Saturday, December 29, 2007

1992 Barcelona 1-0 Sampdoria

The season 1991-92 of the European Cup was won for the first time by Barcelona after extra time in the final against Sampdoria. The winning goal was scored by Ronald Koeman with a free-kick. This was the last tournament before the competition was rebranded as the UEFA Champions League. It was the first to have a group stage involving the eight second round winners split into two groups, and the winner of each one met in the final.

This tournament also marked the return of English clubs after a five-year ban resulting from the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985. The ban would have ended one year earlier had Liverpool, who were banned for six years, not qualified for the 1990-91 European Cup.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wayne Rooney: Will he be a Champions League Legend?

Wayne Mark Rooney is seen as one of the most exciting prospects of the modern game , his transfer fee from Everton still stands as the highest ever paid for a teenager. He normally played as a second striker to Ruud van Nistelrooy for his club team before van Nistelrooy's move to Real Madrid, although during 2005-06, he showed his versatility as a player by shifting to the midfield and playing on both flanks. He wears the number 8 shirt for Manchester United and the number 9 shirt for the English national team.

Rooney was brought up in an urban area of eastern Liverpool called Croxteth, where he and his two brothers attended the local De La Salle Catholic School.

Rooney grew up supporting Everton and his childhood hero was Duncan Ferguson, and wore a T-shirt reading "Once a blue, Always a blue". However, he would end up playing just two seasons with Everton before demanding, and then executing, a transfer. This has left him on unfavourable terms with Everton fans, and this showed when he returned to Goodison Park and was booed severely.

Rooney has been under an intense media spotlight since first arriving on the scene in 2002, particularly coming to the public's notice on 19 October 2002 when he scored a memorable goal against title-holders Arsenal, ending their 30-match unbeaten run. Receiving the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box, Rooney brought it down with instant control and turned away from his marker before firing it into the top left-hand corner of the goal, beating England keeper David Seaman and giving Everton a late 2-1 victory at Goodison Park. This goal provoked Clive Tyldesley, the match commentator, to exclaim 'remember the name, Wayne Rooney!'. Rooney was only 16 years old when he scored the goal, making him the youngest ever goalscorer in the Premiership at the time. Rooney gained a huge reputation on the world stage due to his performance at Euro 2004, as he spearheaded the English attack, scoring four goals, eclipsing fellow England team mate Michael Owen.


After excelling for Liverpool Schoolboys and The Dynamo Brownwings, Rooney was signed by Everton shortly before his 11th birthday. Rooney gained national prominence on the 19th of October 2002 when he became the youngest goal scorer in the history of the Premier League at 16 years and 360 days while playing for Everton (though this record has since been surpassed twice by James Milner and current record holder James Vaughan). His goal against then-champions Arsenal was a last-minute winner and brought to an end the London side's 30-match unbeaten run. At the end of 2002 he won the BBC Sports Young Personality of the Year.


Before turning 17 and becoming eligible for a professional contract, he was playing for £80 a week and living with his family on a council estate. His salary has since been increased several times and Rooney now earns an estimated £51,755 a week. Following intense media coverage of Rooney at Euro 2004, Everton claimed that they would not transfer his contract for less than £50 million. The club offered Rooney a new contract for £12,000 a week for three years. This, however, was turned down by Rooney's agent on the 27 August 2004, leaving Manchester United and Newcastle United to compete for his signature.

The Times newspaper reported that Newcastle were close to signing the young star for £18.5 million, a fact later confirmed by Rooney's agent. Manchester United, however, were the successful club in signing the young talent. Rooney handed in a transfer request to Everton and on 31 August 2004, Rooney signed for Manchester United after a deal worth around £31 million (£49 million including wages) was agreed. The deal was concluded just hours before the transfer deadline.

The initial fee of £23m was paid to Everton over two years; the rest of the money depends on appearances and/or success at Manchester United and/or England. It is likely the fee will reach the maximum £31m within the next 3 years. A final fee in the region of £30m plus costs is more likely. In the club's 2004-05 accounts, Rooney's contract is recorded as having a book cost of £25.066 million as at 30 June 2005, with contingent payables of £14 million, giving a maximum final fee of £39.066 million including costs.

Rooney's transfer fee is the second highest for an exclusively British deal, with only his Manchester United team-mate, Rio Ferdinand, commanding a higher fee. Rooney does, however, have the honour of being the most expensive teenage footballer ever, being only 18 when Manchester United signed him.

