Result: Which tie did you vote the best Champions League semi-final?

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April 30, 2020
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    Champions League semi-final

    Which Champions League semi-final did you vote as the greatest?

    There is nothing quite like a Champions League semi-final is there?

    And over the years the last four of Uefa’s elite club competition has provided some absolute corkers.

    In a week that, before the suspension of football because of the coronavirus pandemic, would have seen the first legs of this season’s semi-finals, BBC Sport took a look back at some of the very best ties and asked you to vote for your favourite.

    Here are the results – with two of the top three coming in the space of 24 hours last season.

    1. Barcelona 3-4 Liverpool (2019) – 59% of the vote

    Star players: Messi, Suarez, Coutinho, Pique, Origi, Mane, Henderson, Alexander-Arnold

    Barcelona v Liverpool

    Liverpool, having their best Premier League season in years, went to Barcelona on a high. Finalists the previous year, Jurgen Klopp’s side had hit a groove and played well in the Nou Camp, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah going close, but still lost 3-0.

    Luis Suarez stabbed in the opener, Lionel Messi scored twice including a dream free-kick, and Liverpool were all but out.

    Liverpool needed a second-leg miracle. Salah and Roberto Firmino were missing just to add to their woes, but Liverpool found a new and unlikely hero in the shape of Divock Origi.

    The big man pulled one back in the first 10 minutes, and as belief rose inside a fervent Anfield, midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum popped up with two goals in two minutes to level the tie.

    Rarely have you seen Barcelona so ruffled. Messi was as anonymous as he was omnipresent just a week earlier, and when Origi swept in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quick corner with 11 minutes left the incredible had become credible.

    2. Man Utd 4-3 Juventus (1999) – 13%

    Star players: Giggs, Beckham, Keane, Yorke, Zidane, Conte, Davids, Inzaghi

    Manchester United v Juventus

    Andy Cole sealed Man Utd’s memorable win against Juventus in 1999

    The 1999 treble win for Manchester United is etched on the public consciousness, but what is often forgotten is that the final against Bayern Munich was largely rubbish – bar the incredible finale.

    It was the two-legged semi-final against Juventus which really captured the imagination. The first leg at Old Trafford saw future Chelsea boss Antonio Conte strike the Italian giants into an early, away-goal lead, before a second-half siege from Sir Alex Ferguson’s men finally bore fruit when Ryan Giggs hammered into the roof of the net in the last minute.

    Juve were favourites in the second leg, even more so when Pippo Inzaghi scored twice in the first 11 minutes. Game over? Nobody told Roy Keane. His header gave United hope, and, even after a booking for a hack on Zinedine Zidane ruled him out of any potential final, the Irishman drove on.

    Dwight Yorke headed United level on the night – ahead on away goals – before half-time in this classic encounter. Inzaghi had a hat-trick ‘goal’ correctly ruled out for offside, before Andy Cole tapped in confirmation.

    3. Tottenham 3-3 Ajax (2019) – 13%

    Star players: Moura, Son, Eriksen, Van de Beek, Tadic, Ziyech, De Ligt

    Tottenham v Ajax

    Last season may well have produced the two greatest semi-final second legs in Champions League history.

    Ajax had been the breakout side of 2018-19, beating Real Madrid and Juventus to set up a tie with Spurs. So it was perhaps no surprise when they left London with a 1-0 lead.

    In Amsterdam things went from bad to worse for Tottenham. With no Harry Kane up front, they were facing a mountain in the lowlands when Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech made it 3-0 on aggregate before half-time.

    Spurs needed a miracle and Lucas Moura duly provided one. The forward scored twice in the space of four minutes to leave the visitors needing one goal to go through, and after Jan Vertonghen had headed against the post, Moura drove in low to complete his hat-trick and book an all-English final against Liverpool.

    Christian Eriksen called for a statue for his goalscoring teammate. As of time of writing that remains outstanding…

    4. Chelsea 3-2 Barcelona (2012) – 8%

    Star players: Lampard, Drogba, Ramires, Terry, Messi, Sanchez, Fabregas, Iniesta

    Chelsea v Barcelona

    John Terry saw red as Chelsea held on to beat Barcelona in 2012

    Revenge was served up by Chelsea in the Nou Camp.

    The opening game at the Bridge saw Alexis Sanchez lob against the crossbar and Cesc Fabregas have one scrambled off the line before that man Didier Drogba steered Chelsea ahead.

    Pedro hit the post but Chelsea held on to take a slender lead to Spain where, truly against the odds, Pep, Messi et al were beaten by Roberto Di Matteo’s team.

    One of the finest second legs ever? Before last season, sure.

