Ranking the 5 best all-English Champions League nights
We relive a golden era of the Champions League, when English football's 'Top Four' regularly played each other in two-legged knock-out ties live on ITV1.
5) Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United, 2009
After only losing the first leg 1-0 at Old Trafford, Arsenal and their supporters genuinely believed that eliminating Manchester United – and progressing to a second Champions League final in four years – was a possibility.
The Emirates Stadium was a picture ahead of kick-off, full of noise and belief, with flags waving around the ground. But that bubble was soon burst.
Kieran Gibbs’ slip inside his own box was unfortunate, but perhaps betrayed a slither of uncertainty that never showed in United’s performance. Park Ji-sung capitalised to score a crucial away goal and leave the Gunners needing three.
That goal sucked the drama out of the occasion, and the game is instead now remembered for a United counter-attack for the ages.
Ronaldo struck an 11th-minute free-kick past Almunia, who should have done much better, but his best was still to come.
With Arsenal throwing men forward in a desperate search for a way back, the Portuguese flicked the ball into Park, who in turn released Wayne Rooney.
As his strike partner progressed with the ball down the left, Ronaldo’s breakneck sprint down the right was something to behold. Leaving Johan Djourou hopelessly failing to keep up, he dispatched Rooney’s cross into the roof of the net to score.
In a career full of great Champions League goals, this must be one of his best.
4) Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool, 2009
Given this was the third time in five years Chelsea and Liverpool had met in the Champions League knock-out stages, there was a danger that this tie might lack some spark.
But, while most of the matches on this list are defined by memorable goals or moments, this semi-final stands out for the sheer quantity of drama it provided.
None of the goals live particularly long in the memory – although free-kicks from Fabio Aurelio and Alex both deserve to – but all eight had huge significance on the night.
Liverpool had, uncharacteristically, conceded three away goals in the first leg at Anfield, but quickly cancelled out the deficit with goals from Aurelio and Xabi Alonso.
As they chased the third, though, they lost their grip on the game. Chelsea – helped by a Pepe Reina own goal and that Alex strike – levelled up, before Frank Lampard seemed to have put the tie beyond doubt.
But, inevitably after so many extraordinary encounters between the two, Liverpool fought back. Lucas’ deflected effort and Dirk Kuyt’s header put them 4-3 up and within one goal of qualification to the semi-finals with eight minutes remaining.
Lampard was to have the final say, though, finally breaking Liverpool’s spirit with his second of the night.
The Blues would go on to be controversially beaten by Andres Iniesta’s stoppage-time goal for Barcelona in the semi-finals, as the decade of classic Champions League knock-out ties ended in fitting style.
3) Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea, 2005
Liverpool were the only one of the Premier League’s ‘Big Four’ not to win the domestic title during the noughties, but they were a different beast on the continent.
Generally, they were not as successful because they weren’t as good. Their 2005 squad certainly lacked the star quality to successfully navigate a Premier League season, but in the Champions League, Rafa Benitez could work his magic.
Benitez seemed to relish the marginal, tactical battles. Liverpool knocked Juventus out of the quarter-final of this competition after securing a 0-0 second-leg draw in Turin, and another stalemate followed in the first leg of this semi-final at Chelsea.
But, while the Spaniard had plotted for a low-scoring victory, the manner of the only goal of the game – a goal that Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho later claimed had been scored by the Anfield crowd – can’t have been planned.
William Gallas seemed to have hooked Luis Garcia’s lob off the line, but the assistant referee had the best view in the house and waved his flag, awarding Benitez’s side the one goal that they needed to play with.
Chelsea fans were still discrediting the validity of the goal with their rulers and protractors as Liverpool lifted the title in Istanbul later that month.
2) Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea, 2004
If a team loses to a domestic rival in a major quarter-final, can they really be nicknamed The Invincibles?
That much probably depends on whether you like to think favourably upon Arsenal or not, but there can be no doubt that this was, at the very least, a blemish on a historic season.
Arsene Wenger’s side were close to completing a near-perfect Premier League campaign, but it was clear that Chelsea, in their first season of the Roman Abramovic era, were a coming force.
They proved as much at Highbury in April 2004. Having drawn the first leg 1-1, the return fixture was level at the same scoreline before Wayne Bridge – one of Abramovic’s 13 summer recruits – darted into the box and side-footed Eidur Gudjohnsen’s pass beyond Jens Lehmann to take Chelsea into the semis.
The result set up a breathless period during which four different English teams reached at least one of the next four finals, producing some classics between themselves along the way.
1) Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal, 2008
Though they would fall short in the semis, the quality of the Liverpool team in 2008 was far more befitting of European champions.
Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres were the standout upgrades, and so they were clear favourites to beat Arsenal, whose Premier League title challenge had fallen off the rails following Eduardo’s leg break at Birmingham a few weeks earlier.
As expected, after a 1-1 draw at the Emirates, Sami Hyppia and Torres had Liverpool 2-1 up and in control with six minutes remaining of the second leg at Anfield.
But there is a reason why this game is remembered by many as being the archetypal great Champions League night.
From nowhere, Theo Walcott picked up a loose ball on the edge of his own area and danced past two challenges to break beyond the halfway line. Bursting into the Liverpool box, he escaped a desperate challenge from Hyppia and presented Emmanuel Adebayor with what would surely be the winner.
The replays of the goal had hardly finished before Ryan Babel was being brought down inside the box at the other end. Steven Gerrard stepped up to put Liverpool back in charge from the spot.
Babel scored a breakaway fourth to seal a genuinely special Anfield night that featured three goals in the final six minutes.
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