Manchester United

Rooney made his debut for Manchester United on 28 September 2004 in the UEFA Champions League against Fenerbahçe, scoring a hat-trick and also an assist (the match finished in a 6-2 win for United). For the 2005-06 season, Rooney initially started playing in wider positions than his more favoured central role. Pundits and fans alike agreed that he seemed less effective in such positions. Eventually, after Manchester United's poor run of form early in the season, Sir Alex Ferguson moved him back to his stronger position, playing behind Dutchman Ruud van Nistelrooy as a second striker. He got his first professional Winners Medal in the 2006 English League Cup. He was also named Man of the Match in the League Cup final against Wigan Athletic, after scoring two goals in the final (a 4-0 victory for United), en route to winning his first senior medal. He was also a member of the United side defeated in the 2005 FA Cup Final by Arsenal. He captained Manchester United for the first time in a home Champions League match against Copenhagen on 17 October 2006, becoming probably the youngest captain in the clubs' history. On 26 November 2006 he signed a two-year extension to his contract, which will keep him at Old Trafford until at least 2012; the contract extension negotiations only took one month, which was interpreted as showing how keen both sides were to conclude the extension.

Rooney has been a prolific goal scorer for Manchester United and Everton, matching the level of goals scored by other strikers such as Ruud van Nistelrooy. Also, he is a regular assist contributor. In the 2005-2006 season he achieved a final total of 14 assists and 16 goals, fewer goals than his current strike partner Louis Saha, but more assists.

During the first half of the 2006-7 season, Rooney went 10 games without a goal before scoring a hat-trick against Bolton. There was speculation[weasel words] about his fitness and confidence on the pitch, as he seemed less active than he usually is and his presence on the field was somewhat overshadowed by the brilliant form of Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo. Rooney's scoring rate had been matched by Louis Saha and exceeded by Cristiano Ronaldo, a winger. Nevertheless, as of February 2007 he was the top English goalscorer in the Premiership, and had received significantly fewer bookings than in previous seasons. In the FA Cup tie against Portsmouth, Rooney came on as a substitute and scored two goals, one of which was a 25-yard chip over goalkeeper David James, and soon after scored two of United's four goals in the derby against Bolton. Rooney scored his first goal for two-and-a-half years in Europe in a 2-1 defeat to A.S. Roma on 4 April 2007 in the quarter-final first leg of the Champions League. His scoring in the tournament continued in the quarter-final second leg against Roma and the semi-final first leg on, when he scored two goals in the 3-2 victory over A.C. Milan, the second a low first-time drive into the bottom right-hand corner. By the end of April, Rooney had scored 23 goals for his team in all competitions, taking him ahead of teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in goals scored in all competitions this season.

National team career

He has also figured prominently in recent England international matches, after having become the youngest ever player to play for England, in a friendly against Australia, on 12 February 2003, aged 17 years, 111 days. This record has since been surpassed by Theo Walcott, who came off the bench to play in England's friendly against Hungary on 30 May 2006. England's youngest ever player previous to Rooney was James F. M. Prinsep of Clapham Rovers, who made his debut almost one and a quarter centuries before, on 5 April 1879, aged 17 years, 253 days. Rooney is also the youngest England scorer ever (17 years, 317 days).

His reputation as one of the world's most exciting young players was further enhanced by his highly regarded performances for England at Euro 2004 in Portugal. At the tournament Rooney became the youngest player ever to score in the UEFA European Football Championships, when on 17 June 2004 he scored twice against Switzerland; although the Swiss player, Johan Vonlanthen, broke this record against France four days later. Unfortunately Rooney was injured early in the quarter final match against Portugal and England were subsequently knocked out on penalties.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

1998/99 Juventus 2-3 Man Utd (aggregate 3-4) semi final

United's glorious comeback

Manchester United were through to their first European Cup final in 31 years after a night of great drama in Turin. They became the first English club in 14 years to reach the continent's biggest match with an amazing comeback against Juventus. After 11 minutes Filippo Inzaghi ensured United were 2-0 down in the second-leg of their semi-final in Turin. But with 34 minutes gone, the Manchester club were ahead on away goals following goals from Roy Keane and Dwight Yorke.

After withstanding the Italian side's pressure through the second half, Andy Cole made sure of their success with seven minutes to go. United's only long-term setbacks were bookings to midfielders Keane and Paul Scholes, which ruled both out of the final against Bayern Munich .

