The Champions League is at the final eight, as teams start to see a path to the final. With the quarter-finals to kick-off this week, we take a look at six of the best Champions League quarter-final ties this century.
Champions League Quarter-Final Ties
Champions League Quarter-Final Ties: Special Mentions
The Champions League last eight has thrown up some wonderful ties over the years. From Real Madrid smashing Bayern Munich in extra-time in 2017, to Chelsea beating Paris Saint-Germain in 2014. Not to mention Arjen Robben’s moment at Old Trafford. But those are ties that don’t make this list. Here are the six that do:
Morientes and Monaco Stun Real Madrid (2003/04)
In 2003/04, Real Madrid went into the Champions League quarter-final on the back of four successive semi-final appearances. Madrid’s opponents, meanwhile, were a Monaco side who hadn’t been in the knockout stage of the competition since 1998. Monaco took a shook lead in the first leg at the Bernabeu, but that looked likely to be a minor dent to Madrid, who turned it around for a 4-1 lead. But Fernando Morientes, on loan from Madrid to Monaco, scored late on to end things 4-2.
Still, Real Madrid were set for a semis spot, especially when Raul gave them the lead at the Stade Louis II in the second leg. Ludovic Giuly equalised for Monaco just before halftime, but Monaco still had little chance. But Morientes would step up again, as his header made it 2-1 on the night and just 5-4 on aggregate. Giuly would get another, as Monaco knocked out the Spanish heavyweights on away goals, on their way to an unforeseen journey to the final. For Real Madrid, they wouldn’t make it this far for another six years.
Wayne Bridge Deflates Arsenal at Highbury (2003/04)
In that same season, there was another classic tie at the same stage. Arsenal came into this Champions League quarter-final tie against Chelsea as heavy favourites. Despite a slow start in the competition, the Gunners had won their last five Champions League games. This included a 5-1 thrashing of Inter Milan at the San Siro, while the Gunners hadn’t lost a single league game. A treble talk was on, and a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the first leg was only a minor blot. At least it was supposed to be.
However, Arsenal came into the second leg having exited the FA Cup at the hands of Manchester United, in the semi-final. Arsene Wenger’s side looked to be on the course for one semi, though, as Jose Antonio Reyes gave them a first-half lead. But Chelsea hit back with Frank Lampard, and suddenly took charge of the game. Arsenal looked to be unravelling. Another goal would be fatal, and it came from Wayne Bridge with just three minutes left, much to the silenced horror of the Highbury crowd.
Champions League Quarter-final Classic of Two Brits (2008/09)
Before Chelsea and Liverpool met in the Champions League quarter-final in 2009, both sides had developed a rivalry on the continent. In 2005, there was the famous ‘ghost goal’ at Anfield, which helped Liverpool knock out the Blues in the semi-final. There was another semi-final win for Liverpool in 2007, at Anfield, this time via penalties. In 2008, Chelsea took their own pound of flesh, with 5-4 on aggregate to advance in the final.
The stage had been set for this Champions League quarter-final, and just five minutes in, it lit up, when Fernando Torres gave Liverpool the lead. But Branislav Ivanovic scored two headers on either side of halftime to turn this tie in Chelsea’s favour. Didier Drogba added another as Chelsea left Anfield with a 3-1 lead. Tie over?
Not quite. Liverpool needed to score three goals without reply to go through, and had to do so without skipper Steven Gerrard. But, Rafa Benitez’s side would go two up at halftime, thanks to dead-balls from Fabio Aurelio and Xabi Alonso. Now only away goals spared Chelsea’s blushes, but the Blues would be handed a lifeline after the break as Pepe Reina spilt a cross and made it 2-1 on the night. A thunderbolt free-kick from Alex made it 2-2 on the night, and Frank Lampard put Chelsea 6-3 up on aggregate. This time the tie was surely over.
Except not, as first Lucas’s deflected shot pulled Liverpool level on the night. Then Dirk Kuyt headed one in inside the final ten minutes. Suddenly Liverpool were within one goal once more. But Lampard would have the final say late on, for an incredible 4-4 score-line, and a 7-5 tie on aggregate.
Dortmund Leave it Late to Break Malaga (2012/13)
In 2013, it was a tale of two relative underdogs who met in the Champions League quarter-final. Borussia Dortmund hadn’t reached the Champions League quarter-final in 15 years, while Malaga had never been in one. The tie failed to light up in the first leg, as both sides had to settle for a goalless draw.
But things lit up at the Westfalen Stadion, as Joaquin fired Malaga into the lead with a goal worth almost twice its score. Dortmund equalised via Robert Lewandowski but found Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero impossible to beat. Then when Eliseu put Malaga 2-1 up late on, it looked all over.
Dortmund needed to score in the final few minutes, against a goalkeeper they’d had trouble getting past. But first Marco Reus pulled it back to 2-2 on the night. Then, in extraordinary circumstances, Dortmund defender Felipe Santana scrambled the ball over the line in stoppage time, to give Dortmund a monumental victory.
‘Roma Have Risen From Their Ruins’ (2017/18)
When the Champions League quarter-final draw was made in 2018, Barcelona vs Roma was probably the tie that looked easiest to call. And it looked to be a foregone conclusion when Barcelona came out of the first leg 4-1 up on the tie. There was surely no way back.
Despite Roma taking the lead in the first half of the second leg through Edin Dzeko, a comeback still seemed implausible. But the Olimpico crowd started to truly believe when a Daniele de Rossi penalty made it 4-3 on aggregate. Surely not they couldn’t come back? Except, the impossible would happen, via the head of Kostas Manolas. ‘The Greek god in Rome’ BT Sport’s Peter Drury called him. ‘A fairy-tale’, he added. For Barcelona, who had pulled off a miracle of their own against PSG a year earlier, it was a sickening experience. But It wouldn’t be their last.
Youthful Ajax Stun Juventus (2018/19)
In 2018/2019, Ajax were the team to look out for. In the Champions League group stage, they had played out two delightful draws against Bayern Munich, as they made their way to first knockout appearance in 13 years. Being pitted against Real Madrid – who had just won the competition three times on the bounce – Ajax’s road looked to be run. But despite a 2-1 defeat at home, Erik ten Hag’s young side responded with a 4-1 win at the Bernabeu.
That led to a Champions League quarter-final with Juventus. Once again, Ajax failed to win the first leg, as they played out a 1-1 draw with the Italian champions. In the second leg, Ajax conceded, but hit back through Donny van de Beek. Then, in a performance that arguably bettered the Bernabeu display, the Dutch side would find a winner via 19-year-old captain (and future Juventus centre-back) Matthijs de Ligt, to stun the continent once more.
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