Saturday, 13 Jul 2024

Best Matches in Champions League History

From Ronaldo’s hat-trick at Old Trafford to the Red Devils’ dream comeback at Camp Nou, this article is about the best matches in Champions League history.

Which match has the most vivid and dazzling image in your UCL archive? Which Champions League game was the best? Your match may vary depending on what club you support, how many Champions League seasons you have experienced, and your unique taste.

So trust my taste. I’m Steve Reyne, a football fan who has watched enough matches to compile a memorable list for you. These are the games that made football lovers aesthetically pleased and passionate.

Best Matches in Champions League History

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3749 Champions League matches have been played so far as of January 2024. We will talk about fifteen matches out of thousands, the best of the best.

The Champions League started in the 1992-93 season, and the current season is the 32nd campaign of this most prestigious club football competition in the world. The competition, a new format for the European Cup, has created fond and unforgettable memories for football fans in recent decades.

Let’s go through these memories. What are the best matches in Champions League history?

Honorable Mention

  • AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona – 1993-94 Final
  • Monaco 8-3 Deportivo La Coruna – 2003-04 Group Stage
  • Manchester City 4-3 Tottenham – 2018-19 Quarter Final
  • Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona – 2004-05 Round of 16
  • Borussia Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid – 2012-13 Semi-Final

Real Madrid 0 – 2 Barcelona

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Let’s start with an El Clasico in the Champions League semi-finals. The first leg was held at Santiago Bernabeu on April 27, 2011.

Jose Mourinho sent Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa, Marcelo, Xabi Alonso, Lassana Diarra, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, and Cristiano Ronaldo to the pitch for the home side. Pep Guardiola’s side stepped on the ground with Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets, Seydou Keita, Javier Mascherano, Xavi, Pedro, David Villa, and Lionel Messi. It was one of the greatest Champions League games of all time.

Both teams had several chances to score, but the first real highlight of the match came with Pepe being sent off. He was shown a straight red card, and a very heavy atmosphere ruled in Bernabeu, especially for a similar challenge that Mascherano did a few minutes ago, which was only punished with a yellow card.

The first goal came in the 76th minute. A great delivery from Ibrahim Afellay, and here is the man: Lionel Messi! Minutes later, the Argentine magic boy scored one of the most memorable goals in the history of the Champions League to complete his brace. He went through Real Madrid’s defense with an impressive run and opened Casillas’ goal. He was magical back then.

Juventus 2 – 3 Manchester United

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This is another memorable semi-final. Another dream comeback for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

The first leg was a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. The second leg was held at the Stadio Delle Alpi on April 21, 1999.

Filippo Inzaghi made it 2-0 for the hosts within ten minutes. The Italian side had a very powerful midfield with Didier Deschamps, Edgar Davids, Antonio Conte, and Zinedine Zidane. They had made it to the final in all three past seasons. But even a two-goal cushion won’t guarantee your victory against Sir Alex Ferguson.

As one of the best matches in Champions League history, it also saw one of the best individual performances in the competition’s history. Roy Keane was super brilliant in Manchester United’s midfield. Scoring the first goal for his side, the Irish midfielder led Manchester United to win an iconic match. Dwight York and Andy Cole scored two more goals.

The 1998-99 season was a dream campaign for Manchester United. They won all three trophies eventfully and dramatically, completing their historic treble.

Barcelona 1 – 0 Inter Milan

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We can write a separate article about the most iconic semi-finals in Champions League history. The match between Inter Milan and Barcelona at Camp Nou in April 2010 was definitely one of the most memorable semi-finals in the competition’s history.

The first leg came at San Siro and ended 3-1 in favor of the hosts. Pep Guardiola’s side needed to score two goals at Camp Nou. It didn’t look too hard, given their standards, especially when Thiago Motta was sent off in the 28th minute, leaving Mourinho’s team with ten men.

The following hour made one of the best matches in Champions League history. Inter Milan defended orderly, structured, intelligent, and admirably. Barcelona couldn’t break through. A goal from Pique in the 84th minute was not enough for Barcelona. Jose Mourinho’s team reached the final with an impressive collective performance.

Manchester United 4 – 3 Real Madrid

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The match between Manchester United and Real Madrid in the quarter-final of the 2002-03 season was one of the best Champions League games of all time. The first leg held at Santiago Bernabeu ended 3-1 in favor of Los Blancos. This was the second leg at Old Trafford.

You want to hear from the stars who played in this match: Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Steve McManaman, Claude Makelele, and so on!

But it was all about one star: Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima! The Brazilian scored one of the most famous hat-tricks in the history of the Champions League here at Old Trafford. David Beckham’s two late goals weren’t enough for the Red Devils. Ronaldo had done his job. Real Madrid won the Old Trafford clash and qualified for the semi-finals.

What an iconic match!

Liverpool 4 – 0 Barcelona

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Back to the semi-finals! It’s one of the greatest comebacks of all time and one of the best games in Champions League history—a memorable win for Anfield.