The match in Turin began with news that the injured Ryan Giggs was not fit enough to even take a place on the bench, and it got worse for United as soon as the action began. Inzaghi scored the first after just six minutes, when the Italian side won a corner. It was taken short by Zinedine Zidane to Angelo Di Livio, who clipped the ball ball back to the Frenchman. He fizzed a cross to the far-post where Inzaghi finished after shaking off Gary Neville's desperate challenge.

See more great Man Utd clips at Manchester United Legends.

Inzaghi's second was a shot from the Juventus left, which deflected off Jaap Stam and looped over Peter Schmeichel. United knew before the game that they would have to score at least once to get through. Now they needed twice that figure to have a chance. The 24th minute saw a corner bring them their first, as poor marking allowed Keane to score a header past Angelo Peruzzi.

Juventus were rattled, although Zidane continued to be influential. That fact was recognised by Keane, who brought him down and was inevitably punished with a yellow card. The equaliser came 10 minutes after United's first goal, as Yorke met Cole's right wing cross with his head to beat Peruzzi with ease. Again the Juve marking was poor in the absence of defender Paolo Montero, who was not fit enough to start, but sitting on the bench. Minutes later the Trinidad and Tobago international almost made it two when he hit the post after more good work with his strike partner.

Half-time saw Juventus making the first changes as Montero replaced Mark Juliano and striker Nicola Amoruso came on to provide Inzaghi with a strike partner. Juve soon started to threaten and United's central defensive pairing of Ronny Johnsen and the excellent Stam were forced to stay alert whenever the Italian side came forward. Cole wasted a glorious chance to give United an aggregate lead and Dennis Irwin hit a post, but these were rare breaks as the Italian pressure increased. Inzaghi did have the ball in the net again on 61 minutes, but a linesman's flag correctly denied him his hat-trick.

Substitute Scholes came on for Jesper Blomqvist and received his yellow card for a two-footed challenge, with a quarter of an hour remaining. Uruguayan striker Daniel Fonseca was the next new arrival, but his first touch was to clear a Cole header off the line at a corner. There were just 10 minutes left and Juve clearly planned to play three up front with Fonseca replacing Di Livio. The South American almost created a goal with his second touch as his cutback was missed by everyone in the box.

But United were not just hanging on, and were enjoying plenty of posession to deny the men in black and white. And they made sure of their night in Barcelona in May when Yorke ran clear as Juve pushed forward. Yorke was brought down by Peruzzi but the referee played the advantage and Cole was able to run through and tap the ball into an empty net. The Italian side knew they were beaten and their fans streamed out of the ground as the party started for the travelling supporters.

Feyenoord 2-3 Newcastle (UEFA Champions League 2002-03)

Down and out after the first three group games, who could believe that the boys would go to Holland and get the victory that they needed?


One of the all-time famous European victories!

See more great Newcastle United action at the Newcastle Legends website!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Top 50 from 2003/04

The top 50 goals from the 2003/04 campaign:

Friday, May 25, 2007

2004/05 Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona

A fabulous performance as the blues overcome an excellent Barcelona team. A classic performance, overcoming a first leg deficit.

1967 Celtic 2-1 Internazionale

On 25th May, 1967, Scottish football reached a pinnacle of success unsurpassed in the modern era when Celtic defeated Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon to lift the European Cup. Less than 24 hours earlier, Kilmarnock had exited the semi-finals of the Fairs Cup at the hands of Leeds United. And, just six days after Celtic's triumph, Rangers failed to overcome Bayern Munich in the final of the European Cup Winner's Cup in Nuremberg.

Forty years on, Scottish clubs can only dream of making such an impact in Europe and Celtic are celebrating the finest moment in their illustrious history. Jock Stein's side wrestled the greatest prize in club football from the preserve of Europe's Latin sides for the first time since the tournament's inception in 1956.

A crowd of more than 45,000 crammed into the Portuguese national stadium, most of them travelling Celtic fans, to witness the Glasgow team upset the odds. Before kick-off, few believed Celtic were capable of overcoming the negative defensive tactics of Helenio Hererra's outfit, who had dismissed CSKA Sofia, Real Madrid and Torpedo Moscow en route to the final. The 11 players were all born within 30 miles of Celtic Park

But Stein's side had a strong self-belief and their football was both exciting and attack-based, pioneering the concept of 'total football' years in advance of the Dutch masters. According to the Celtic players, Stein's instructions ahead of the game were simple: go out and enjoy yourself.

