There’s a big barren space between now and the next time there’s any football of interest on this week so I’ve decided to help bridge the gap by starting a minor argument. In honour of the Champions League Final, I’ve chosen my Top 10 Champions League Final goals. I’ve gone with the marketing based distinction of the Champions League era only because YouTube’s coverage of pre-1993 Champions League finals is rather sketchy.
10. Filipo Inzaghi (2nd Goal) – AC Milan v Liverpool 2007
In many ways Liverpool gave a better account of themselves in the 2007 final than they did two years previously, but the sense of football karma coming back to bite them in the ass gave defeat in the rematch an air of inevitably. Inzaghi’s back gave Milan the lead just before half-time, but his second showcased his main talent that’s not falling in a heap on the floor. After a nice passage of passing a excellent through ball, Inzaghi shows great touch and footwork to slot the ball past Pepe Reina and give Liverpool a small taste of the injustice Milan must have tasted in Istanbul.
9. Lars Ricken – Dortmund v Juventus 1997
I’m not enough of a nerd to know if it was actually his first touch of the game, so I won’t claim it as such, but only seconds after coming on, Ricken ran on to a through ball and sent a delightful shot over the head of Angelo Perruzzi to put the game beyond Juventus. Without wanting to grumble unnecessarily, the keeper did make it slightly easier for him by standing in no man’s land, but Ricken took the chance with superb accuracy. Sadly his career never quite went the way the early editions of Championship Manager suggested it might, but he’s got a Champions League medal in his pocket, so he’s probably not bothered.
8. Cristiano Ronaldo – Man Utd v Chelsea 2008
It was a fine jump and header from Ronaldo, but the work by Paul Scholes and Wes Brown is crucial to creating the chance. Penned in beside the touchline, they look to be going nowhere and with Chelsea having numbers back, they must have been confident of snuffing out the trouble. In the blink of an eye Scholes and Brown exchange passes before Brown gets a couple of yards of space to send in a delightful cross which the preening one directs superbly into the corner.
7. Fabrizio Ravanelli – Juventus v Ajax 1996
This one isn’t what you’d call conventionally beautiful. It’s to the world of goalscoring what Maggie Gyllenhaal is to the world of acting. Van der Sar and one of the De Boers fail to deal with a straightforward loopy ball and the Italian pounces for a superb strikers goal. He nips in to take the ball away from the keeper, before somehow wrapping his foot around the ball and giving it just enough juice to creep over the line. And what’s more impressive if from just before the point where he comes into contact with De Boer, he doesn’t look up to see where the goal is. Superb strikers’ instinct and touch from the White Feather. He wheels away to celebrate with all the joy of a man blissfully unaware that his future lies in Middlesbrough.
6. Steve McManaman – Real Madrid v Valencia 2000
McManaman was one of the first high profile English stars to benefit from the Bosman ruling and his decision to leave Anfield in favour of Real Madrid paid off both financially and in terms of silverware. Real dominated the 2000 final, but couldn’t shake off a dogged Valencia. That was until the 67th minute when McManaman stepped up to the plate with a perfect volley made look only slightly less good by Canizares’ watching it into the net. You may not have saved it, but just throw yourself at it to make it look more spectacular.
5. Samuel Eto’o – Barcelona v Arsenal 2006
It’s only looking back at the highlights that I fully appreciate how well Arsenal played in this game. Playing with 10 men from the 18th minute after one of Jens Lehmann’s rushes of blood to the head, the Gunners rode their luck a little, but equally created plenty of chances of their own. In what’s gone on to become the rule rather than the exception, they failed to kill off the game and with so much attacking talent, it was only a matter of time before Barca struck. Refusing to panic, Barca play the ball around calmly, prying for an opening and one quick pass, one excellent touch, and one clever run later, Eto’o finished off a lovely move to level the scores.
4. Hernan Crespo 2nd Goal – AC Milan v Liverpool 2005
It was around this time that Liverpool fans began to wonder where the nearest high ledge was. Crespo’s 5 minute brace made it 3-0 to AC Milan and it wasn’t even time to switch sides or have a ridiculously ill-advised premature celebration. The comeback meant there was little to look back on with fondness for the Italians, but this goal was a beauty. Playing with the supreme confidence of a team fully expecting to get their hands on Ol Big Ears, they seem to be happy enough to knock the ball around in defence, but in an instant Kaka (when he used to be able to run) turns and plays an inch perfect ball to Crespo who dinks it past Dudek like it was a training game. Almost undefendable stuff. A lot like what happened later in the game.
3. Samuel Eto’o – Barcelona v Man Utd 2009
It’s Eto’o’s goal, but Iniesta deserves huge credit for his driving run and perfectly weighted ball. United seemed to be well organised have numbers back when Barcelona won possession around the half way line, but about 7 seconds later the ball is the back of the net. Picking the ball up on the edge of the penalty area, Eto’o still has a lot to do, but shows great acceleration and balance to skin Vidic and finish whilst avoiding a maiming from Michael Carrick’s desperate tackle.
2. Dejan Savićević – AC Milan v Barcelona 1994
AC Milan ripped apart a talented Barcelona side in a performance that partially gave Fabio Capello the towering reputation he’s failing to live up to as England manager. Savićević was on ‘sticking a fork in it’ duty scoring the 3rd goal, putting the game beyond Johan Cruyff’s Cules and instantly giving managers a shining example of why attackers need to close down defenders. The Yugoslavian (it was still a place around this time) harries the defender before squeezing the ball in from a difficult angle.
1. Zinedine Zidane – Real Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen 2002
If ever a goal was worthy of winning a European Cup, this was it. The first generation of the Galacticos was being formed, but they couldn’t shake off the challenge of surprise finalists from Germany. With the scores tied coming up to half-time Zidane provided a goal of majestic technique and timing to give Real a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The clip is made all the better by the disbelieving manic commentary from the mic-holders.
Feel free to harangue my selections or out forward your own selections in the comments section.