Over the years, the European Cup and later the UEFA Champions League have provided landmark moments in entire seasons of awesome.
In the pre-Champions League era, one of the most dominant single seasons in world football was achieved by Ajax Amsterdam in 1971-72. The "Total Football" system, in which any of the ten outfield players could slide into any defensive, midfield, or attacking role as the situation dictated, was unlike anything European football had ever seen, and almost no club had any idea how to respond to it. With a side featuring the backbone of the Netherlands national team, including Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep, Ruud Krol, Arie Haan, and superstar Johan Cruyff, Ajax won the Eredivisienote The top tier of the Dutch domestic league with thirty wins (including all seventeen home matches, part of a 46-match home winning streak that also spanned the following season), three draws, and just one loss, scoring 104 goals and conceding just 20. They also won the KNVB Cupnote The Netherlands' premier domestic knockout tournament with a 3-2 victory over FC Den Haag in the final, the European Cup with a 2-0 victory over Inter Milan (who were so flummoxed by the Total Football system that they spent most of the match desperately defending), the (unofficial) first European Super Cup with a 6-3 aggregate win over European Cup Winners' Cup winners Rangers FC of Glasgownote The Super Cup did not become an official competition until 1973; the 1972 match was instead billed as a celebration of Rangers' centenary., and the Intercontinental Cup with a 4-1 aggregate win over Independiente of Argentina.
In 2009, Spanish football giants FC Barcelona managed to win a staggering six major trophies in domestic, European, and world competition.note As the Dutch Super Cup was not played on an annual basis until 1991, this was not possible for Ajax Amsterdam in 1972, hence their trophy haul topped out at five. They won La Liganote the top tier of the Spanish domestic league by a margin of nine points over second-placed Real Madrid, defeated Atletico Bilbao 4-1 in the final of the Copa del Reynote the premier knockout tournament in Spanish football, beat Manchester United 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League final, scored a 5-1 aggregate victory over Atletico Bilbao in the Supercopa de Españanote played between the winners of the previous season's La Liga and the Copa del Rey - or the runners-up of the latter if one club wins both, defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 in the UEFA Super Cup finalnote which matches the winners of the previous season's UEFA Champions League and Europa League, the two most prestigious European club competitions, and capped it off with a 2-1 win over Argentinian club Estudiantes in the final of the FIFA World Club Cupnote a competition for the winners of the six continental confederations' major knockout tournaments. Special mention should go to the performance of Argentinian striker Lionel Messi, who scored 23 goals in La Liganote Not enough to be top scorer, though, an honour which went to Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid with 32 goals., a goal each in the finals of the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League, two goals in the second leg of the Supercopa de España, and the winning goal in the FIFA World Club Cup final (in which he was named man of the match and the best player of the tournament), for which achievements he won both the Ballon d'Ornote awarded to the player voted the most outstanding Europe-based footballer of the year and the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
Italian club Inter Milan came very close to duplicating Barcelona's feat in 2010, winning the Serie Anote the top tier of Italy's domestic league by two points over second-placed AS Roma, beating Roma 1-0 in the final of the Coppa Italianote Italy's premier domestic knockout tournament; incredibly, this marked the fifth time in six seasons Inter and Roma had met in the final, scoring a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final, defeating Roma 3-1 in the Supercoppa Italiananote a match played by the Serie A and Coppa Italia winners, or the runner-up of the latter if one club wins both, and defeating TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of the Congo 3-0 in the FIFA World Club Cup finalnote the first final to feature a club from outside Europe or South America. Only the UEFA Super Cup eluded them as they went down 2-0 to 2010 Europa League champions Atletico Madrid.