The plan almost came off the rails in the opening moments when Jim Craig felled Renato Cappellini in the box, for Sandro Mazzola to net the resulting penalty with barely eight minutes on the clock. Celtic responded by laying siege to the Italian goalmouth, and Inter reverted to their famous defensive pattern and goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti made some marvellous saves. When half-time arrived, the score remained 1-0, but Stein knew that Celtic were capable of scoring from any position on the pitch, and shortly after the break the equaliser arrived - from the boot of left-back, Tommy Gemmell.

In the 65th minute, the big defender linked up with Craig and Bobby Murdoch to send home an unstoppable shot. The Italians had no answer to Celtic's enterprising play and were finally undone seven minutes from time.

Murdoch led another blistering attack and sent in a powerful shot on goal from distance, which Stevie Chalmers deflected into the net.   When German referee Kurt Techenscher sounded the whistle for full-time, the Celtic players were engulfed in a pitch invasion, with euphoric fans spilling onto the pitch to congratulate their heroes.

Club captain Billy McNeill had to be ushered around the outside of the stadium under armed escort, and then climbed the stairs to the presentation podium, where he was handed the massive, gleaming trophy. Celtic, at their first attempt, became the first British side to win the tournament - and did so with a team comprised entirely of home-grown, local players.

The 11 players who walked out on to the Estadio Nacionale pitch on that sunny afternoon in May were dubbed 'The Lisbon Lions', and their story is legend. At the final whistle, Stein said: "There is not a prouder man on God's Earth than me at this moment. "Winning was important, aye, but it was the way that we won that has filled me with satisfaction.

"We did it by playing football; pure, beautiful, inventive football."

Thanks to the BBC for this text.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

2007 AC Milan 2-1 Liverpool

The UEFA Champions League 2007 was the 52nd season of the European championship football club tournament and 15th under the current UEFA Champions League format. The final was contested by AC Milan and Liverpool F.C. on 23 May 2007. Beforehand, it was billed as a repeat of the 2004-05 Champions League final, except this time it was played at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece and was won by A.C. Milan, 2-1 .

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

1977 Liverpool 3-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach

The 1977 European Cup was won for the first time by Liverpool FC in the final against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Three times defending champions Bayern Munich were knocked out by FC Dynamo Kyiv in the quarter finals. It was only the second time an English side had won the tournament, but it started a run of six consecutive wins of English clubs.

Including this one, Liverpool FC reached five finals in nine years, of which they won four.

1978 Liverpool 1-0 Bruges

The season 1977-78 of the European Cup football club tournament was won by defending champions Liverpool FC in the final against Club Brugge K.V., who had knocked out Juventus in the semi final.

The game finished 1-0, started a run of six consecutive finals that finished 1-0 after ninety minutes, five of them won by English clubs.

1981 Liverpool 1-0 Real Madrid

The season 1980-81 of the European Cup football club tournament was won for a third time by Liverpool FC in the final against Real Madrid. In eleven seasons up to and including this one, there were only four winners of the European Cup (Ajax Amsterdam, Bayern Munich, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool), but interestingly there were eleven different runners up.

This record would have continued into the next year as well, but Bayern lost to first time finalists Aston Villa.

1973 Ajax 1-0 Juventus

The season 1972-73 of the European Cup football club tournament was won by for the third consecutive time by Ajax in the final against Juventus at the Marakana stadium in Belgrade.

This achievement meant that Ajax were awarded the badge of honour, and got to keep the cup permanently meaning another was to be made for the next season.

1972 Ajax 2-0 Internazionale

The 1972 European Cup tournament was won by for the second consecutive time by Ajax Amsterdam in the final against Internazionale Milano.

1984 Liverpool 1-1 Roma

1984 final of the European Cup was won for a fourth time by Liverpool FC in a penalty shootout in the final against AS Roma.

Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar put his name into football history for making key saves and distracting his opponents during the penalty shootout with his leg-wobbling antics. Jerzy Dudek would copy his movement in 2005 when Liverpool defeated AC Milan in a dramatic penalty shootout.

Liverpool: England's greatest success story

Liverpool's tally of eighteen Football League championships is a record for English clubs, their nearest challenger being Manchester United with sixteen. Liverpool achieved the League and FA Cup "Double" in 1986 and have won two "Trebles". The first treble of League, League Cup and European Cup was achieved in 1984 and a cup treble was achieved in 2001 comprising the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup.

Liverpool's total of five European Cups is an English record and the third highest total overall, after Real Madrid and AC Milan. The fifth victory in 2005 entitled Liverpool to receive the UEFA badge of honour, thus allowing them to keep the trophy permanently. However, Liverpool have never won the Intercontinental Cup (football) nor the FIFA Club World Cup as of yet despite all the European Cups with many instances involving refusal to take part.

