By Israel Igiri
Europe’s premier club competition has never failed to leave unforgettable memories since its inception. Since the dawn of this century, we have witnessed series of UEFA Champions League finals from the miracle of Istanbul, to Diego Milito’s Bernabeu heroics, down to Sergio Ramos’ San Siro magic, even Barcelona’s tiki-taka perfection in Wembley, not forgetting Chelsea’s dream fulfillment at the Allianz Arena and many more. In a list of incredible and amazing UCL finals, which are the most memorable for the fans?
Chigozie Joshua sees the 2011/2012 battle between Bayern Munchen and Chelsea as her most memorable Champions League final. “It was like something out of a movie. Chelsea the underdog playing against the literal home team. Drogba’s fantastic equalizer at the last minute. Then Peter Cech saving a penalty during extra time before Chelsea going on to win on penalty shootout by sheer virtue of conviction. It was surreal. It was amazing. It was electric.”
Paul Okoye tolls the same line, still going for arguably Chelsea’s greatest triumph ever. “The circumstances leading to that final were interesting. The way they managed to turn the tie around in the second leg of the last 16 tie against Napoli and also defeating defending champions Barcelona in the Semi final was incredible.
Then coming up against one of the best Bayern side ever with a host of injury and suspensions to first team and vital players. Muller’s goal on the 83rd minute, Drogba’s late equalizer, Arjen Robben’s missed penalty in extra time… Everything was just so dramatic. Chelsea went on to win on penalties. It was a sweet feeling and the best night of my life as a Chelsea fan. That match signified the beginning of the end of the old guards at Chelsea.”
Liverpool’s sixth Champions League triumph does it for Osmond Anyaka.
“Liverpool had a wonderful game last season and they utilized their great squad. Great tactics and strategy from Jurgen Klopp. Seeing the likes of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohammed Salah and co rise up to the occasion to help the Reds claim European glory for the first time in 14 years, was really superb.
Chelsea’s first and only Champions League glory receives another mention from Michael Emu.
“That game was very tough and interesting. Bayern Munchen were massive favourites in that game as not many expected the Blues to defeat Bayern in Munich. How what seemed impossible became possible in that game, still puzzles me till today. It was dramatic and inspiring.
How Rafa Benitez and his inspired side did not Walk Alone in the 2004/2005 Champions League final remains indelible in the heart of Sunday Agaba. “I could remember what is arguably the greatest comeback in the history of UCL finals. It was a dramatic comeback. After finishing second to AS Monaco in the group stage, they defeated Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea to get to the final. AC were favourites and took a three-goal lead at half-time. But a determined and spirited side inspired by the fantastic Steven Gerrard changed the narrative as parity was restored with only eight minutes of the second half played. And we all knew how the game ended. It is a game that continues to preach the gospel of NEVER GIVE UP.”
Stanley Igboanugo sees Arsenal’s first and only Champions League final against Barcelona in 2005/2006 as his most memorable. “It was not exactly the playing style of either team that I found fascinating. I think what fascinated me was realizing that Arsenal could actually lose. They had not lost in the quarter final or Semis, so it was a new feeling. It was awkward. And that extra feeling of marking out Barca as the bad guys that we had to defeat in later seasons.
“Another memorable mention has to be the battle between Chelsea and Bayern Munchen. I am not a Chelsea fan of course but their tenacity and doggedness won them that game. It was the typical David vs Goliat UCL final. Bayern had everything going for them and Chelsea did not have a chance, at least on paper. It just proved that football is unpredictable. Chelsea were lucky but they took their chancers when they saw it. Their waiting for the kill strategy was epic.”
No other final comes close to that of 2016/2017 between Real Madrid and Juventus for Priscillia Alphonsus.
“Having won the Champions League the previous season, it was a question and a sort of pressure on the Los Blancos if or not they could retain the title. And they did so in a spectacular fashion. Winning 4-1 was something amazing. With the victory, Real became the first side to successfully defend their title in the Champions League era and the first to do so since AC Milan in 1990. It was a unique feeling.”
The battle of Luzhniki remains evergreen in the heart of Reuben Orovwuje. “The 2007/2008 final game between Chelsea and Manchester United is one of the most remarkable and thrilling finals I have watched as a football enthusiast. I kept reading previews on the match and finally, the hour came. I wanted United to defeat the Blues as I did not want Avram Grant’s men to lift big ears for the first time.
“Many chances were created by both teams and many were also lost by both teams. It was extra-time and I screamed on top of my voice saying ‘Chelsea must collect this night.’ And after 30 thrilling minutes of extra-time, it was still 1-1 draw. It was down to penalties and everywhere and everyone came to a standstill. It was very electrifying when skipper John Terry missed Chelsea’s most important penalty kick ever. The Red Devils finally won and I was so happy and overjoyed. That was a proper football match and one of the very best I have seen in my life.”
It is Bayern Munchen vs Chelsea 2011/2012 again as Jonathan Udochukwu makes his choice. “It was a very tough game for Chelsea as Bayern Munchen mounted a lot of pressure on the Blues. We saw great tenacity and determination form Drogba and co even after going a goal down. A spirited display saw Drogba score an unexpected equalizer. In the extra time, Robben had a great opportunity to score from the penalty spot after being fouled by Drogba but it was Cech to the rescue. And on penalties, Chelsea won and history was made.”
“I will not fail to mention Liverpool’s triumph in Istanbul in 2005. It was an epic final where the Reds produced one of the greatest comebacks in football history. It remains an unforgettable night.”