5 greatest UEFA Champions League semi-finals of the last decade
The draw for the UEFA Champions League semi-finals is out and it threw a great matchup between Italian side Juventus and Ligue 1 side Monaco. The other matchup set a local derby in the football capital of Europe with Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid clashing once again and thereby creating a record as the teams became the first to face each other in the knockout stages for four consecutive years.
These matches have all the ingredients to become classics, just like the many that came before since semi-finals were introduced in the Champions League in 1994. Over the course of the last 23 years, various teams have contested great matches that showcased great comebacks, top-notch individual performances or a presumed smaller team beating a more famous team.
However, when it comes to semi-finals the last decade has produced classics unlike any.
So, here are the five greatest Champions League semi-finals of the past decade.
#5 Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid, 2013
When the semi-final draw was announced in 2013, it was billed as Spain vs. Germany as Real Madrid and Barcelona were set to face Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich respectively. While Bayern had come very close in 2012 to win the coveted trophy, having lost to Chelsea in the final, Dortmund had become a consistent footballing force in Germany under current Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and had ended the monopoly of Bayern – going on to win the Bundesliga twice.
So, the stage was set for the Blacks and Yellows to make a mark on the continental scene.
First Leg: Borussia Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid
(Video Courtesy – World FOOTBALL YouTube Channel)
Dortmund began the match in a now-famous style of gegenpressing and their Polish striker Robert Lewandowski turned in a superb ball from Mario Gotze to put them ahead. As Dortmund continued to be relentless with Marco Reus troubling the Madrid defence at every instance, the Spanish side pounced on a mistake by Mats Hummels to score through Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored his 50th Champions League goal.
However, mental strength was one of the biggest assets of that Dortmund team and they bounced back after the break with Lewandowski at the heart of it. The forward scored after being set up by Reus before completing his hat-trick soon after to become the first player to score a hat-trick against Real Madrid in Champions League history.
The striker masterclass, however, was not done. The Pole in a few minutes time became the first player to score four goals in a Champions League semi-final when he converted a penalty to inflict the biggest defeat for Jose Mourinho in 106 Champions League matches till then.
A shift in power was talked about as Bayern Munich had run riot against Barcelona the previous day to win 4-0 but more importantly, this was Borussia Dortmund announcing themselves on the European stage.
Second Leg: Real Madrid 2-0 Borussia Dortmund
(Video Courtesy – vFuee YouTube Channel)
The second leg at Santiago Bernabeu was an open game as Madrid chased the three goals required to progress on away goals rule while Dortmund looked to kill off the tie by scoring their own away goal. Madrid started brightly but could not tow away the chances as Gonzalo Higuain and Ronaldo fired straight at Roman Weidenfeller, the Dortmund goalkeeper.
Dortmund gradually grew into the game and should have sealed their progress in the second-half but for Lewandowski to hit the bar. Later, Madrid keeper Diego Lopez pulled off an amazing save to deny Ilkay Gundogan.
The match turned from being a foregone conclusion to a nail-biting finish when Mesut Ozil set Karim Benzema in the 82nd minute before Sergio Ramos scored a few minutes later to lift the Bernabeu. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side managed to hold on and set up an enticing clash with domestic rivals Bayern Munich who completed Barcelona’s annihilation with a 3-0 away win at Camp Nou.
After a stunning tie that saw Dortmund shine through, Bayern beat them in the final thanks to a winner from Arjen Robben and Dortmund are yet to reach the final from then on.