Liverpool's total of three UEFA Cups is an English record, and equal to the overall record, shared with four other clubs. The tallies of seven League Cups and three European Super Cups are also English records.

Celtic 2 Leeds 1 - 15th April 1970, European Cup SF 2nd Leg

Celtic went into this European Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg having beaten Leeds 1-0 at Elland Road. However, an early Billy Bremner screamer gave the English champions an equaliser. Celtic, though, were determined to reach their 2nd European Cup Final in 4 years, and goals from John Hughes and Bobby Murdoch gave the Hoops the win.

A European record crowd of 136,505 - the game was played at Hampden Park - watched the original Battle of Britain. Celtic would lose to Feyenoord in the final.

1991 Red Star Belgrade 0-0 Marseille

The 1991 final of the European Cup was won for the first time by FK Red Star on penalties in the final against Olympique de Marseille. This was only the second time that an Eastern European side won the competition, after Steaua Bucureşti of Romania. It was also the last tournament to be solely knock-out based, with a group stage added for the next season.

Regarded as perhaps the poorest final of all time, the winners nevertheless went on to become World Club Champions. This tournament would have marked the return of English clubs after a five-year ban resulting from the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985 had Liverpool, who were banned for six years, not qualified as English champions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

1993 Marseille 1-0 AC Milan

The 1992-93 season of the UEFA Champions League football club tournament was won for the first time by Olympique de Marseille in the final against A.C. Milan.

It was the second to have a group stage involving the eight second round winners split into two groups, and the winner of each one met in the final. In addition, a preliminary round was required as this was the first season after the break-up of the USSR and Yugoslavia, resulting in a large number of new countries eligible to enter the champions of their own leagues into the competition.

However, soon after Marseille's victory allegations of match-fixing were levelled at them and their president Bernard Tapie. This involved a league game where Marseille, it emerged, had fixed their title-clinching Division 1 game against US Valenciennes so they could concentrate on the Milan tie. It is believed that Tapie bribed Valenciennes to lose so that Marseille would win the French league earlier, giving them more time to prepare for the Champions League final. This resulted in Marseille being stripped of their league title by the French Football Federation (although not the Champions League, as the match in question was not in that competition). They were also forcibly relegated to the second tier in the league, and banned from defending their title in Europe in the 1993-94 season.

1994 AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona

The 1993-94 final of the UEFA Champions League tournament was won for the fifth time by A.C. Milan in a heavy final victory against FC Barcelona. This match is considered as being one of the outstanding performances by any team in the history of the competition.

Again, there were modifications made to the format with an extended preliminary round and one legged semi-finals taking place after the group stage, meaning that two sides qualified from each group.

AC Milan: The Rossoneri

Milan is one of the most successful clubs in the World, having won a total of 27 trophies in Italy and 15 in international competitions. Milan have earned the distinction of being allowed to wear a star on their jersey representing the fact that they have won more than 10 Scudetto's. Added to this Milan are allowed to wear the UEFA Badge of Honour on their jersey during Champions League matches as they have won more than 5 European Cups.

The away strip, which has always been completely white, is considered by both the fans and the club as their "lucky" strip in Champions League finals, due to the fact that Milan won six finals out of eight in an all white strip (losing only to Ajax in 1995 and Liverpool in 2005), while lost both the finals played in their home strip.

1998 Real Madrid 1-0 Juventus

The 1997-98 final of the UEFA Champions League was won by Real Madrid in a 1-0 final victory against Juventus, who were playing in a third consecutive final. It started a run of three victories in five seasons for the Spanish giants (1998, 2000 and 2002).

This season was the first to have six groups, as opposed to four in the previous tournament, which meant that only two group runners-up qualified for the quarter finals as opposed to all the second-placed teams. It was also the first to have two qualifying rounds instead of just one. After three years of entering the UEFA cup, champions of smaller nations returned to the Champions League.

2005/06 Top 25 Goals

The top 25 goals of the 2005/06 Champions League:

2001 Bayern Munich 1-1 Valencia

The 2000-01 season of the European UEFA Champions League football club tournament was won by Bayern Munich on penalties against runners-up Valencia CF. It was their fourth UEFA Champions League win.

