Top Ten group games
Matt Stanger picks out 10 cracking UEFA Champions League group games involving English clubs
Last Updated: October 23, 2012 2:09pm
English clubs have been involved in some memorable games during the group phase of the UEFA Champions League over the past 20 years.
Below, Matt Stanger picks out 10 matches that stirred the soul and provided plenty of goals, drama and entertainment.
Manchester United 6 Fenerbahce 2 (2004/05)
This match will long be remembered for Wayne Rooney's brilliant hat-trick on his Manchester United and Champions League debut as Fenerbahce were put to the sword at Old Trafford. Ryan Giggs headed United ahead after just seven minutes, but Rooney then took control, firing home his first after running on to Ruud van Nistelrooy's through ball. The 18-year-old added his second just 11 minutes later when he unleashed a 20-yard drive into the bottom corner and he completed the feat of becoming the youngest player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League with a perfectly placed free-kick in the second half. Rooney's three strikes were his only goals in Europe that season, but his performance against Fenerbahce announced his arrival on the elite stage.
Barcelona 4 Manchester United 0 (1994/95)
Although the ties between Manchester United and Barcelona had football fans salivating in anticipation in 1994/95, IFK Gothenburg were the powerhouses in Group A, winning all three of their home fixtures to take top spot. United's 2-2 draw at home to Barca put them in a good position to reach the knock-out stage, though, with Lee Sharpe grabbing a late equaliser after Romario and Jose Mari Bakero had put the Catalans in control. However, Barcelona demonstrated their superiority in the return fixture, brushing the English champions aside at the Camp Nou with a wonderful display of flowing football. Hristo Stoichkov grabbed a brace, while Romario and former Chelsea defender Albert Ferrer also got in on the act. The result proved costly for United, as they crashed out on the head-to-head rule despite finishing level on points with Barca.
Liverpool 8 Besiktas 0 (2007/08)
After drawing with Porto and losing to Marseille and Besiktas in their first three matches in Group A, Liverpool needed a victory if they were to still stand a chance of progressing to the knock-out stages. The home tie against Besiktas provided the Reds with the perfect opportunity to get their campaign back on track, but no-one was expecting them to equal Real Madrid's record of the competition's biggest winning margin. Yossi Benayoun was the star man, hitting a hat-trick to put Liverpool firmly in control, and late strikes from Ryan Babel and Peter Crouch completed the incredible scoreline. The result buoyed the Reds and they qualified for the second round by hammering Porto and Marseille in their final two group matches.
Feyenoord 2 Newcastle 3 (2002/03)
Newcastle went into their last match of the first group stage (remember that weird format?) needing a win against Feyenoord and hoping that Dynamo Kiev didn't beat Juventus in Ukraine. Craig Bellamy and Hugo Viana put the Magpies 2-0 ahead, but Sir Bobby Robson's side conceded two goals in the space of five second-half minutes to allow Feyenoord to level the match. With Dynamo losing to Juve, Newcastle or Feyenoord would progress with a victory. The game at De Kuip twisted and turned in a tense final 20 minutes, until Bellamy snatched the winner in the dying seconds to secure second spot. It was probably the only time he and Alan Shearer had a big hug.
Tottenham 3 Inter Milan 1 (2010/11)
Tottenham faced a difficult test to progress in their group stage debut in 2010/11 after being drawn with holders Inter Milan, Champions League regulars Werder Bremen and Twente. Spurs started well, though, picking up a point in Germany and brushing aside Twente at White Hart Lane. The defining moment in the group came in the third match when Harry Redknapp's team travelled to the San Siro. After finding themselves 4-0 down with just 35 minutes on the clock, Spurs rallied in the second period and pulled the score back to 4-3. Inter were visibly rattled and when they arrived in London for the return tie a month later, they crumbled. Rafael van der Vaart gave Spurs a first-half lead and goals from Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko either side of a Samuel Eto'o strike secured a famous victory.
