Thirty-two football clubs that top their respective leagues fight for the Champions League glory annually. If English Premier League and Bundesliga are battles where legacies are born and brood, UEFA Champions League is an all-out war where the same legacies are made and destroyed forever.
The stakes are really high; the competition is terrific, and the crowd is absolutely bizarre! With just one team reaching the top of the pyramid, below stand the bruised and broken opponents who came close but cannot finish. In this eventful journey, there are instances of last-minute finishes that topple the game on its head and go down in time as winners par excellence.
Here, we have rounded up five such famous last-minute finishes in the UEFA Champions League history that snatched the victory and the European Cup (in some instances) from the jaws of the opponents.
Real Madrid vs Manchester City (2021-22 semi-final)
Real Madrid enjoys a rich history of pulling off last-minute winners. From being two goals down on aggregate against a tough Manchester City side; Los Blancos pulled off an impressive victory in the dying minutes of the 2021-22 Champions League semi-final. There was a deficit of one goal separating the two sides before Riyad Mahrez pushed City’s lead to a two-goal difference.
What looked like a certain exit for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, the Yaya Toure curse came back to haunt Pep Guardiola’s team as Rodrygo scored a brace in the 91st and the 92nd minutes to equalize. The heist was complete and the final nail in the coffin was hammered by Karim Benzema from the penalty spot, ensuring win for the team.
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid (2013-14 final)
It was the 2013-14 Champions League final. Real Madrid was pitted against city rivals Atletico Madrid. With the title on the line, the stakes couldn’t have gotten any bigger. Both teams had star-studded lineups: Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema featured in Real Madrid playing eleven, while Atletico relied on the firepower of David Villa and the strength of Diego Costa. Despite Costa being substituted in the ninth minute, Diego Godin pulled off a beautiful header in the second half to give his team the lead.
This was just the beginning of the drama to unfold. Trailing by a goal and with less than few minutes left on the clock, Sergio Ramos pulled off an absolute blinder, heading the ball home in the 93rd minute to equalize. There was a breeze of emotion running at Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, which witnessed brilliance, madness, and exuberance at the same time. The equalizer pumped fresh energy into the Real camp and left Atletico in shambles. What followed then in the extra time were three more goals for the Los Blancos and their 10th European trophy.
Barcelona vs Chelsea (2008-09 semi-final)
Andres Iniesta had a penchant for last-minute goals. Be it against Netherland in the World Cup 2010 final or against Chelsea in the 2008-09 Champions League semi-final; the man had done it all. Sure, the goal that brought the World Cup to Spain was big but the goal for Barcelona was even special.
With both teams failing to score in the first leg of the semi-final, everyone thought Chelsea would qualify for the finals on their home turf. Essien even scored a goal in the ninth minute of the game to further strengthen the faith, but Iniesta had other plans. He scored an absolute blinder to send his team into the final on away goal advantage.
Liverpool vs. Olympiakos (2004-05 group stage)
A brilliance at Anfield was once brought by none other than Steven Gerrard. The chips were down and the Reds were out, well almost, if it was not for Gerrard. Olympiakos took an early lead in the match, leaving Liverpool to score three goals to win (with a two-goal advantage for the visitors).
Sinama Pongolle and Mellor scored a goal each for Liverpool, though it still would have ended in a draw. Considering the Greek club was placed in the second position and Liverpool was third in the group, it wouldn’t be exciting news for the Reds. Realizing the urgency, Gerrard stepped up to the occasion with a screamer for his club. Liverpool later went on to win the Champions League that year.
Manchester United vs Bayern Munich (1998-99 final)
For this entry, we revisit the classic from 1999 where German club Bayern Munich was certain of a title following Mario Basler’s goal in the sixth minute of the final against Manchester United. For the remaining first half and most part of the next, Man Utd tried hard to find the net, but it looked like victory was all set to embrace the German club.
Yet: All hail Sir Alex Ferguson who made two substitutions that eventually changed the course of the game. Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar scored a goal each in the 91st and 93rd minutes to revive Man U back from the dead and seal one of the biggest wins in the Champions League history.