The full penalty shootout:

Real Madrid: Kings of the European Cup

In addition to their domestic success, Real Madrid's reputation as a major club was established by their outstanding record in the European Cup. To date have they have been crowned champions of Europe a record nine times. Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás and other famous players helped the club win the European Cup five times in a row between 1956 and 1960, which included the memorable 7-3 Hampden Park final against Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960. The club won for a sixth time in 1966, defeating Partizan Belgrade 2-1 in the final with a team composed entirely of nationally-born players, a first in the competition. They were also runners-up in 1962, 1964 and 1981. Winning the competition five consecutive times saw Real permanently awarded the original cup and earning the right to wear the UEFA badge of honour. They have also won the UEFA Cup twice and were twice runners-up in the European Cup Winners Cup.

In 1996 President Lorenzo Sanz appointed Fabio Capello as coach. Although his tenure lasted only one season, Real Madrid were proclaimed league champions and several important players arrived at the club (Roberto Carlos, Predrag Mijatović, Davor Šuker and Clarence Seedorf) to strengthen a squad that already boasted the likes of Raúl, Fernando Hierro and Fernando Redondo. As a result, Real Madrid (with the addition of Fernando Morientes in 1997) finally ended its 32-year wait for the seventh European Cup in 1998 under manager Jupp Heynckes, defeating Juventus 1-0 in the final, thanks to a goal from Predrag Mijatovic. Real Madrid would go on to win again in 2000 and 2002 under manager Vicente Del Bosque, with sides including players such as Steve McManaman, Luís Figo and Zinedine Zidane.

Real Madrid are also three-time winners of the Intercontinental Cup, defeating Peñarol, Vasco da Gama, and Olimpia Asunción in 1960, 1998, and 2002 respectively.

2003 AC Milan 0-0 Juventus

The 2002-03 season of the European UEFA Champions League football club tournament was won by A.C. Milan in the first all-Italian final of the tournament, against Juventus, on penalties. The rossoneri clinched their 6th European title.

Far from being a classic, the penalty shootout was a major highlight of this war of attrition.

2004 Porto 3-0 Monaco

The 2003-04 season of the European UEFA Champions League football club tournament was won by Jose Mourinho's FC Porto in a comfortable final victory against AS Monaco, following up their 2003 UEFA Cup success over Celtic.

This was the first UEFA Champions League competition which thankfully eliminated the second group stage in favour of a knockout format for the round of 16.

2006/07 Top 10 goals

Here are the top 10 from the 2006/07 season:

Monday, May 21, 2007

1996 Juventus 1-1 Ajax

The 1995-96 season of the European UEFA Champions League football club tournament was won by Juventus F.C. on penalties in the final against defending champions Ajax Amsterdam. It was the only Champions League title that they won in the 1990s despite reaching the next two finals, and one of only two Italian wins in the final despite a Serie A club reaching the final for seven straight years from 1992 to 1998.

It was the first tournament in which three points were awarded for a win instead of two in the group stage.

Ajax Amsterdam: Gloria Ajax

The end of the sixties marked the beginning of a glorious era for Ajax. Among the new additions were national top scorer Dick van Dijk and midfielders Gerrie Mühren and Nico Rijnders, while second team player Ruud Krol was promoted to the first eleven. They replaced Klaas Nuninga, Inge Danielsson, Theo van Duijvenbode (all sold to other clubs) and Henk Groot (quit football after an injury while playing against Poland, while Ton Pronk and Bennie Muller were no longer as frequently in the first XI after many years of service.

With a refreshed selection, Ajax went for another attempt to win the European Cup (after losing 4-1 to AC Milan in 1969). They had lost the Eredivisie title to Feyenoord last season, but conquering this season's title proved to be an easy task, winning 27 out of 34 games by scoring exactly 100 goals. For a long while Feyenoord stayed close to the men from Amsterdam, but they had to settle for a second place. In the end both clubs could bring a cup home: Ajax won the Eredivisie title while Feyenoord won the European Cup.

After Ajax reached the semi-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1970 (being knocked out by Arsenal after defeating Hannover 96, Napoli, Ruch Chorzów and Carl-Zeiss Jena), 1971 became the long awaited year of glory. For a long while Ajax seemed to be on their way to the treble (a feat only previously performed by Celtic in 1967) if it weren't for the longer breath that Feyenoord had in the competition. The national cup stayed in Ajax' hands however (won after a double final against Sparta).

Ajax had defeated (17 Nëntori, FC Basel, Celtic and Atlético Madrid en route to the 1971 European Cup final played at Wembley on June 2. There, 83,000 spectators witnessed how Dick van Dijk opened the score against Panathinaikos. Ajax scored another goal in the dying minutes of the game when Arie Haan's shot was deflected by defender Kapsis.

