Last Updated on October 1, 2021
The UEFA Champions League is arguably the biggest and most entertaining football competition. So, it is completely understandable when football fans like you are curious to know the greatest Champions League games of all time.
The lights, the music, the drama, the passion make the competition such an enjoyable one.
Since its restructure from the previous European cup in 1992/93, the Champions League has brought together the best and biggest clubs across Europe. The giants of today’s game go big in the market with the intention of taking the infamous trophy back home.
It starts with a grueling group stage that will every season cause upsets no one can quite believe. But that’s the easy part. The two-legged affairs that occur from the round of 16 to the semis test the nerve. It is also a battle of the boldest and bravest, with only the superior coming out alive.
Here, we look at the competition’s 15 most jaw-dropping, exciting, and heart-breaking matches.
15. Deportivo 4-0 AC Milan [2003/04 Season]
We start our list with an unbelievable comeback in unbelievable circumstances from the 2003/04 season.
Trailing 4-1 after the first leg against defending champion AC Milan, hope seemed all but gone in the quarter-final for surprise package Deportivo La Coruna.
Walter Pandiani’s 5th-minute strike gave the Spanish side a belief before two goals before halftime from Valeron and Luque gave La Coruna an aggregate lead.
To make matters worse, substitute Fran added a fourth and left a star-studded Milan side startled and packing their bags. Deportivo would lose to Porto in the semi-final but their achievement will never be forgotten by Depor fans.
14. Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Malaga [2012/13 Season]
BvB and Malaga combined to produce one of the greatest Champions League games of all time.
With the first leg of their 2012/13 quarter-final in Spain finishing as a goalless draw, Malaga arrived at the Waldstadion knowing that a score draw was enough to put them through on away goals.
Joaquin’s early goal meant Dortmund would need two, and just before halftime, Robert Lewandowski halved the amount required. With 8 minutes to go and time running out, Malaga struck again leaving the Germans needing 2 to progress to the semis.
With 90 minutes gone and the score still 1-2, people started heading for the exits. This was before Marco Reus tapped in a rebound after 30 seconds of the added 4 minutes to give them hope.
2 minutes from time, Santana finished a scrappy goal from less than a yard out to set up a tie against Real Madrid, while it left Malaga wondering what might have been.
13. Liverpool 3-1 Olympiakos [2004/05 Season]
Liverpool went into the game needing to win by two to progress out of their group in the 2004/05 campaign.
The reds came out all guns blazing and had a goal disallowed early after Milan Baros pushed his opponent in the back before it was bundled in.
Their early pressure counted for nothing though as a Rivaldo free-kick gave the Greeks an early lead. At halftime and requiring 3, Rafa Benitez brought on Florent Sinama Pongolle for Traore. In the 47th minute, he leveled the scoring.
After another disallowed goal for another Baros push, the Czech was replaced by Neil Mellor, who like Sinama Pongolle scored quickly after coming on and left Liverpool needing one more to go through.
Then four minutes from time Steven Gerrard scored a glorious half volley and lead them on into what would be a very successful year in Europe for the reds.
12. Bayern Munich 1-1 Chelsea [2011/12 Season]
The final of the 2011/12 UCL competition was held at the Allianz arena, giving Bayern an advantage before the game had even begun.
The game remained goalless until the 83rd minute when Tomas Muller scored – seemingly bringing it home for Bayern. Didier Drogba in the 88th minute scored a powerful header past Manuel Neuer to take the game to extra time.
In the first half of extra time, Arjen Robben was given a golden opportunity after Drogba fouled Frank Ribery in the box. But Petr Cech remarkably denied him taking it to penalties.
Sadly, Bayern Munich eventually lost the match and Chelsea won their first Champions League trophy.
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11. Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool [2008/09 Season]
The all-English 2008/09 quarter-final tie between Chelsea and Liverpool is one of the best Champions League games in history. The first leg at Anfield finished 3-1 to Chelsea giving Liverpool a mountain to climb.
