Earlier this morning I made the bold claim that Champions League semifinals were often, if not usually, better than the final itself. So for some proof, let’s look at a few CL semis from recent years.
1. 2012-13, Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (7-0 agg.)
Bayern’s incredible performance against Barcelona solidified the moment when the locus of power in European football shifted from Catalonia to Bavaria. This was even before Pep Guardiola took over as head coach, a masterful two leg destruction of one of the most legendary sides in football history. The other semi was just as compelling, as Dortmund took Mourinho’s conflicted Real Madrid by surprise.
The final? Alright, but a rote victory for Bayern over their German title race challengers.
2. 2011-12, Chelsea vs Barcelona (3-2 agg.)
A game that Chelsea should not have won, and arguably wouldn’t have if you played the game again. Outshot, hemmed in, lead by the former West Brom coach Roberto Di Matteo, Petr Cech and the Chelsea defense put in a desperate performance only to pounce on the break, setting up one of the more memorable colour calls in football history.
The final? A last minute equalizer from Drogs was fun, but Chelsea barely scraped through. Plus penalties…
3. 2009-10, Inter vs Barcelona (3-2 agg.)
Though it didn’t produce the loveliest football at times, Mourinho’s triumph over Barcelona, despite playing a man down at the Camp Nou in the second leg after the hilariously dubious sending off of Thiago Motta, was one of the Portuguese manager’s signature victories. Mourinho’s defiant celebration with the club’s supporters despite Victor Valdez’s intervention was magic.
The final? A kind of dull 2-0 Inter victory over a Bayern team in transition.
4. 2007-08, Chelsea vs Liverpool (4-3 agg.)
Goals in extra time! Drogba scoring for Chelsea! Fernando Torres scoring for Liverpool! A questionable offside call against Michael Essien, even though his Chelsea teammates arguably didn’t interfere with the shot in question! An assist from Benayoun! Ah, those were the days.
The final? Hmm, it started slow but got going after Ronaldo’s initial strike. Still, mostly remembered now for John Terry falling on his bum.
5. 2004-05, Chelsea vs Liverpool (1-0 agg.)
A tense pair of semifinals through which Liverpool just progressed through the ghostiest of ghost goals by Luis Garcia against Chelsea in the incredible second leg at Anfield. It was the first of the infamous Chelsea-Liverpool meetings in Europe, with all the tension and controversy. This one obviously doesn’t top the Istanbul 3-3 final, but man was it memorable.
The final? Yeah, it was good.