Wrapping things up with a 2-0 score, team captain Vasović could finally lift the European Cup (losing the final in 1966 with FK Partizan and again in 1969), showing it later to the crowd that was celebrating on the streets of Amsterdam.

In the following years Ajax established itself as the new ruler of Europe. Staff and team changes could not discourage the team's power. Whether it was Stefan Kovacs replacing coach Michels in 1971, Rijnders and Vasović' departure in the same year, Van Dijk's departure in 1972 - it seemed like nothing could stop them. Perhaps the greatest example of this was their performance chart of 1972, winning all the of the competitions that they participated in (European Cup, Intercontinental Cup, European Super Cup, National Championship and the KNVB Cup), an achievement never shown again by any other club. And 1973 seemed like a simple continuation of that situation, securing themselves of yet another Dutch championship and moreover, the third consecutive European Cup.

It all started to fall apart when Johan Cruijff left the gang for Barcelona in 1973, effectively ending the reign of the 'Twelve Apostles' (The usual line-up Heinz Stuy - Wim Suurbier, Barry Hulshoff, Horst Blankenburg, Ruud Krol - Arie Haan, Johan Neeskens, Gerrie Mühren - Sjaak Swart, Johan Cruijff, Keizer plus the usual twelfth man which was Ruud Suurendonk until 1972 and then Johnny Rep). Were clubs like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Internazionale, Arsenal, Juventus and Independiente not too big of an obstacle until then, they could not get past CSKA Sofia in late '73. With the European Super Cup of '73 as a consolation prize, Ajax had to wait for a couple of decades for another era of European success.

Nevertheless, the 'total football' that they had propagated became a lasting memory for many football fans, also because of the great performance of the Dutch national team on the following World Cup - using similar tactics. Manager Tomislav Ivić would later dub the era 'Gloria Ajax', illustrating the impact of their years at the top.

That same Ivić coached Ajax to their first championship after their heyday, in 1977. After that year Ajax resumed to frequently winning national honours, though impressive international performances were sparse. An unfortunate knock-out against Juventus in the quarterfinal of the European Cup in 1978 and a European Cup semifinal in 1980 (KO by Nottingham Forest) was all that Ajax could do until the late eighties. Especially the run between 1980 and 1986 was disappointing, not getting past the second round for six years in a row. 1987 would become the turning point however, in two different ways.

Until then there was rarely something to complain on national level (although the club went through a period of several internal conflicts) as they won 5 championships after '77 as well as 4 cups. Johan Cruijff even came back in 1981, giving the talented youngsters Wim Kieft, John van 't Schip, Marco van Basten, Gerald Vanenburg, Jesper Olsen and Frank Rijkaard - Ajax's trademark players of the 80's - some guidance. After leaving the club in '83 (after a conflict with president Harmsen) for Feyenoord, he returned once again in 1985 as the new manager.

Cruijff's offensive tactics are immediately illustrated in his first active season, when Ajax ends the season with 120 goals in total on the scoresheet, of which 37 were from Ajax' new great star, forward Marco van Basten. It was not enough to retain the championship however, losing for two years in a row to PSV.

Despite the lack of a championship Cruijff's Ajax did bring a European Cup back to Amsterdam. Following the victory against Lokomotive Leipzig, they could once again celebrate on the balcony on the Leidseplein, this time to show Amsterdam the '87 Cup Winners Cup. They got close to winning it in the consecutive year, but KV Mechelen proved to be too strong in the final which Ajax ended with 10 men.

By that time Cruijff was already gone, as a result of the declining results in the national league. With most of the 80's stars also departed, Ajax continued to compete for the title with PSV in the next years, usually ending in favour of the latter party. Other negative aspects of the period 1988-1991 was the fraud-case in 1989, as well as the European suspension after a hooligan threw a bar at the goalie of Austria Wien in a UEFA-Cup match in the same year.

Things seemed to clear up a bit later that year, as they even went on to win the championship race with PSV for a change in 1990, and came shy of two goals in 1991 for a back-to-back run.

Early in the next season, the coach under whom the abovementioned was achieved left; lured by his former club, Leo Beenhakker went back to Real Madrid. His successor was Louis van Gaal, the former assistant-coach. Like Cruijff, Van Gaal rapidly made his mark by altering Ajax' tactics. Also like Cruijff his efforts were rewarded in his first season at the helm, by winning the UEFA Cup after a thrilling final against AC Torino. Although he did not play the last game of the final, Europe had also definitely met the skills of Ajax' most talented player: Dennis Bergkamp, who had contributed six goals on the road to their victory.