    Messi was at his absolute best, leading Chelsea’s defence a merry dance with some blinding one-twos and mesmeric dribbling and, while Petr Cech denied the talisman, it was anchorman Sergio Busquets who popped up with a tap-in to level the aggregate scores.

    It was one-way traffic though and soon Chelsea were seriously up against it when captain John Terry saw red for a knee in the back of Sanchez. Centre-half partner Gary Cahill had already gone off injured. Makeshift stuff.

    Messi then teed up Andres Iniesta to make it 2-1 on aggregate and Chelsea needed a goal. Ramires was the unlikely man to find it, a superb finish to lob Victor Valdes – all of this before half time.

    That meant that Chelsea were up on away goals – but could they hang on with Branislav Ivanovic and Jose Bosingwa at centre-back?!

    They could. Somehow. Barca completed over 700 passes and had 22 shots on goal. They had a penalty when Drogba tripped Cesc Fabregas, but Messi planted it against the crossbar. The little genius also hit the post, a third Barca goal seemed inevitable but never came – and then with everyone pushed forwards they were caught on the break as Fernando Torres had the whole half to run into. He rounded Valdes and rolled in to cap a remarkable win.

    5. AC Milan 5-3 Man Utd (2007) – 3%

    Star players: Kaka, Seedorf, Maldini, Ronaldo, Rooney

    AC Milan v Man Utd

    Kaka proved the difference as AC Milan saw off Man Utd in 2007 to reach the Champions League final

    As Liverpool and Chelsea locked horns again, Manchester United were back in the last four and things were looking good for the hosts when Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the first five minutes at Old Trafford, a scruffy header from a corner.

    But then Kaka entered the scene. The best player in the world in 2007, the Brazilian collected a pass and glided past Gabriel Heinze with ease before planting a fine low shot into the far corner. It was a beautiful goal, but nothing on what was to follow as Milan’s playmaker made fools of the United defence. He chased a ball down the left wing, headed past Darren Fletcher and then flicked the ball over Heinze’s head.

    As the Argentine defender and Patrice Evra both came to clear the ball, Kaka headed it past them leaving the two men in red to collide like drunks. A sure finish in front of a bemused Stretford End and Milan were on top.

    The game was far from over though – Wayne Rooney collected a peach of a ball from Paul Scholes to level on the night, before powering in from range in stoppage time to give United a slender lead.

    Over in a sodden San Siro, it was Kaka once again who proved the difference maker, a delicious left-footed drive putting Milan back ahead on away goals early on. And when Clarence Seedorf also beat Edwin van der Sar from the edge of the area, an Istanbul rematch with Liverpool was well and truly on the cards. Alberto Gilardino provided the coup de grace. Kaka would move on to Real for a hefty fee but would sadly never really find that level of form again. He was unplayable.

    6. Real Madrid 3-4 Juventus (2003) – 1%

    Star players: Carlos, Figo, Zidane, Ronaldo, Buffon, Thuram, Nedved, Del Piero, Trezeguet

    Real Madrid v Juventus

    Alessandro del Piero starred as Juventus squeezed past Real Madrid in 2003

    This was peak Galacticos era – just look at some of the names involved…

    The first leg was in Madrid and El Fenomeno was at it again, Ronaldo opening the scoring with a superb finish from the edge of the area after a masterful one-two with Fernando Morientes. That was a spanner in Juve’s gameplan of containment, but they grabbed an away goal on the stroke of half time when David Trezeguet found himself free to stab in an Alessandro Del Piero shot. Silence in the Bernabeu.

    Real were back in front when a Roberto Carlos piledriver snaked its way through a crowded area to find the back of the net and it was on to Turin.

    Ronaldo was only on the bench for leg two because of injury so Raul stepped in as Juve looked to overturn the deficit.

    Carlos and Pavel Nedved both went close early on before Trezeguet extended one of those long limbs again to hook in Del Piero’s header and put Juve ahead on away goals.

    Del Piero – brilliant all night – then twisted the great Fernando Hierro inside out before firing home from 16 yards. Real needed a goal, on went Ronaldo, and he won a penalty with a trademark bodyswerve.

    Up stepped Luis Figo, to attempt to level the tie, but Gigi Buffon guessed right to save his effort. It was the key moment as within five minutes Nedved had outpaced Hierro to fire in, and while Zinedine Zidane scored on his old manor, it was too late.