In 2011, Barcelona came within one trophy of repeating their feat of 2009, winning La Liga by two points over second-placed Real Madrid, the UEFA Champions League in a 3-1 triumph over their 2009 opponents Manchester United, the Supercopa de España in a 5-4 aggregate win against Real Madrid, the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-0 victory over FC Porto of Portugal, and the FIFA World Club Cup with a 4-0 trouncing of Brazilian club Santos. Only the Copa del Rey eluded them, Real Madrid beating them 1-0 after extra time in the final. As in 2009, Lionel Messi particularly stood out with 31 goals in La Liganote As in 2009, not enough to be top scorer; Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo won the award with 40 goals., a goal in the UEFA Champions League final (in which he was named man of the match), three goals across the two legs of the Supercopa de España, a goal in the UEFA Super Cup, and two goals in the FIFA World Club Cup final (in which he was again named man of the match and the best player of the tournament), all of which propelled him to the UEFA Best Player in Europe awardnote created following the merger of the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2010 and the FIFA Ballon d'Or for the third year in a row.
In 2013, German club Bayern Munich came equally close to duplicating Barcelona's feat of 2009. They stormed to perhaps the most dominant championship in the history of the Bundesliganote Germany's top tier domestic league by a 25-point margin over second-placed Borussia Dortmund, defeated VfB Stuttgart 3-2 in the DFB-Pokal finalnote Germany's premier domestic knockout tournament, overcame fellow Germans Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League final, beat English club Chelsea FC 5-4 on penalties after the UEFA Super Cup final finished 2-2 after 120 minutes, and scored a 2-0 win over Moroccan club Raja Casablanca in the FIFA World Club Cup final. Only the DFL-Supercupnote played by the previous season's Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal winners, or the second-placed Bundesliga club if one club wins both trophies eluded them, as Borussia Dortmund avenged their Champions League final defeat with a 4-2 win. Interestingly, from the DFL-Supercup final onwards, they were managed by the same man who had led Barcelona to six trophies in one season (and came close to doing so twice), Pep Guardiola.
In 2015, Barcelona once again came within one trophy of repeating their feat of 2009, winning La Liga by two points over second-placed Real Madrid, the Copa del Rey with a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao, the UEFA Champions League in a 3-1 win against Juventus of Italy, the UEFA Super Cup with a 5-4 extra time win against fellow Spanish club Sevilla, and the FIFA World Club Cup in a 3-0 triumph over Argentinian side River Plate. Only the Supercopa de España eluded them, as Athletic Bilbao exacted revenge for their Copa del Rey defeat with a 5-1 aggregate win. This time, there were three South American strikers leading the way in Lionel Messi, Neymar of Brazil, and Luis Suárez of Uruguay; between them, they scored 81 goals in La Liga,note Messi scored 43, Neymar 22, and Suárez 16; none of them were the division's leading scorer, an honour that once again went to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, with 48 goals. all three goals in the Copa del Rey final,note Two for Messi, one for Neymar. two goals in the Champions League final,note One each for Neymar and Suárez. three goals in the UEFA Super Cup final,note Two for Messi, one for Suárez. and all three goals in the World Club Cup final,note One for Messi, two for Suárez. and accumulated several Man of the Match awards in the various finals. Messi's performances on the pitch made him the first two-time winner of the UEFA European Player of the Year and earned him a fourth FIFA Ballon d'Or.note Suárez finished second in the final round of voting for European Player of the Year, while Neymar finished third in the voting for the Ballon d'Or.
Celtic's win over Inter Milan in the 1967 final (the first European Cup win for a British club) was considered not just a CMOA for Celtic, but a victory for football (with Inter Milan's manager even saying that), with Celtic's attacking power overcoming Inter Milan's Catenaccio (a more defensive system) and overturning a 1-0 deficit to win the trophy. Also a CMOA for Scottish football; all eleven Celtic players and manager Jock Stein were born within 30 miles of Glasgow (in fact, with the exception of Ayrshire native Bobby Lennox, they were all from what would be considered the greater Glasgow area). That same year, Celtic also won the Scottish League, the Scottish League Cup, the Scottish Cup, and the Glasgow Cup, a grand slam unparalleled in British football.note Liverpool came close in 1984 by winning the League, the League Cup, and the European Cup, but were knocked out of the FA Cup in the fourth round by Brighton and Hove Albion; Manchester United came similarly close in 1999 by winning the League, the FA Cup, and the Champions' League, but were knocked out of the League Cup quarter-final by eventual winners Tottenham Hotspur.