Aurelio opened the scoring and Xabi Alonso doubled the reds lead on the night after half an hour. Didier Drogba scored on 52 minutes and Alex made it 5-3 on aggregate to Chelsea 5 minutes after.
Frank Lampard then gave them the lead on the night before Lucas and Dirk Kuyt scored two in two minutes meaning it was 6-5 and Liverpool needing 1 goal to progress on away goals.
But on 89 minutes, Lampard scored again making it 4-4 on the night and 7-5 on aggregate booking the blues place in the semis.
Indeed, this match is one of the greatest Champions League games of all time.
10. Man City 4-3 Tottenham [2018/19 Season]
Spurs led 1-0 going into their quarter-final second leg clash against favorites Man city.
The game started chaotically. Sterling scored in the 4th minute before Son scored in the 7th and 10th minute, then Bernardo Silva replied a minute later to make it 2-2 on the night.
Raheem then scored again after 21 minutes to make it 3-3 on aggregate and spurs leading on away goals.
In the second half, Sergio Aguero gave City an aggregate lead for the first time in the tie before Fernando Llorente’s controversial 72nd minute effort gave Spurs the lead on away goals.
Then in the 92nd minute City thought they’d won it thanks to a Raheem Sterling hat-trick.
But VAR stepped in once again and noticed Sergio Aguero was offside leaving Guardiola distraught and Pochettino elated.
9. Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea [2011/12 Season]
No true football fan can forget this Barcelona – Chelsea Champions League thriller. It is one of the best Champions League games of all time.
Didier Drogba’s strike was the difference as the sides headed to the Nou Camp, hence, Chelsea was holding a slender 1-0 advantage.
Sergio Busquets made it even after 25 minutes before Skipper John Terry was sent off for violent conduct 2 minutes after.
Just before the interval, Andres Iniesta put Barca 2-1 up overall, and Ramires responded a minute later concluding the first half.
With Chelsea ahead on away goals Barca dominated and Leo Messi had his penalty saved on 49 minutes.
In added time and the Catalan giants throwing men forward, substitute Fernando Torres ran the length of the pitch before going round Victor Valdes and sealing their place in the 2011/12 final.
8. Borussia Dortmund 8-4 Legia Warsaw [2016/17 Season]
The highest-scoring game in champions league history happened in Group F in the 2016/17 Champions League campaign. The match is also one of the greatest Champions League games of all time.
Legia took the lead before a Shinji Kagawa double and Sahin added to the score-sheet.
The Polish team made it 3-2 after 24 minutes before Reus and Dembele scored to make it 5-2 at halftime. Reus made it 6 with his second before Warsaw responded with another one of their own. Passlack scored in the 81st minute before Nikolic got the polish side’s 4th two minutes after.
An own goal in added time rounded up a 12-goal thriller that will never be forgotten.
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7. Barcelona 2-8 Bayern Munich [2019/20 Season]
This match is one of the most strange and unexpected results in recent years. The European giants went into their quarter-final clash expecting a tight, hard-fought game.
What proceeded was a humiliation of the Catalan club which would start the rebuild we are seeing at Barca currently.
Muller gave Munich an early lead before David Alaba put the ball in the wrong net on 7 minutes. Bayern added 3 more before halftime to make it 4-1 at the break.
Suarez gave Barca a lifeline before goals from Kimmich, Lewandowski and a Coutinho double completed the routing.
Bayern would breeze into that year’s final and beat PSG 1-0. This victory helped them to win the UCL for the first time since 2013.
6. Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax [2018/19 Season]
Real Madrid led after a close 2-1 encounter at the Johan Cruyff Arena. The full extent of this Ajax team was not yet understood with hidden gems such as De Ligt, Frenkie De Jong, Van De Beek, and David Neres.
Ajax silenced the Bernabeu early with two quick goals from Hakim Ziyech and Brazilian Neres. Ex Saints player Dusan Tadic made it 4-2 on aggregate until Marco Asensio responded quickly with Madrid still needing two.
