UEFA Champions League: Five Classic Quarter-finals from the past Decade
‘Roma have risen from their ruins!!!’ Peter Drury’s iconic and eternal words for BT Sport on Roma’s comeback against Barcelona in last season’s Champions League quarter-final. The Giallorossi looked down and out after a 4-1 defeat in the first leg, but managed the most unexpected of 3-0 wins at the Olimpico to knock out the Spanish giants.
It won’t happen this season, with Roma having been sent packing from the competition by Roma, which cost Eusebio Di Francesco, but with the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona to meet in this season’s last eight, there’s likely to be another classic on our hands.
So, in the spirit of anticipating this campaign’s last eight match-ups, here’s five – excluding the Roma v Barcelona miracle – classic quarter-final ties of the past decade.
Juventus v Real Madrid (2017/18)
Roma’s three-goal comeback against Barcelona was the headline act at this stage last season, taking the spotlight a little away from the classic served up by Juventus and Real Madrid. The first leg of this tie was, like many games, a Cristiano Ronaldo-fest, as the Portuguese skipper scored twice – one of which was an overhead that got even Zinedine Zidane mesmerised – and created another, getting applause from the Juventus stadium, as Real walked away with a 3-0 advantage.
Tie over? Not quite. By half-time in the second leg, Juve were two-thirds of the way to the comeback, as two Mario Mandzukic headers had the scoreline at 3-2 on aggregate. Blaise Matuidi got Juve’s third in the second half, thanks to a Keylor Navas howler, and Max Allegri’s side were astonishingly level on aggregate. Things looked set for extra-time, until Mehdi Benatia brought down Lucas Vazquez in the Real Madrid area in the 93rd minute, and a subsequent penalty decision caused a herd of Juve protests, which saw Gigi Buffon sent off. Ronaldo stepped up, and as per usual, finished with aplomb. Juventus’ comeback was short-lived, and Los Blancos were on their way to another Champions League title, before CR7 swapped Madrid for Turin.
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid (2016/17)
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid met in the quarter-final of the 2016/17 tie, with Carlo Ancelotti’s Bavarians just about the favourites against his former side. And they began on the front foot, less than 10 minutes on the clock and Arturo Vidal had headed them in front. Vidal had a chance to double Bayern’s lead from the penalty spot, but his effort found Row Z instead. The game turned on its head in the second half, Real equalising in the second half through Cristiano Ronaldo, only his third Champions League goal that season, before adding a second late on, after Javi Martinez had been sent off for the hosts.
That left Bayern Munich needing to score at least twice at the Bernabeu. Like the first leg, they took the lead in Madrid, through a second-half penalty by Robert Lewandowski. Real equalised on the night through none other than Ronaldo, but Bayern retook the lead on the night immediately via a Sergio Ramos own goal. A 3-3 stalemate meant extra-time, but not before Vidal received his marching orders for Bayern, meaning Die Roten were down to 10 against Real again, and would have to play that way for 30 crucial minutes. Ronaldo put Real 4-3 ahead on aggregate in first-half stoppage time in extra time, and then completed his hat-trick in the second half to put the tie beyond Bayern’s reach. Marco Asensio added the gloss on the game for Real, a 4-2 win on the night and a 6-3 victory on aggregate as Real went to retain the Champions League title.
Malaga v Borussia Dortmund (2012/13)
It was the meeting of the surprise packages in the 2013 quarter-final, Malaga having found their way to the last eight against the odds, while Dortmund were unbeaten, and topped a group involving Real Madrid and Manchester City. The first leg at La Rosaleda was a goalless draw that left things in the balance ahead of the return in Dortmund.
And at the Signal Iduna Park, Malaga struck first, Joaquin getting that crucial away goal. Dortmund found their way back on terms, through Robert Lewandowski, but still needed another to go through. That second goal looked evasive, as Dortmund found Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero hard to breach, and when Eliseu put Manuel Pellegrini’s visitors with less than 10 minutes left, things looked done and dusted. Dortmund had to score twice late on, but astonishingly, they did, first through Marco Reus, and then a scramble in by Felipe Santana, sparking bedlam at the Signal Iduna Park and shattering Malaga hearts.
Bayern Munich v Manchester United (2009/10)
‘Football, bloody hell’, Sir Alex Ferguson said in 1999, after Manchester United pulled off that outrageous comeback in the final against Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp. 11 years later, they were meeting in the quarter-final (yes, they also met in 2001), and this time it was something of a reverse in the first leg at the Allianz Arena, United taking an early lead through Wayne Rooney, before Bayern scored two late goals, via Franck Ribery and Ivica Olic, to take a 2-1 advantage to Old Trafford.
United flew out of the blocks at the Theatre of Dreams, Darron Gibson putting them in front, before Nani scored twice. With less than five minutes left in the first half, the Red Devils were 4-2 up on aggregate. But Olic pulled one back just before the break, and after the interval, Rafael was sent off. Suddenly United were in panic mode, and had gone from walking on easy street to walking a tightrope. Then came the famous killer blow, Arjen Robben volleying home a Ribery corner, which was enough to send Bayern through on away goals. ‘ Anguish is the hallmark of this fixture and it was Manchester United’s turn to suffer tonight’, wrote The Guardian‘s Kevin McCarra afterwards.
Liverpool v Chelsea (2008/09)
In the early 2000s, Chelsea and Liverpool’s meetings were so frequent they might as well hold reunions for them now. FA Cup semi-finals, League Cup finals, and crucial league games, they even met in the Champions League group phase in one season, after Liverpool’s European triumph seemingly caused a glitch in the UEFA database. But those rather paled in comparison to their knockout clashes in this competition. By 2009, they’d met in three semi-finals, Liverpool winning two of them, but Chelsea’s victory was the latest, having happened the previous year. In those ties, the away had never won a game, and it looked to be going that way once more, as Fernando Torres put Liverpool ahead early on in the first leg at Anfield. Headers from Branislav Ivanovic either side of half-time, though, put Chelsea in charge of the tie, and Didier Drogba added a third, to put Chelsea in a nigh unassailable position going into the second leg.
But Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool were known for an equally admirable and infuriating never-say-die attitude, and by half-time in the second leg, Chelsea’s lead had been cut to the hair’s width that is away goals. The Blues would grab a foothold in the tie after the break, however, as a Drogba’s goal, via a Pepe Reina error, and Alex free-kick, and a Frank Lampard strike put them 6-3 up on aggregate. Still, Liverpool wouldn’t go away, Lucas Leiva’s deflected shot was followed up by a Dirk Kuyt header, the Reds led on the night, and were incredibly on goal away from knocking Chelsea out. But Chelsea and Lampard would have the final say, the midfielder’s second five minutes from time finally putting the tie to bed.