In 1978, Nottingham Forest won the English First Divisionnote what the top flight was called before 1992 and therefore represented England in the European Cup (as it was then). In their first appearance, they went on to win the trophy, therefore being allowed to take part the following season... when they went on to successfully defend their title. Their 1978 title was the first and only time they had won the league title - making them the only team to have won the European Cup/Champions League more times than their domestic league.
Madjer's goal for Porto against Bayern Munich in the 1987 Cup Final. It was the equalizer that turned the game in Porto's favour (the second goal came just three minutes later, scored by Juary). Porto won 2-1 and got their first Champions Cup. It remains one of the greatest moments in Porto's history and is still fondly remembered even by fans who weren't born then. Pelé is believed to have said of this goal: "It would have been the greatest goal I have ever seen, if he had not looked back at it."
The 1999 final, Manchester United vs. Bayern Munich. Bayern scored first, in the 6th minute, and after the standard 90 minutes had elapsed, it looked like it was all over bar the shouting. United then goes on to score two goals, in injury time, to win the match and the championship - literally at the last possible moment. UEFA president Lennart Johansson had left the stands a few minutes before United equalised, and did not see either goal. When he walked out with the trophy, he said, "It cannot be. The winners are crying and the losers are dancing."
This capped off a historic season for Manchester United which also saw them win the Premier League and FA Cup. This also led to an Epic Fail for Bayern Munich, as they were on course to complete that same feat in Germany and the German season ends after the English, but after they lost to United, they also lost the DFB-Pokal final to Werder Bremen and only ended up winning the Bundesliga.
Clive Tyldesley's call of the winning goal on ITV was awesome: "Beckham, into Sheringham, AND SOLSKJAER HAS WON IT!"
The 2002 final between Bayer Leverkusen and Real Madrid. Raúl scored an impressive goal at minute 8 by taking advantage of a lapse in concentration by Bayer's back. Lúcio managed to tie five minutes later. First half is about to finish, when Roberto Carlos kicks the ball high into the sky. Zidane sees the ball, readies himself... and manages to volley the ball on the corner of the goal with an impressive kick. See it here. In the last minutes, Real Madrid's goalkeeper, César Sánchez got injured and had to be subbed by Iker Casillas, who had barely played during the season. In those last minutes, Casillas saved several clear goal opportunities by Leverkusen as the German team assaulted him. This, and other later games, led to his nickname, "The Saint".
The 2005 final, AC Milan vs. Liverpool. AC Milan had won the tournament two years previously and entered the final overwhelming favourites with a side that featured seven players who had been named in the previous year's FIFA 100; Liverpool, who had no FIFA 100 players on their roster, had not won the tournament since 1984 and as matters stood, would not qualify for the next season's competition, having finished fifth in the Premier League. To make matters worse, Steven Gerrard, their captain and best player, was on the point of being bought by Chelsea. AC Milan took the lead in the first minute of the match and completely outplayed Liverpool to finish the first half with a 3-0 lead. Eight minutes into the second half, Liverpool managed to score three goals in six minutes (including a rebound from a saved penalty) and held their ground through extra time (something which included an astonishing double save from Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko by Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, which was later voted the greatest Champions League moment of all time) to force a penalty shootout, in which Dudek saved two penalties and a third missed the goalmouth to give Liverpool a 3-2 win on penalties. UEFA gave them special dispensation to play in the Champions League the next season (albeit by coming through qualifying) and Gerrard signed a new contract at Liverpool. The match has since become known by Liverpool fans as "The Miracle of Istanbul".
To add to the awesome factor, the 2005 win was Liverpool's fifth, making them the first (and last) English club to be given the trophy permanently.note From 1969-2009, UEFA rules stated that a club was allowed to keep the trophy permanently (a new one would be struck for the following year) if they won either five times total or three years running. Since 2009 however, the trophy remains with UEFA at all times, with the winner receiving a replica to keep. The other clubs to have won the trophy permanently are Real Madrid (1960), Ajax Amsterdam (1973), Bayern Munich (1976), and AC Milan (1994). Moreover, Liverpool had very nearly failed to progress past the group stage in the competition, needing to beat Olympiacos Piraeus of Greece by two clear goals in their final group match and only scoring the deciding goal in the 86th minute.
