriy Shevchenko in an otherwise tight 30-minute period. Serginho's miss from the spot in the ensuing shoot-out handed Benitez's team the advantage. Dietmar Hamman, Djibril Cisse and Vladimir Smicer all scored, while Dudek produced yet more heroics to deny Andrea Pirlo and Shevchenko. Liverpool's fifth win meant they would keep the trophy.

Manchester United 4-1 Benfica (aet) - 1968 European Cup final
Two years after England won the World Cup at Wembley, Manchester United became the first English club side to win the European Cup - although it would be an Ulsterman who would produce the moment of the match. In a close-fought match, similar in style and intensity to England's 1966 World Cup semi-final against Portugal, Bobby Charlton fired United ahead from the edge of the box. Portuguese midfielder Jaime Graça drew Benifca level, before Eusebio, who had starred so menacingly in that '66 semi, saw a late effort turned away by Alex Stepney as the game ran into extra-time. United's recent history had been blighted by the 1958 Munich air disaster, which saw eight squad members killed. Manager Matt Busby never let his players forget their stricken team-mates, and used the incident as a driving force to lead his new squad forward. This desire was evident as United dominated extra-time. Picking up the ball 25 yards from goal, George Best strode into the penalty area and dribbled past the Benfica goalkeeper before rolling the ball into an empty net. Brian Kidd, celebrating his 19th birthday, put United further ahead with a rising header before Charlton made the game safe with his second strike of the game. Busby and his team had produced the perfect memorial for the "Busby babes."

AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona - 1994 Champions League final
AC Milan's dominance of Serie A and European football was built on a foundation of rock-solid defending and clinical strikers. That reliable core was rocked ahead of their '94 final clash with the much-fancied Barcelona when star striker Marco van Basten and the then most expensive footballer in the world Gianluigi Lentini were ruled out through injury, while defensive titans Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta were both absent due to suspensions. Milan manager Fabio Capello reacted by fielding erratic striker Daniele Massaro and the Italian rewarded his boss by putting the Rossoneri in control with two well-taken goals. Not content with their lead, Milan continued to push and Dejan Savicevic put the game out of Barcelona's reach with a debatable lob over the retreating Andoni Zubizaretta. Marcel Desailly added some gloss to the scoreline with a terrific counter-attacking fourth goal, and would become the first player to win the trophy in consecutive years with different clubs after starring in Marseille's 1993 cup win over Milan.

Liverpool 5-4 Alaves - 2001 UEFA Cup final
Gerard Houllier's Liverpool travelled to Dortmund's Westfalenstadion aiming to complete a different but equally historic Treble and made the perfect start as former Bayern Munich defender Markus Babbel and Steven Gerrard gave the Reds a 2-0 lead inside 16 minutes. Ivan Alonso gave Alaves hope with a brave header, but Gary McAllister's 41st-minute penalty looked to have snuffed out any chance of a comeback. How wrong that assumption would prove. Temperamental forward Javi Moreno's two goals in three minutes turned the game on its head. The first, a creeping free-kick under the wall, angered Liverpool. The second, a flying header, very nearly broke them. Unbelievably, Alaves coach José Manuel Esnal responded to his side's comeback by hauling off a clearly furious Moreno. Houllier, sensing his chance, introduced Robbie Fowler in place of Emile Heskey. The man known as "god" by Liverpool supporters had not enjoyed the best of relationships with his French manager but his superb 73rd-minute solo effort looked sure to kill off a now toothless Alaves side. Once again though the Spaniards hit back as former Manchester United winger Jordi Cruyff headed his side level with a minute remaining. What followed in extra-time was a somewhat tactical contest until Alaves lost two defenders to red cards. The 37-year-old McAllister, defying his age with several late bursts of energy, provided the defining moment of quality. His dangerously floated cross caused panic in the Spanish defence and Delfi Geli turned the ball into his own net. Liverpool had done it but in truth they should have been celebrating a long time before.