In the Netherlands, Bergkamp had already won 2 consecutive topscorer titles (1991, 1992) but once again the Eredivisie title had to be left for PSV to take. In 1992/93 Ajax even had to settle for a third spot in the final ranking (for first time since 1984), somewhat making up for it by winning the national cup.

It turned out to be the last award that Bergkamp would win with Ajax, as he and buddy Wim Jonk left to Internazionale. His loss was quickly forgotten by an excellent performance of Jari Litmanen on his position, establishing himself as the new number 10 of Ajax. Aside from Litmanen, Ajax attracted Finidi George and the returned Frank Rijkaard, providing the base for van Gaal to build on.

They won the national title of 1994, followed by a Champions league victory in 1995. Preceded by an unbeaten run in the national league to take the title of 1995, the season was a memorable way for Rijkaard to end his playing career, while striker Patrick Kluivert had an excellent start to his, with the then 18-year-old coming off the bench to score a late winner to beat AC Milan in the final of the Champions League. Ajax went on to beat Brazilian side Grêmio on penalties to win the unofficial World Club Cup -- the Intercontinental Cup, also known as the Toyota Cup.

The following season, Ajax continued to succeed on the European front, succumbing only to Juventus on penalties in the final. Van Gaal's success came to an end in 1997, and he duly parted ways with the Amsterdam club.

Danish coach Morten Olsen was brought in. He attracted Danish national team captain Michael Laudrup to the club, and together they won the Double of league championship and the Dutch cup. In his second year at the club, tension arose between Olsen and the Dutch players Ronald de Boer and Frank de Boer, and Olsen was sacked in 1998.

Soon all the team's young stars that had heralded the Ajax Renaissance were gone -- Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars, Edgar Davids, Winston Bogarde, Michael Reiziger, Edwin van der Sar, Nwankwo Kanu, Ronald de Boer and Frank de Boer sought pastures pastures anew; it signaled the end of an era for the club.

Thanks to Wikipedia for this information.

1997 Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Juventus

The 1996-97 final of the UEFA Champions League tournament was a minor classic, won by Borussia Dortmund in a surprise victory against defending champions Juventus. It was their only title in the tournament to date. The two sides had also met in the final of the UEFA Cup in 1992-93, when Juventus were 3-1 victors.

2002/03 Man Utd 4-3 Real Madrid

Despite this famous victory for Manchester United, Madrid won the two-legged round 6-5 on aggregate, mainly thanks to this all-time great perfomrance from Ronaldo.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

2006/07 Man Utd 7-1 AS Roma

Some nights in football are golden. "In European terms that has to be my greatest moment at Old Trafford," said Sir Alex Ferguson, casting his mind back over the way Manchester United had blown a gaping hole in Italy's reputation of having the world's most accomplished defences. "The quality of our game was so high that once we scored the second and third goals I was in the dugout thinking 'this could be something really big here'. But even so, I wasn't expecting that."

1999 Man Utd 2-1 Bayern Munich

The 1998-99 season of the UEFA Champions League football club tournament was won by Manchester United, coming back from a goal down in the last two minutes of injury time to defeat Bayern Munich 2-1 in a memorable final.

Manchester United also completed the treble, and became the fourth side in Europe to do so, a feat they prevented Bayern Munich from achieving themselves by leaving Camp Nou victorious.

Also, they managed to wian the trophy without losing a single game, even though they faced the so called group of Death with Bayern Munich and Barcelona, and two Italian teams in the Knockout stages.

Interestingly, it was the first time that a team that had not won their league the previous season won the Champions League and it was also the first time that Europe's top honour was won by a team who would not have qualified for the tournament under the old qualification rules!

2006 Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal

The UEFA Champions League 2005-06 was the 51st final of the European UEFA Champions League football club tournament. 74 teams from 50 football associations took part, starting with the first qualifying round played on 12 July 2005.

The tournament ended with the intriguing final between English side Arsenal and the Catalans Barcelona at Stade de France, Paris, on 17th May 2006, where Barcelona came from beind to win 2-1 with Juliano Belletti scoring a late winner.

Barcelona's road to the final (in pictures):

Highlights from the final:

2005 Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan

"Of the three English [Champions League semi-finalists] I would have preferred Manchester [United] in the final," he said. "Partly because we got a view of them in the semi-final both at Old Trafford and San Siro and partly because they [United] are a technical squad who play and let you play. I don't get the feeling that will be the case with Liverpool."

Carlo Anceotti, May, 2007

Maybe he's remembering what happened in 2005...