The 2008 UEFA Champions League Final took place on Wednesday, 21st May 2008. The match was played at the Luzhniki Stadium, home ground of Torpedo and Spartak Moscow, in Moscow, Russia, to determine the winner of the 2007–08 UEFA Champions League. The final was contested by Manchester United and Chelsea, making it an all-English club final for the first time in European Cup/Champions League history. This was only the third time two clubs from the same country contested the final – the others being the 2000 and 2003 finals. The game was won by Manchester United 6–5 on penalties, after a 1–1 draw following extra time.
In a series of coincidences, in the week during which Manchester United qualified for this Final in Russia, Russian side Zenit St Petersburg won the 2008 UEFA Cup Final at the City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, England. This saw the Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich bring Chelsea to the first European Cup final staged in Russia. The Moscow location made this the easternmost final in the tournament's history. It was also Chelsea's first European Cup final in their history. The significance for United was that 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, and the 40th anniversary of United's first European Cup triumph in 1968.
In recent years, the Champions League final has been given an identity of its own with a unique logo, a design concept, and an overall theme. The objective is to help promote the final and enhance the prestige of one of the world's biggest sporting events. The initial idea that inspired the creation of a new identity for each final was to develop a design with a distinctive flavour of the host city. On 31 October in Moscow, the Final's new design was presented to public. The ceremony was held in the press conference room at the Luzhniki Stadium and the design was unveiled in presence of the ambassador for the final, former Russian goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev.
Manchester United went into the Champions League final as champions of England for the 17th time and undefeated in the 2007–08 Champions League. Chelsea came second in the league, finishing with two fewer points than United, and had lost just one Champions League game, the quarter-final first leg away to Fenerbahçe. In the Premier League games between the two sides in the 2007–08 season, United won 2–0 at Old Trafford in Avram Grant's first game in charge of Chelsea on 23 September 2007. Chelsea won 2–1 at Stamford Bridge in the return game on 26 April 2008. Chelsea also won the last cup game between the two – a 1–0 win in the 2007 FA Cup Final in May 2007, although United got their own back in the Community Shield the following August – winning 3–0 on penalties after a 1–1 draw in normal time.
Routes to the final
Manchester United were drawn in Group F along with Roma, Sporting and Dynamo Kyiv. United won their first five group games before securing a 1–1 draw away against Roma, in a game where both teams were already guaranteed to progress from the group, United as group winners and with the most number of points out of all the group winners, 16.
In the first knockout round, United were drawn against Olympique Lyonnais, against whom they drew the away leg 1–1, thanks to a late equaliser from Carlos Tévez. The Red Devils then won the second leg 1–0 – Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the only goal – to ensure a 2–1 aggregate win and a place in the quarter-finals, where they were again drawn against Roma.
The quarter-final matches represented the fifth and sixth times these two clubs had met in Europe in just over 12 months. United went to Rome and secured a very creditable 2–0 win, before securing the tie with a record 11th consecutive home Champions League win, winning 1–0.
The semi-final pitted United against FC Barcelona; the teams had not met since the group stage of the 1998–99 tournament, the last time United won it. The teams also had identical records going into the semi-final, each having won eight and drawn two of their ten games, scoring 18 goals and conceding just five. The first leg at the Nou Camp was a drab affair, with United spending most of the game defending, whilst Barcelona tried to pass the ball around them. United were awarded a penalty in the first minute, but Cristiano Ronaldo sent the ball wide, hitting the stanchion behind the goal. That was about as exciting as the first leg got for either team and it ended 0–0. The second leg at Old Trafford was a game of higher tempo, which United won 1–0 thanks to a goal from Paul Scholes after 14 minutes. This result increased United's consecutive home win record in the Champions League to 12 and ensured that United reached the final unbeaten.
En-route to the final 2008, United won nine and drew three of their 12 matches, dwarfing their record of four wins and six draws in the ten games they took to reach the final in 1999 (in 1999 there was no first knockout round and teams advanced from the group stage directly into the quarter-finals). United scored 19 goals en-route to the final, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring seven of them, more than any other player.