Leeds United 6 Besiktas 0 (2000/01)
It looked like Leeds didn't have a cat in hell's chance of reaching the latter stages of the 2000/01 tournament when they were drawn alongside AC Milan, Barcelona and Besiktas. They were hammered 4-0 at the Camp Nou in their first match with Patrick Kluivert grabbing a brace for Barca, but Lee Bowyer's last-minute strike earned the Whites a shock 1-0 win over Milan at Elland Road in their second fixture. However, Besiktas also sprang a surprise that night - thrashing Barca 3-0 in Turkey - and David O'Leary's side knew they would have to put in a big performance on match-day three if they were to have any hope of finishing in the top two places. Early goals from Bowyer and Mark Viduka settled the home side's nerves and Leeds eventually ran out 6-0 winners as they went on a remarkable run to the semi-finals.
Manchester United 3 Juventus 2 (1997/98)
This cracking tie between two Champions League heavyweights really belonged in the later stages of the competition. A Juventus side packed with stars took a first-minute lead at Old Trafford through Alessandro Del Piero, and it seemed United were in for a long night. But Sir Alex Ferguson's team fought back before half-time, with Teddy Sheringham heading home the equaliser. Paul Scholes' introduction for Nicky Butt gave United more attacking thrust and shortly after Didier Deschamps had been sent off, the England international put his side ahead. Ryan Giggs capped a fine night when he fired the home team's third past Angelo Peruzzi, but a superb free-kick from Zinedine Zidane caused United to sweat as they held on in the final moments.
Newcastle 3 Barcelona 2 (1997/98)
Man United weren't alone in serving up group-stage crackers that year, as Newcastle shocked Barcelona with a 3-2 victory at St James' Park in a Champions League classic. An early penalty from Faustino Asprilla gave the Magpies the lead and the Colombian striker doubled his team's advantage with a bullet header from Keith Gillespie's cross. Asprilla completed his hat-trick with another header just after the interval, but Luis Enrique pulled a goal back for Barca and an 89th-minute strike from Rivaldo caused a few hairy moments for Kenny Dalglish's side in the dying stages. Newcastle held on, but surprisingly neither they nor Barcelona made it out of the group, with Dynamo Kiev thrashing Barca 4-0 at the Camp Nou - courtesy of an Andriy Shevchenko hat-trick - on their way to securing the only qualifying spot.
Barcelona 3 Manchester United 3 (1998/99)
Barcelona recovered from the setback of crashing out to Dynamo Kiev to qualify for the 1998/99 tournament and they were particularly motivated to progress as the Camp Nou was hosting the final that year. They were drawn alongside United and Bayern Munich in possibly the toughest group the Champions League has ever seen, with poor whipping boys Brondby making up the numbers. United hosted Barca in the first match at Old Trafford and a 3-3 draw set the tone for the group. The two sides didn't meet again until the penultimate fixture, and both still stood a chance of qualifying for the knock-out rounds. The match at the Camp Nou didn't start well for United, with Sonny Anderson's first-minute strike giving the home side the lead. However, a topsy-turvy game swung in the Red Devils' favour through goals from Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, who were both in magnificent form. Rivaldo equalised for Barca, but Yorke gave United the lead again before the Brazilian's second tied the score at 3-3. The result wasn't enough for Barca, and they dropped out as United and Bayern progressed on their way to meeting again in the final.
Inter Milan 1 Arsenal 5 (2003/04)
Arsenal began their Champions League campaign in disastrous fashion, with a 3-0 home defeat to Inter followed by a draw against Lokomotiv Moscow and defeat to Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine. Ashley Cole's 88th-minute winner in the return fixture against Dynamo gave the Gunners hope of progressing from the group, but Arsene Wenger's side knew they had to gain a result in their next match at the San Siro. Arsenal were expected to crumble as they had done in the first meeting with Inter, but instead they provided one of their greatest ever performances, with Thierry Henry simply superb. The forward grabbed a brace and three strikes in the last ten minutes rubbed salt into Inter's wounds as the Italian club finished third in the group - failing to recover from the embarrassment in their final game against Dynamo.
A version of this article first featured on Football 365.