Two years later, the two teams met once more in the 2007 final, after Liverpool had beaten the likes of Barcelona (at the Nou Camp, no less) to get there, and Milan got their revenge in a 2-1 victory.
The 2009 Chelsea-Barcelona semifinal was an awesome moment for Barcelona. After a 0-0 draw (with a denied penalty for Barcelona) at Camp Nou, where Chelsea did a great job stopping the locals' famous football, they took advantage of the home support and scored first, forcing the Spaniards to draw the match to get to the final on away goals. The referee denied Chelsea a few arguable penalties (and a rather clear one), and instead gave out a straight red card to the Barcelona player Abidal for pretty much being near a Chelsea player who collapsed during a run to the goal, forcing them to spend the last 30 minutes with one player down. Chelsea felt they had the job done and put on some more defenders. In the 92nd minute, Andrés Iniesta scored the equalizer, starting a massive celebration by the Barcelona fans (he pulled off a similar feat during the 2010 World Cup - someone said, "He doesn't score too many goals, but when he does, they go all over the world").
Chelsea would get their revenge three years later. Barcelona needed to win by two goals at Camp Nou after losing 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. Egged on by the home crowd, and with one Chelsea defender (Gary Cahill) injured early on and another (John Terry) sent off, Barcelona raced into a two-goal lead. However, Chelsea's Ramires scored a spectacular goal to pull back and give Chelsea the lead on away goals just before half time, before Leo Messi missed a penalty. Barcelona spent much of the second half trying to break through the Chelsea defence (at 2-1, Chelsea would go through on away goals), before, in stoppage time, Chelsea's misfiring striker Fernando Torres broke free in the Barcelona half and rounded the keeper before putting the ball in the empty net and sending Chelsea through on aggregate.
When Tottenham Hotspur played European Champions Inter away from home in the 2010-11 group stage, they were saved from a humiliating 4-0 loss by Gareth Bale, who scored a hat-trick to make the final score a flattering 4-3. This would have been a CMOA in of itself, if it wasn't for the fact that when Inter came to Tottenham, Bale destroyed them again, although this time, it was a CMOA for the whole team as well, as Tottenham went on to win 3-1.
Chelsea winning the final in 2012. They went 1-0 down with seven minutes left, when with 2 minutes remaining Didier Drogba scored the equaliser and the match went into extra time. Then in extra time, Bayern Munich missed a penalty. Then it went to penalties, and at one miss each Bastian Schweinsteiger struck the post with his spot kick, and up stepped Didier Drogba to win the competition.
Celtic beating Barcelona 2-1 in the 2012-13 Champions League Group Stage, partly because Barcelona had, until this point in the season, been undefeated in all competitions (domestic and European) and were heavily favoured to make short work of Celtic.note The TV broadcast of the match famously showed Rod Stewart in the crowd, wiping tears of joy from his eyes after the final whistle.
The 2013 semi-finals provided an extended moment of awesome for German football. The draw pitted the top two German sides, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, against the (more favoured) top two Spanish sides, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Bayern Munich proceeded to run rampant in both legs of their semi-final against Barcelona, winning 4-0 in Munich and 3-0 in Barcelona to progress 7-0 on aggregate and hand Barcelona by far their worst aggregate defeat in European competition. Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, beat Real Madrid 4-1 at home (with all four Dortmund goals scored by Polish striker Robert Lewandowski) and fended off a comeback by Madrid in the second leg to advance 4-3 on aggregate, setting the stage for the first all-German Champions' League final (won 2-1 by Bayern Munich after an 89th minute winner from Arjen Robben, exorcising the ghosts of their final defeats in 2010 and 2012) and capping a decade-long rebuilding process in German football as a whole.
Ludogorets, a Bulgarian minnow club, had awesome moments of their own in 2014. In the playoff round against Romanians Steaua Bucuresti, goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off in extra time, forcing defender Cosmin Moti to stand in net for the penalty shootout. He saved two shots in front of the home crowd to send Ludogorets to the group stages for the first time in their history. The Cinderella story continued in group play, when they beat Basel 1-0 and put real scares in giants Real Madrid and Liverpool.