Chelsea were placed in Group B, along with Schalke 04, Rosenborg and Valencia. Chelsea's first match in the group was against Rosenborg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's home ground, where they were held to a 1–1 draw. Two days later manager José Mourinho left Chelsea by mutual consent. Mourinho's replacement was former Israeli national team coach Avram Grant. Chelsea's second match was against Spanish club Valencia, whom they beat 2–1, leaving Chelsea with four points from their two matches. Chelsea's next two matches were against Schalke 04 of Germany. The first match was played at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won the match 2–0. The return match against Schalke 04 ended in a 0–0 draw. Chelsea's final two matches in their group resulted in a 4–0 demolition of Rosenborg and a 0–0 draw with Valencia. Chelsea progressed as group winners with 12 points out of six games.
Chelsea faced Olympiakos in the first knockout round. The first leg in Athens ended in a 0–0 draw. The second leg saw Chelsea run out 3-0 winners with goals from Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard and Salomon Kalou to send Chelsea into the quarter-finals.
Chelsea were drawn against Fenerbahçe of Turkey in the quarter-finals. The first leg was held at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, and ended in a 2–1 loss. Chelsea had opened the scoring when Deivid deflected the ball into his own net, but Fenerbahçe equalised on 65 minutes, when Kazim-Richards scored. Deivid won the match for Fenerbahçe with a strike from outside the penalty area in the 81st minute. The second leg at Stamford Bridge was won 2-0 by Chelsea, to claim a 3–2 aggregate victory over the Turkish side.
Chelsea faced fellow English opposition Liverpool in the semi-final. This was the fourth year in succession that these teams had met in the Champions League. The first leg at Anfield was drawn 1–1. The game looked to be heading for a Liverpool win but an own goal by John Arne Riise in the 95th minute gave Chelsea advantage. Chelsea won the second leg 3–2, with goals from Drogba on 33 minutes, Lampard on 98 minutes and Drogba again on 105 minutes sending the Blues through to the first Champions League final in their history.
Leading up to the match
The artificial pitch had also been relaid with turf shipped from Slovakia just days before the final. Thus, there were concerns over the players' safety on the pitch. Manchester United chief executive David Gill had expressed disappointment that the club had only been allocated with 21,000 tickets for their supporters, when the club could potentially sell up to 100,000 tickets for their fans.
Hotels in Moscow were fully booked, and on the day, bars and pubs were packed. One holiday company gave an alternative to hotels: a cruise ship. Fans could sleep in the cabins, as well as travelling to and returning from Moscow just for the final. A study by Sainsbury's Finance reveals that fans would need spending money of around £624 each to cover hotels, taxis, food and drink etc. British media widely but incorrectly reported that the average price of one pint of beer in Moscow was £7.50. The actual price was between £2.00 and £5.00. Sainsbury's Finance estimated that Chelsea and Manchester United fans could take a combined total of £40m spending money with them. The match was expected to generate £200m spending, prize money and TV income, with the two teams sharing £115m. However, some fans spent far less money, using indirect routes such as low-cost flights to Riga followed by a train or bus journey to Moscow.
A flight to Moscow, which was meant to leave Gatwick Airport for Domodedovo International Airport at 0555 BST to arrive just in time for the match, was cancelled after 6 hours of delay. Supporters waited nearly 6 hours after being told the plane would leave at 1300 BST. A spokesperson for the airport said it was a 'hydraulic fault' with the plane, and the plane would not be able to arrive at 1945 BST. 224 Chelsea supporters were left stranded, each of whom had paid near £1,000 for the day trip. By the time they were told, it was too late to make alternative plans to travel to Moscow.
Sir Alex Ferguson guaranteed a place in the starting line-up for Paul Scholes, after the midfielder had missed the 1999 final through suspension. He stuck with his regular starting line-up that had served him well all season, with his only real decision being whether to play Park Ji-Sung or Owen Hargreaves in midfield. He decided to start Owen Hargreaves on the right wing instead of his regular role as a defensive midfielder, and deployed Cristiano Ronaldo on the left wing, pitting him against Michael Essien.
