#2) Manchester United vs Bayern Munich (1999) Final
Manchester United and Bayern Munich entered the 1999 Champions League final with a number of similarities. This was only the second Champions league to feature clubs that had not won their domestic leagues the year before and both of them were the first such clubs to make it to the final.
However, both United and Bayern went into the match as Champions having won their respective leagues. United had also won their domestic cup while Bayern had reached the final of theirs which meant that whichever side came out victorious on the night would have completed the highly coveted treble or would have still been in the running for it.
While Bayern had won the European Championship on 4 different occasions, United had only won the title once back in 1968 under Matt Busby. The legendary manager had been seriously injured 10 years prior in the Munich air disaster, which killed 8 of his players on their way back from a European tie.
He would then go on to rebuild his team and eventually led them to a European Championship. The 1999 final occurred on the day of his birthday; had he been alive he would have been 90. There were a lot of emotions surrounding the match.
Unfortunately for United, Bayern took the lead in the 6th minute of the match. Bayern Munich had battered United for much of the match and it seemed that the Germans would win their 5th title. However, Sheringham equalised for United in the 91st minute to keep the game alive.
Present United manager, Solksjaer then scored Manchester United’s most famous goal ever within a couple of minutes to help United become the first English side to win the treble in conjunction with the Premier League.
Out of the blue
So sudden and surprising was United’s victory that the then UEFA president stopped watching the match and made his down to the pitch with a trophy decorated with Bayern’s ribbons while Bayern Munich player Matthaus commented that “it was not the best team that won but the luckiest”.
United became the first team to ever win the treble since PSV in 1988 and no other team would achieve the feat until Barcelona a decade later. If the list were purely about emotional comebacks, this win would top the list, however, in terms of a comeback there is still one that is greater.
#1) Liverpool vs AC Milan (2005) Final
Only a miracle could overtake Manchester United’s moment of glory and that is exactly what we have on our list. The Liverpool vs AC Milan match at Istanbul is considered one of the greatest finals in the history of the tournament.
Although this was Liverpool’s 6th appearance Champions League final appearance, this was the first since 1985. Milan were participating in their 10th Champions league final and their 2nd in 3 years. The Italian side were overwhelming favourites and they immediately proved why.
Captain Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo helped Milan walk with a 3-goal lead before half-time. By then, many had already counted Steven Gerrard and his men out. For the pessimists, the match was just to be another 45 minutes of torture. However, captain Gerrard has other ideas.
Charismatic captain Steven Gerrard led from the front to give Liverpool a sudden burst of energy. Gerrard himself scored Liverpool’s opener after lofting a header past the goal keeper. Smicer’s long range strike into the bottom left-hand corner reduced the lead to just 1.
Steven Gerrard made a run into the box a few minutes later. However, he was bought down and Liverpool were given a penalty. Xabi Alonso took the penalty but his shot was saved. Unfortunately for Milan, Alonso scored from the rebound to equalise for Liverpool.
In just 6 minutes of madness, Liverpool were back into the game and till the very end of the match, looked like the better side of the two. Unfortunately, after 120 minutes of play, neither teams could be separated and the match was taken to penalties.
Both AC Milan and Liverpool had won their last European trophies through penalties however, one would have to leave the loser tonight. AC Milan missed their first two penalty shots while Liverpool placed theirs. Milan would then score in their next two attempts.
After 4 attempts Milan had 2 goals to their name while Liverpool had 3. If Shevchenko missed, Milan would have lost. Shevchenko hit the ball straight down the middle. Duden went down to his right. However, he managed to block the ball with his left hand to win the match for Liverpool.
The greatest comeback in a football match had been achieved. The sheer magnitude of the match and the enormous pressure that comes with it had been overcome to script a miracle in Istanbul. There may larger comebacks but none on the scale of a Champions League final and that is exactly what Liverpool achieved on that fateful night.