    7. Borussia Dortmund 4-3 Real Madrid (2013) – 1%

    Star players: Lewandowski, Reus, Gotze, Hummels, Ronaldo, Ozil, Alonso, Ramos

    Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid

    Robert Lewandowski scored a first-leg treble as Borussia Dortmund knocked out Real Madrid in 2013

    It was the first year Jurgen Klopp had come to the attention of many in the UK, with Dortmund scoring twice in added time to beat Malaga in the previous round. Still, they weren’t fancied to pull up too many trees against Real, but produced a remarkable first-leg display at the Westfalenstadion.

    Robert Lewandowski – who would leave a year later for free – scored four times as Ronaldo’s Real were routed 4-1. The Polish forward was too mobile for Pepe and Sergio Ramos, scoring a second-half hat-trick in front of the yellow wall.

    Real needed a 3-0 win in the second leg to go through – which was not beyond the realms – but a fine performance from Klopp’s men looked to have done enough. But two goals in the last 10 minutes, from Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos, ensured a nervy finale.

    8. Barcelona 1-1 Chelsea (2009) – 1%

    Star players: Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Terry, Lampard, Drogba

    Barcelona v Chelsea

    Chelsea were left fuming with referee Tom Ovrebo as they were knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona in 2009

    For a club with only one Champions League trophy to their name, Chelsea haven’t half provided some drama in the last 20 years. None more so than in this feisty tie in 2009, which will be remembered for the performance of referee Tom Ovrebo.

    After a goalless draw at the Nou Camp, Chelsea were on course for a second straight final when Michael Essien scored one of the great forgotten goals, a 25-yard volley which smashed in off the underside of the crossbar. A beauty eclipsed by the beast of a display from Ovrebo.

    Chelsea felt they should have had four penalties, and even their staunchest critics would have to concede that they should have had at least one, most obviously for a handball from Gerard Pique.

    Ovrebo said no – although he did send off Eric Abidal – and deep into added time Andres Iniesta swept in superbly from Lionel Messi’s pass.

    Chelsea couldn’t believe it – remember Didier Drogba’s ‘disgrace’ rant straight down the camera?

    9. Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (2005) – 1%

    Star players: Carragher, Gerrard, Alonso, Garcia, Terry, Lampard, Drogba, Cech.

    Liverpool v Chelsea

    Luis Garcia scored the decisive goal as Liverpool beat Chelsea in 2005

    Liverpool and Chelsea played out a trilogy of semi-finals between 2005 and 2008, and then squeezed in a bonkers 7-5 quarter-final as well.

    The original tie, in Jose Mourinho’s first season in England, was by no means a classic in terms of swashbuckling football, but for pure lingering drama it warrants a place on the list.

    After a largely forgettable first leg, a stale goalless draw at Stamford Bridge, Anfield was absolutely rocking by kick-off. Chelsea were romping towards the Premier League title but Liverpool had the weight of European history behind them, and it seemed to work too.

    Remember the ‘ghost goal?’

    Steven Gerrard’s flick around the corner caught Chelsea’s defence flat-footed, Milan Baros nicked it past Petr Cech and went down. Could it have been a penalty?

    Luis Garcia didn’t hang around to find out, poking the loose ball across goal. It struck John Terry, squirmed forwards and William Gallas hooked it clear. Was it over the line?

    Even 15 years on there isn’t a conclusive angle to be found. Today we would know for sure thanks to goalline technology but referee Lubos Michel awarded it and that’s all that mattered.

    Chelsea piled forwards late on but could not find a breakthrough as Gerrard and co rocked on to Istanbul and more improbable drama…

    10. Man Utd 3-3 Bayer Leverkusen (2002) – less than 1%

    Star players: Van Nistelrooy, Giggs, Veron, Keane, Ballack, Lucio, Berbatov, Neuville, Basturk

    Man Utd v Bayer Leverkusen

    Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen had never met in the Champions League before the 2002 semi-final

    The thankfully short-lived era of two group stages meant that United had already played 14 games in the Champions League before coming up against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002.

    The German side were not one of the traditional superpowers, but they had assembled a formidable outfit – with Michael Ballack the beating heart.

    United were at home first again, and took the lead when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s shot was deflected in by Boris Zivkovic. After the break Ballack equalised, only for Ruud van Nistelrooy to win, and convert a penalty.

    But Leverkusen weren’t done and grabbed a vital second away goal through substitute Oliver Neuville, who buried a ricochet in the area just three minutes after coming on. That gave the visitors the advantage going into game two, but most still fancied United to reach the final again.

    Big game, big name – Roy Keane danced around goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt to put United ahead in a pulsating second leg. Advantage Sir Alex, and a place in the final in his home city of Glasgow was close.

    That man Neuville had the last word though, turning on the edge of the box to fire over Fabien Barthez and score via the underside of the crossbar. Leverkusen advanced to Hampden where they got Zidaned…

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