Avram Grant decided to start with Florent Malouda on the left-wing instead of Salomon Kalou. He also chose to deploy Michael Essien at right-back ahead of Paulo Ferreira and Juliano Belletti, rather than in his preferred midfield position. The rest of Chelsea's team was fairly predictable, with their spine of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba being the key players.
Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring after 26 minutes. An interchange of passes between Paul Scholes and Wes Brown after a throw-in on the right flank gave Brown time to pick out a cross for Ronaldo, who directed his header past Petr Čech. Chelsea almost equalised in the 33rd minute when Frank Lampard's cross was headed back into the six-yard box by Didier Drogba. United's Rio Ferdinand, under pressure from Michael Ballack, was forced to head the ball towards his own goal and Edwin van der Sar pulled off a save to deny Chelsea a goal. United spent the rest of the first half pressing for a second goal, and had two good opportunities to extend their lead, but were denied by a double-save from Čech. Wayne Rooney delivered a long ball into the path of Ronaldo and the United goalscorer placed his cross on the head of the diving Tévez only for Čech to deny him. Chelsea's failure to clear the loose ball gave Michael Carrick the chance to extend their lead but again Čech was equal to the task with another fine save.
Chelsea survived the pressure and equalised in the dying minutes of the first half. The goal followed from a long range shot by Michael Essien, being deflected first off Nemanja Vidić and then Rio Ferdinand. The ball's change in direction caused Edwin van der Sar to lose his footing, leaving Lampard, who had made the run from deep, with a simple finish.
Lampard's equaliser coming at the end of the first half led to a transformed Chelsea in the second half. Chelsea kept United on the back foot for long periods. Nevertheless, they managed to contain most of Chelsea's attacks. Chelsea had a few opportunities to take the lead, with Essien breaking free of United's defence in the 54th minute, only to blast his shot too high. Michael Ballack also sent his long shot just off target. Chelsea's closest opportunity to take the lead came in the 77th minute when a Didier Drogba shot struck the post from 20 yards (18 m) out. Drogba went very close to convert Joe Cole's low cross home for the winner four minutes from time, but blasted wide. Ryan Giggs was then introduced in place of Scholes, making a record 759th appearance for Manchester United.
The game moved into extra time, and the thrilling pace was maintained throughout. Both teams had chances to score a vital second goal, with a Lampard left-footer hitting the underside of the crossbar and Ryan Giggs having a shot headed off the line by Terry. Following a fracas involving most of the 22 players and the match officials, Didier Drogba became only the second player in history to be sent off in a European Cup Final – the first being Arsenal's goalkeeper Jens Lehmann in 2006 – for a slap on Vidić.
Rio Ferdinand won the toss of the coin, and opted for United to go first in the shootout. Carlos Tévez stepped up first and sent Čech the wrong way. Ballack was next up, shooting powerfully past van der Sar. Carrick buried his spot-kick, as did Juliano Belletti with his first touch of the game. The first miss of the shootout came from Ronaldo, who stuttered in his run-up but Čech dived to his right to save. Lampard then put Chelsea 3-2 ahead. Owen Hargreaves levelled things up with a shot into the top corner. Ashley Cole was the next up, and van der Sar got a strong hand to the ball but couldn't keep the ball out. Nani then knew that he had to score to keep United in it, and he did it just. Thus it was all up to John Terry to win the Cup for Chelsea. However, Terry lost his footing when planting his standing foot by the ball and, even though Edwin van der Sar was sent the wrong way, Terry's mis-hit effort hit the outside of the right post and went wide.
Anderson scored the first penalty in sudden death. Salomon Kalou then sent van der Sar the wrong way to make it 5-5. Giggs was next up and he was also successful. Van der Sar then pulled off the crucial save for United by distracting Nicolas Anelka when he pointed to his left (Chelsea's penalties were all attempted on van der Sar's left side of the goal), but correctly dived to his right to deny Anelka, securing United European football's top prize for the third time in their history.