After 12 years of frustrations and embarrasing defeats in the Champions League,note for six years in a row, they always were eliminated in the round of 16, and in other three they succumbed in semifinals Real Madrid finally won their long-coveted 10th title, and did so after having defeated three powerful German clubs in a row (including Bayern Munich, which had been historically one of the most difficult rivals for Real Madrid). The runner-up, Atletico de Madrid, had a fantastic campaign as well, as they reached the finals by defeating high-tier opponents like Porto, Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea, to reach their first final in 40 years.
2015 Round of 16, Second leg of Chelsea vs. Paris Saint Germain. Midway through the first half, Oscar dives close to Zlatan, who is sent off with a straight red. PSG are down to 10 men. Chelsea score in the 79', but PSG equalize in the 85'. Game proceeds to extra time on a 2-2 aggregate. Chelsea scored early, 3-2. Second half of ET. Thiago Silva puts in a goal in the 114' and the game ends 2-2. Due to PSG scoring 2 at Chelsea, with Chelsea only scoring 1 at PSG, PSG advances on away goals.
The 2016 final was a repeat of the one from two years before, with Real Madrid facing Atlético de Madrid. Real Madrid scored early in the game with a goal from Sergio Ramos (who was probably off-side, although it is not clear if he actually touched the ball). When Real thought they had won, suddenly came Belgian-born Yannick Carrasco in the 79th minute to equalize after a fantastic pass by Juanfran (Atlético got a chance to do it earlier, but Griezmann marred a penalty kick). Extra time showed both teams doing their best to score, but it was penalties that gave the triumph to Real Madrid, their eleventh victory.
The 2017 Round of 16 two-leg affair between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain turned out to be one. In the first match at Parc des Princes, PSG trampled the Catalans 4-0. It's all said and done, and the next game will only be a formality, right? Wrong. The following month, Barça welcomes their opponents at Camp Nou and proceeds to rack a 3-1 win, two minutes from the final whistle, too little too late... Oh, look, Neymar scored, it's 4-1 now... Still not enough in aggregate. The referee gives five minutes of added time, and then... Penalty for Barcelona at the first minute of stoppages! Neymar scores and it's 5-1... level on aggregate, but behind on away goals. The final whistle's ever closer... Foul for Barça at the final minute of stoppages, and it's near the box! Sergi Roberto steps up, hits it and... 6-1! The exact score the Azulgrana needed to beat PSG to the quarter finals. That's right, in the dying moments of the return match Barcelona managed to completely overturn a near-impossible disadvantage.
Tottenham Hotspur in the 2017-18 season. They were drawn in the traditional 'Group of Death' (there's always one that is, somehow, stocked with at least three extremely good teams), including traditional Dark Horses Borussia Dortmund who're known for having one of the most feared front lines in Europe, and 12 times champions Real Madrid, who had just become the first team to win the Champions League two years in a row, and hadn't lost a group match in 5 years. Tottenham, meanwhile, were the classic 'nearly' team and while considered to be a young team on the up, they were thought to be not quite there yet. The previous season, they'd limped to third place in a much kinder group, before slumping out of the Europa League, the next level down of European competition. Cue a 3-1 demolition of Dortmund, a casual 3-0 defeat of presumed group cannon fodder Apoel Nicosia, and then the crunch match at the Bernabeu. Everyone expected Real Madrid to put Spurs back in their place. As it turned out... not so much. Spurs controlled the game for long periods and while it ended 1-1, of the two teams, they were the ones who squandered the chance to win it. The return match, at Wembley, came a scant couple of weeks later. Surely normality would be restored and Real would run riot? Again, not so much. Spurs ran rings around them, racing into a 3-0 lead (one achieved, to add insult to injury, without talismanic striker Harry Kane scoring), and could easily have made it 4 before Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a consolation goal in the last ten minutes. They almost managed to continue their giant-killing feat by holding Juventus to a 2-2 comeback draw in the first leg of the round of 16, but unfortunately were eliminated after losing 2-1 against the Italian behemoth in the second leg.