The Champions League is finally back – and with its return comes the potential for big upsets. Chelsea are highly unlikely to overturn a first-leg deficit in their tie against Bayern Munich, who are many people’s favourites to win this season’s amended World Cup-style tournament Can the Blues can take inspiration from some of the most remarkable games in Champions League history. Here are the five biggest Champions League upsets ever.
Greatest Champions League upsets of all time
Barcelona 1-2 Rubin Kazan – October 20, 2009
Barcelona fans think they have it bad at the moment, owing to their recent underachievement in the Champions League. However, their defeat to little-known Russian side Rubin Kazan was a real low point and one of the biggest Champions League upsets we’ve ever seen.
Although Barcelona were the tournament’s defending champions, they fell behind in the opening minutes to a long-range thunderbolt from Alexander Ryazantsev.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck to haul the La Liga giants level, only for Gokdeniz Karadeniz to write his name into the Champions League history books by scoring the winning goal.
Pep Guardiola’s men still made it through the group stage but later lost to Jose Mourinho’s Inter in the semi-finals.
BATE Borisov 3-1 Bayern Munich – October 2, 2012
Bayern Munich had reached the previous final and won the first nine games of the new season, so few expected the Bundesliga side to have any issues away to BATE Borisov.
The Belarusian outfit were confident after beating Lille and added an even bigger scalp after taking a 2-0 lead through goals from Aleksandr Pavlov and Vitali Rodionov. Though Franck Ribery struck to set up a grandstand finale, Renan Bressan finished off a break to seal the win.
BATE could not manage to qualify from the group stage despite such a famous win, with the result perhaps acting as a wake-up call for Bayern. They went on to beat domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund in that year’s Champions League final thanks to Arjen Robben’s late goal.
Real Madrid 1-4 Ajax – March 5, 2019
Real Madrid had won three straight Champions League titles under Zinedine Zidane but, with the Frenchman gone, they suffered a Champions League shock exit at the hands of Ajax in the 2018-19 tournament.
Erik ten Hag’s Dutch team were 2-1 down after the home leg and had it all to do in Madrid. Hakim Ziyech and David Neres scored in the first 18 minutes to turn the tie around in Spain. Dusan Tadic then found the top corner and, though Marco Asensio scored to give Madrid hope, Lasse Schone’s free-kick ensured Santiago Solari’s team were knocked out in style.
Ajax reached the semi-finals only to be on the end of another stunning comeback as Lucas Moura hit a hat-trick in Amsterdam to send Tottenham into an all-English final against Liverpool.
Man Utd 1-1 Porto – March 9, 2004
Few people outside Portugal had heard of Jose Mourinho back in March 2004. But that all changed on a wild night at Old Trafford when his Porto side dumped Manchester United out of the Champions League by virtue of a 1-1 draw, which secured a 3-2 victory on aggregate.
United were on track to reach the quarter-finals when a Paul Scholes header levelled the tie, putting Alex Ferguson’s team ahead on the away goals rule. The visitors had other ideas, though, with Francisco Costinha capitalising on Tim Howard’s fumble to send Porto through.
Mourinho famously celebrated the late goal by sprinting down the Old Trafford touchline, creating one of the most iconic Champions League images of all time. Porto went on to win the tournament with Mourinho then making his mark on the Premier League by joining Chelsea.
Deportivo 4-0 AC Milan – April 7, 2004
Just a month later, AC Milan led 4-1 in the first leg of this Champions League tie, putting one foot in the semi-finals as a result.
However, in one of the most dramatic Champions League upsets ever, Spanish side Deportivo roared back to record one of the tournament’s most incredible comebacks against a Milan team who were the defending Champions.
Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque all struck for Deportivo in the first half to wipe out Milan’s lead and leave the tie poised at 4-4 on aggregate.
Real Madrid and Arsenal had, surprisingly, already been knocked out and they were followed by Milan after Gonzalez Fran came off the bench to score the fourth goal for Deportivo.
Mourinho’s Porto then accounted for Deportivo 1-0 on aggregate on their way to the title.
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