Liverpool lost to the Spanish side 3-0 at Camp Nou. They had to make a historic comeback to reach the final for the second year in a row. Two goals from Wijnaldum and two goals from Origi shaped it for Liverpool. What a great night at Anfield.

Trent Alexander Arnold’s corner in front of the beloved Kop was perhaps the highlight of the match. Liverpool’s 20-year-old smartly took the corner and made a memorable goal for his fellow citizens—the scouser on the team.

Let Messi and everyone know: This is Anfield.

Juventus 0 – 3 Real Madrid

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Another of the best matches in Champions League history. 3 April 2018, Turin.

The first leg match of the quarter-final stage between two European football superpowers, where Madrid had won the European champions in the past two seasons. In the Champions League era, no club has been able to defend the title, and now Real Madrid are aiming for a third consecutive Champions League triumph. Juventus was not an easy opponent, though.

Real Madrid clearly had a more powerful squad—their iconic midfield trio and legendary Cristiano Ronaldo in the front line. Even Gigi Buffon couldn’t resist that. Ronaldo scored one of the most beautiful goals in the history of the Champions League against Buffon in this match. Perhaps the best goal he scored during his illustrious career. An extraterrestrial bicycle kick. What a magnificent strike that was.

Two goals and an assist from Cristiano Ronaldo saw the match finish 3-0. This was one of CR7’s best performances in the Champions League. He is the record holder for the most goals, assists, wins, and championships in the competition’s history. Here is the King. They cheer for him, even in Turin.

Real Madrid 1 – 3 Juventus

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The second leg was also a good one! One of the best matches in Champions League history. An eventful battle in Madrid.

Juventus made a dream comeback at Santiago Bernabeu. They scored the third goal in the 61st minute. Buffon saved several chances against Bale, Isco, and particularly Cristiano. His celebration after Juventus’ third goal was one of the most iconic moments in Champions League history. He couldn’t believe that a stupid penalty in added time ruined his dreams in the game’s last minutes. He couldn’t accept that. It was his last chance for that damn trophy.

Buffon got a red card, and Szczesny replaced him to save the penalty. Everyone knew who would take the penalty for Real Madrid.

And he scores. Of course, he scores!

This is the greatest quarterfinal of all time!

Real Madrid 4 – 1 Atletico Madrid

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A final match, finally!

Madrid Derby in Lisbon, 24th May 2014. Sergio Ramos’ game of life. That iconic equalizer at 92:48. A dream comeback for Los Blancos and an exciting extra-time. One of the greatest games in Champions League history, indeed!

Diego Simeone’s side was going to win the match and the trophy in normal time. But a corner from Luka Modric and a strong header from Sergio Ramos saw the game continue in extra-time.

In extra-time, goals from Bale, Marcelo, and Ronaldo secured their historic La Decima. Real Madrid became the European champions for the tenth time.

Chelsea 4 – 4 Liverpool

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The match between Liverpool and Chelsea in the quarter-final stage of the 2008-09 campaign was one of the best games in Champions League history. A thrilling clash with eight goals. An unforgettable night at Stamford Bridge.

The first leg at Anfield ended 3-1 in favor of the visitors. Liverpool went 2-0 up within thirty minutes at Stamford Bridge. The hosts made it 3-2 in the second half. Then Liverpool scored two more goals to take the lead again. A Frank Lampard goal in the 90th minute sealed the qualification for the Blues.

A goal festival in West London.

Chelsea 1 – 1 Barcelona

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Which game is the most controversial match in the history of the Champions League? Very few compare to this match in this regard. The battle between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in the semi-final stage.

With that 4-4 draw against Liverpool, Guus Hiddink’s side reached the UCL semi-finals. The first leg at Camp Nou ended with a goalless draw. The second leg held at Stamford Bridge in May 2009. The day that football died, Chelsea fans say.

Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo made several controversial decisions in this match. He turned down several penalty appeals against Chelsea players and made a night for himself. Two handballs from Pique and Eto’o were clear enough.

In any case, Iniesta’s goal in added time saw the Bluegrana playing in the final, which was a much easier match for them, for sure!

Deportivo La Coruna 4 – 0 AC Milan

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Deportivo La Coruna had a very good spell in the early years of the 21st century. Between 2000 and 2004, they won La Liga once, were runner-up twice, and were in third place twice. They were also successful in the Champions League. In their five appearances in this prestigious competition, the Spanish club reached the quarter-finals three times. They even managed to reach the semi-finals by defeating AC Milan in the 2003-04 season.

Apart from this, their match with Monaco in 2003 and their comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in 2001 are also among the best matches in Champions League history. But the comeback against Milan was something else.

They lost the first leg 4-1 at San Siro. The second leg was held on April 7, 2004, in Spain. Deportivo La Coruna returned to the European Cup very soon and scored three goals in the first half. They scored another in the second half, making it an unforgettable night for their fans.

AC Milan were the defending champions. They had Dida, Nesta, Maldini, Cafu, Pirlo, Gattuso, Kaka, and Shevchenko in their lineup. The most powerful side of the era lost 4-0 to Deportivo La Coruna and were eliminated.