Real Madrid 7-3 Eintracht Frankfurt - 1960 European Cup final
With Sir Alex Ferguson among a 135,000-strong Hampden Park crowd, Real Madrid produced arguably the greatest European Cup final performance of all time. Eintracht Frankfurt had actually reached the final by beating Scottish champions Rangers 12-4 on aggregate in the semi-finals. Against a rampant Real side, they stood little chance. Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano became the first two men to net a hat-trick in the European Cup final as Los Merengues ripped through their German opponents in spectacular style. Puskas would repeat his goalscoring feat in the 1962 final.

A 20-year-old Lars Ricken made Champions League history as the youngest goalscorer in a final © Getty Images

Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich - 1999 Champions League final
Sir Alex Ferguson's 1998-99 Manchester United squad could be argued to be his best. After winning the Premier League at a saunter and the FA Cup in similarly dominant style, United arrived at the Nou Camp knowing they were 90 minutes away from creating history. However, Mario Basler's sixth minute free-kick shocked the Treble chasers and put Bayern Munich in the driving seat. Carsten Jancker hit a post for Bayern and Stefan Effenberg saw an effort athletically saved by Peter Schmeichel as United struggled to break down their German opponents. Enter the fray Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The two would play their part in an unbelievable injury-time turnaround. Sheringham swept United level after Bayern failed to clear a 91st-minute David Beckham corner. Solskjaer then completed the comeback as he prodded home Sheringham's knockdown to claim a 93rd-minute winner. United's victory made them the first English side to win Europe's premier club competition since 1984 and marked a change in fortunes for English clubs outside of their domestic battles.

Bayern Munich 4-0 Atletico Madrid - 1974 European Cup final
After battling their way to a 1-1 draw in their first clash, Bayern and Atletico returned to Brussels two days later to find a winner. Bayern gained a second chance at winning the title with Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck's dramatic last-minute extra-time equaliser. The replay, the first in European Cup history, would prove a less cagey affair. Two goals apiece by Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness handed Udo Lattek's side their first European Cup win. The Germans would go on to defend their title for the next two seasons, while Muller starred in his country's 1974 World Cup win on home soil.

Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Juventus - 1997 Champions League final
Dortmund's appearance in the '97 final was the first by a German club in 10 years. In contrast, their opponents Juventus were the defending champions. In true underdog fashion, Dortmund showed little regard for history as 1990 World Cup winner Karl-Heinz Riedle put them ahead with goals either side of half-time. Rising star Alessandro Del Piero back-heeled the Italians back into contention but 20-year-old substitute and Dortmund local boy Lars Ricken came off the bench to become the youngest player to score in a Champions League final as he coolly lobbed the onrushing Angelo Peruzzi. Ricken's goal was also the fastest by a substitute in the final, with the goal coming 16 seconds after his arrival on the pitch.

Tottenham Hotspurs 3-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers - 1972 UEFA Cup final
This was the first UEFA Cup final and was the first and only European final contested by two English clubs until the 2008 European Cup final between Manchester United and Chelsea. Spurs won the first leg 2-1 at Molineux with an unstoppable 25-yard strike by Martin Chivers in the dying moments. Wolves battled hard in the return leg and fought back bravely from going behind to Alan Mullery's 29th minute-goal. Bill Nicholson's side held firm though and sealed their second European title after winning the Cup Winners' Cup in 1963.

Real Zaragoza 2-1 Arsenal - European Cup Winners' Cup final
Ronaldhino's free-kick winner in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final was not David Seaman's first experience of aerial problems. Former Spurs' midfielder Nayim served up Seaman's first dose of embarrassment on the big stage. With both teams locked at 1-1 and the match seemingly set to be decided in a penalty shootout, Nayim sent a hopeful half-volley sailing towards the Arsenal net from all of 50 yards wide out on the right. A backtracking Seaman seemed to be ready to make a comfortable save but a sudden trip sent the keeper falling back into his goal, where he would be joined by the ball. Arsenal's hopes of a successful defence of their Cup Winners' Cup title was well and truly over.

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