Only two minutes later though Lasse Schone looped a free-kick over everyone and into book Ajax’s place in the quarter-finals vs Juventus.
The match was indeed epic and one of the best Champions League games of all time.
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5. Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona [2018/19 Season]
Liverpool looked down and out after the first leg in Spain finished 3-0 with two from Messi and one from an old friend of theirs – Luiz Suarez.
The Kop arrived early and the atmosphere was electric pre-game. Origi tapped home a rebound from Jordan Henderson’s shot leaving them within two of extra time.
Just minutes after coming off the bench Gini Wijnaldum scored in the 54th and 56th minute to level the tie at 3-3.
Then 11 minutes from time Barca were caught out by a quickly taken corner which the Belgian striker reacted to first.
It was yet another astounding comeback from the reds in Europe en route to their sixth competition win that year.
4. Barcelona 6-1 PSG [2016/17 Season]
This match is nicknamed ‘la remontada’, meaning the comeback. There is no doubt that this match is one of the greatest Champions League games of all time.
Not many would have predicted Barca to progress after losing 4-0 to PSG at the Parc De Prince, but no one would write of MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) that season and they proved it in an almighty comeback for the ages.
Barca leads 2-0 at halftime thanks to a 3rd-minute goal from Luis Suarez and Kurzawa’s disastrous own goal 5 minutes before the interval.
Messi added a 3rd from the spot before Cavani scored what Paris thought was the away goal to surely cancel any last ideas of a heroic comeback.
2 minutes remained and Barca still needed 3 until Neymar scored in the 88th minute. The Brazillian then scored from a penalty after 91 minutes.
Then in the dying seconds, Sergi Roberto scored one of the competition’s most famous goals. He completed a game that he will never be able to explain – one of the best Champions League games ever.
3. Man Utd 2-1 Bayern Munich [1998/99 Season]
The final of the 1998/99 Champions league was battled out between Bayern Munich and Manchester United. The match is an unforgettable one, hence, becoming one of the greatest Champions League games of all time.
Mario Basler opened the scoring early from a low free-kick for Bayern and the Germans dominated from there on in. Peter Schmeichel kept United in it and Bayern didn’t capitalize on chances.
They then were punished brutally from two deadly corners with two similar results. Teddy Sheringham seemed to bring the game into extra time after his 91st-minute strike.
Two minutes later however Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completed the turnaround two minutes after and brought the treble back for UTD.
2. Ajax 2-3 Tottenham [2018/19 Season]
Donny Van de Beek scored the only goal in a poor performance at home for Ajax. The Johan Cruyff Arena was in full voice after their unbelievable run and they were fully expectant of their young Dutch side to go all the way to the final.
And with their 2 first-half goals meant that Ajax were cruising on their way to the final.
At halftime, Pochettino rolled the dice bringing striker Llorente on for Victor Wanyama making them more direct.
Lucas Moura was a man on a mission scoring firstly in the 55th minute then he showed such intelligence to get his second four minutes after.
Time was running out for Tottenham and Ajax probably thought they’d done enough but Spurs weren’t done and Moura added one final goal in the 96th minute.
Without the likes of Harry Kane, he stepped up and cemented his place as a Tottenham legend.
1. Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (3-2 on pens) [2004/05 Season]
It had to be that night in Istanbul when a far superior AC Milan side put their apparent dominance on paper into practice with 3 first-half goals.
The game though was completely changed in six minutes which defy explanation. Gerrard powered a header home. Then Smicer struck from a distance before Xabi Alonso rebounded Dida’s penalty save into the roof of the net.
In extra-time Jerzy Dudek pulled off a save from Shevchenko’s shot that was quite outstanding, summing up his night.
In the shoot-out, Dudek’s Grobbelaar antics contributed to Serginho blazing his effort over. Also, he then stopped Andre Pirlo’s effort and finally Shevchenko’s weak penalty he denied finishing the greatest champions league game ever.
In a nutshell, the 2005 Champions League Final between Liverpool and Ac Milan is the Best Champions League game ever.