Liverpool 3 – 1 Olympiacos

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What is the best Champions League in history? Well, Liverpool fans will definitely pick this campaign. This was super dramatic for them from the beginning.

Liverpool vs Olympiacos on December 8, 2004, Anfield. This is the only Group Stage game in our list of the best matches in Champions League history. Liverpool could not win its historic title without winning this match.

The Reds had to win against their Greek opponent with a two-goal cushion. A goal from Rivaldo in the 26th minute made the job even harder for the host. But remember: This is Anfield!

They scored the first goal shortly after the start of the second half. With ten minutes left, Neil Mellor made it 2-1 for the English side. They still needed another goal.

In the game’s last minutes, Steven Gerrard launched a rocket into the Olympiacos’ goal. What an effort from Stevie-G! It is considered one of the best goals in the history of the Champions League. It was another excellent performance from the Liverpool captain in this UCL campaign.

Champions League Knockout Stage, here we come!

Barcelona 6 – 1 PSG

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The famous La Remontada (the comeback). One of the greatest comebacks of all time and one of the best games in Champions League history.

Barcelona lost the first leg 4-0 in Paris. They won the second leg 6-1 to make it one of the best nights at Camp Nou. What a game it was.

Neymar’s performance was marvelous. This was the best game of the Brazilian star’s career. There was also controversy over the refereeing in the match, especially regarding two suspicious penalties that Barcelona were awarded.

Whatever it was, however it was, they really did it and worked miracles.

Manchester United 2 – 1 Bayern Munich

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Every list of the best matches in Champions League history should pay tribute to this game: 26th May 1999, Camp Nou. Manchester United won the European title in added time. In Fergie time, I mean.

Bayern Munich took the lead in the 6th minute. Ottmar Hitzfeld had a powerful, orderly, and structured lineup, and all his men were German, except for Samuel Kuffour. They dominated the match, and United didn’t get many chances to score and level. Alex Ferguson’s side played without Roy Keane and Paul Scholes. They obviously lost the midfield battles to the Bavarians.

But when the match stepped into added minutes, one of the most historic comebacks of all time came. Two corners from David Beckham saw two goals for United.

You have to feel this is their year. Is this their moment? Beckham, into Sheringham – and Solskjaer has won it! Manchester United has reached the promised land! Ole Solskjaer! The two substitutes have scored the two goals in stoppage time, and the treble looms large!

  • Match Commentator Clive Tyldesley

Liverpool 3 – 3 AC Milan

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When it comes to the best matches in Champions League history, the Miracle of Istanbul shines at the top—one of the most iconic matches in the game’s history.

AC Milan was the favorite side in this match. Carlo Ancelotti had one of the most powerful squads of all time, and Liverpool reached the European Cup final after two decades. Rossoneri scored three goals in the first half, but they could have scored more.

Rafa Benitez changed his system for the second half. He put his captain a line ahead. Gerrard started the second half as a right winger. He scored the first goal for his side in the 54th minute. Liverpool scored two more goals in the 56th and 60th minutes and returned to the game. Carlo Ancelotti called it: Six minutes of madness!

AC Milan had countless opportunities to score the fourth goal, but you can’t fight miracles. Have you seen Jerzy Dudek’s double-save against Shevchenko in this match? You better have seen it.

The Liverpool keeper was also the star of his team in the penalty shootout. After falling three goals behind, Liverpool won the trophy on penalties. The Miracle of Istanbul will never be forgotten by football fans.

These are just a few of the incredible matches that have thrilled football fans around the world. The Champions League has provided us with unforgettable moments, tales of triumph, and heroic performances. And there are still many more incredible matches to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which match is considered the best in Champions League history?
A: It is difficult to pinpoint a single match as the best since it depends on personal preferences and team allegiances. However, matches like Liverpool’s comeback against AC Milan in 2005, Barcelona’s historic win over PSG in 2017, and Manchester United’s dramatic victory over Bayern Munich in 1999 are often mentioned as some of the greatest in Champions League history.

Q: How many Champions League matches have been played so far?
A: As of January 2024, a total of 3749 Champions League matches have been played since the competition started in the 1992-93 season.

Q: Who holds the record for the most goals in Champions League history?
A: Cristiano Ronaldo holds the record for the most goals in the Champions League, with an incredible tally of over 130 goals.

Q: Which team has won the most Champions League titles?
A: Real Madrid holds the record for the most Champions League titles, having won the prestigious trophy 13 times in their history.

Q: What is the Miracle of Istanbul?
A: The Miracle of Istanbul refers to the 2005 Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool. Liverpool staged an incredible comeback after being 3-0 down at halftime, eventually winning the match on penalties.


The history of the Champions League is filled with incredible matches and unforgettable moments. These matches have showcased the beauty, drama, and excitement of club football at its finest. From historic comebacks to breathtaking goals, these games have left a lasting impact on football fans around the world.

So, whether you are a fan of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, or any other team, these matches will surely hold a special place in your heart. The Champions League continues to deliver incredible moments and captivating matches, ensuring that the legacy of this prestigious competition will endure for generations to come.

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