5 greatest Champions League quarter-finals of all time

Bayern Munich's Dutch striker Arjen Robb : News Photo
Robben celebrates his winner against Manchester United
Saketh Ayyagari

The draw for the quarter-finals of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League threw up interesting fixtures with Real Madrid facing Bayern Munich, Barcelona coming up against Juventus, last season’s fairy-tale Leicester City drawing Atletico Madrid and a mouth-watering clash of scintillating attacks between AS Monaco and Borussia Dortmund.

Also Read: Five greatest ever knock-out stage Champions League comebacks

Each fixture has the makings of a classic given the quality of the teams and the type of football they play. Over the past 24 years, since the European Cup was rebranded into the Champions League, the quarter-finals have seen some memorable comebacks and unforgettable classics for every football fan to cherish. However, there are a select few fixtures that have etched themselves into Champions League folklore.

Here are the top five UEFA Champions League quarter-finals of all time.

#5 Bayern Munich vs Manchester United, 2010

When the first leg began at the Allianz Arena, Manchester United were looking to enter their 3rd straight Champions League final having won the trophy in 2008 and lost to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2009.

On the other hand, Bayern Munich looked rejuvenated under Louis van Gaal and his deployment of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben as inverted wingers was paying rich dividends.

First Leg – Bayern Munich 2-1 Manchester United


(Video Courtesy – FcBayernDieRoten YouTube Channel)

The first leg in Munich was a well-contested affair with United going in front through Wayne Rooney, who got injured later on in the match. Bayern were missing Robben due to injury and Bastian Schweinsteiger due to suspension, but showed great spirit to score the equaliser through Ribery’s deflected free-kick before Ivica Olic took a leaf out of Manchester United’s book to score the winner past goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

Second Leg – Manchester United 3-2 Bayern Munich


(Video Courtesy – FcBayernDieRoten YouTube Channel)

Although Bayern carried a one-goal lead to Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had a slight advantage due to the away goal. United’s home advantage showed in the early stages as they were rampant with three goals in the first-half. However, just on the stroke of half-time, poor defending from Michael Carrick allowed Olic to pull one back and more importantly Bayern went into the break needing just one goal to win the tie on the away goals rule.

Bayern goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt made a few fine saves to keep the German team in the match in the second-half but United’s energy levels were affected due to the sending off of young right-back Rafael for a second yellow.

It was, however, former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben who turned hero with a sublime volley off the edge of the box from Ribery’s corner that proved sufficient for the Bavarians to advance. In a tie that ebbed and flowed, Bayern Munich managed to land the knockout blow to win the quarter-final.

The German giants went all the way to the finals only to lose to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan.

#4 Liverpool vs Chelsea, 2009

Chelsea v Liverpool - Premier League : News Photo
Liverpool-Chelsea games always turn out to be classics

In the 2005-2009 period, Liverpool and Chelsea contested some of the fiercest, most controversial Champions League matches of all time.

The quarter-final clash in 2009 was the final one in that series and the Blues were being managed by Guus Hiddink at that point in time. Liverpool had edged past Chelsea in the 2005 and 2007 semi-finals before Chelsea finally beat Liverpool to go all the way to the 2008 CL final.

First Leg – Liverpool 1-3 Chelsea

Liverpool v Chelsea - UEFA Champions League : News Photo
Torres celebrates Liverpool’s opener

The first leg took place at Anfield and as was the norm at that time, Fernando Torres put Liverpool ahead. However, Chelsea clawed back to not just draw level but also obtain a two-goal lead thanks to right-back Branislav Ivanovic’s double and Didier Drogba’s goal in what was an open contest, with both teams committed to attack.

The result was a shock considering Anfield was a fortress, especially in Europe, and Chelsea went back to London assured of having the tie in the bag.


(Video Courtesy – GugaTV YouTube Channel)

Second leg – Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool

However, Liverpool’s history of making comebacks meant the tie was far from over. Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was ruled out of the 2nd leg with a groin injury while Fernando Torres started the match half-fit and was replaced in the second-half.

Chelsea captain John Terry was suspended for the match and what came about next was a comedy of defensive errors that laid the foundations for a classic.

Fabio Aurelio went for goal from a distant free-kick and scored before Xabi Alonso converted a penalty to level the aggregate 3-3.

Chelsea's Frank Lampard (C) celebrates s : News Photo
Frank Lampard was the hero for Chelsea

However, the Blues came out strong in the second-half with Pepe Reina, Liverpool’s goalkeeper fumbling Drogba’s shot into his own net and Chelsea defender Alex scoring a thunderbolt to level the match 2-2.

Frank Lampard scored later to make the score 3-2 in favour of Chelsea and the aggregate now stood at 6-3 with time running out. However, Liverpool were far from finished as they rallied to score two quick goals via Lucas Leiva’s deflected shot and a Dirk Kuyt header to once again swing the tie in their favour.

With seven minutes remaining, the Reds needed one more goal to win the tie on away goals. Lampard decided to take hold of the game and finished the match with his second goal of the night in what was one of the finest nights in Champions League football.

#3 Chelsea vs Barcelona, 2000

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Quarter Final Second Leg - Barcelona v Chelsea : News Photo
One of the most dramatic quarter-finals of all time

This fixture took place in an era where Roman Abramovich did not own Chelsea, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was still Barcelona’s captain and PSG’s director of football Patrick Kluivert was playing as a striker for the Catalans.

However, the drama that transpired in this fixture propelled it into the ‘classics’ category. The first match was held at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea surprised everyone by putting down one of their most memorable performances till then against Louis van Gaal’s team.

First Leg – Chelsea 3-1 Barcelona


(Video Courtesy – JustFootball YouTube Channel)

One of Chelsea’s greatest ever players, Gianfranco Zola, pulled the strings and scored one while Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo scored two goals as Chelsea pulled off an upset win against the Catalan club. Luis Figo then scored one for Barcelona to make the score 3-1 in favour of the London club. However, that away goal would prove crucial in what came next.

Second Leg – Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea a.e.t

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Quarter Final Second Leg - Barcelona v Chelsea : News Photo
Rivaldo celebrates after putting his side in the lead

Barcelona were at it in the 2nd leg as Rivaldo scored first off a deflected shot before the in-form Portuguese Figo doubled the lead. But Chelsea came back into the tie around the hour mark as Flo hit the back of the net thanks to some good work by Zola, giving Chelsea the aggregate lead at 4-3.

But Barcelona were not done as Pep Guardiola’s cross was headed in by Dani Garcia to level the aggregate. Rivaldo missed a penalty towards the end of the game thereby bringing extra-time into play.

However, Barcelona were up for it in the extra 30 minutes as Rivaldo made amends for his earlier penalty miss to score one after Figo was fouled. Later, Kluivert found the net to take the tie away from Chelsea once and for all.

This match was a fantastic display of attacking football with the better team prevailing eventually. It is, hands down, one of the best ever matches in CL history.

#2 Real Madrid vs Monaco, 2004

Fussball: Champions League 03/04, AS Monaco-Real Madrid 3:1 : News Photo
Monaco produced one of the greatest comebacks in history

One of the most predictable fixtures on paper due to the star power in Real Madrid’s line-up. Los Blancos boasted of names like Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos. Hence, what transpired over the next two legs was the stuff of dreams for Monaco.

First leg – Real Madrid 4-2 AS Monaco


(Video Courtesy – Foot Ball YouTube Channel)

The 1st leg took place at Santiago Bernabeu and despite an early hiccup as Sebastien Squillaci scored for Monaco, service resumed as usual when Iván Helguera, Zidane, Ronaldo and Figo scored for the Spanish club to take a comfortable 4-1 lead in the tie.

Monaco, however, managed to score another as Fernando Morientes, who was on loan from Madrid, made the score 4-2. Despite Madrid holding a two-goal lead, that goal would prove costly for Carlos Queiroz’s side in the end.

Second leg – AS Monaco 3-1 Real Madrid


(Video Courtesy – bibi30730 YouTube Channel)

Madrid opened the scoring in the second leg through Raul, making the aggregate score 5-2 in favour of the Spanish club. However, Ludovic Giuly scored just on the stroke of half-time to give Monaco a glimmer of hope. That hope motivated the French side as Morientes scored again before Giuly hit the back of the net to level the aggregate as fans went into a frenzy and the famed Madrid’s Galacticos were knocked out on away goals.

The sheer nature of the result makes it one of the all-time greatest quarter-finals in UCL history but another fixture that happened in the same year prevents this game from taking the top spot.

#1 AC Milan vs Deportivo la Coruna, 2004

Deportivo La Coruna v AC Milan : News Photo
Deportivo overturned a 3-goal first leg deficit to eliminate Milan in the 2004 UCL quarter-finals

Undoubtedly one of the greatest matches in Champions League football, including one of the greatest ever comebacks along the lines of Barcelona’s recent 6-1 win over PSG, Deportivo la Coruna did the unthinkable against a legendary AC Milan side consisting of the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Andrea Pirlo, Kaka, Paolo Maldini and Filippo Inzaghi.

First Leg – AC Milan 4-1 Deportivo la Coruna

The first leg took place at the San Siro and AC Milan thumped Deportivo as Kaka scored a brace, Pirlo scored a free-kick and Shevchenko produced a clinical finish. The only slight disappointment was Walter Pandiani’s goal to make it 4-1. However, given the quality of both sides and the three-goal lead, the tie looked done and dusted heading into the second leg.


Second Leg – Deportivo la Coruna 4-0 AC Milan

Deportivo, however, had other plans as they handed a thrashing of their own to Carlo Ancelotti’s side with goals from Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque in the first half enough to tie the aggregate at 4-4.

However, Fran scored late into the second-half to add the icing on the cake and take the tie away from Milan. The result was massive both in terms of the quality of the opposition – Milan – and the difficulty in achieving the impossible – overturning a three-goal deficit – thereby making it the top UCL quarter-final of all time.

Edited by Staff Editor


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