UEFA Champions League is all about upsets. While they don’t regularly occur, the competition has seen its fair share of giant killing. From qualifying rounds to group stages and then knockout games, the Champions League has never disappointed in terms of upsets.
While that is one thing, brushing aside a top team in Europe’s most premier competition is no easy feat. And doing that in a final is just the cherry on the top for any underdog that plays a European Cup Final.
Manchester City will face Inter Milan in the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League final and it is Pep Guardiola’s men’s second final in three seasons. Many fans and pundits have backed the Cityzens to stroll past the Nerazzurri, but upsets in the finals have occurred in the past and this could be no different.
FootTheBall takes a look at some of the shock defeats in the UEFA Champions League finals history.
Benfica 5-3 Real Madrid (1961/62)
This was the very first shock in the history of the Champions League finals history. Even though Benfica were the defending champions of the competition, this Real Madrid side had already won five European titles in the last six seasons – that one title going Benfica’s way.
This Real Madrid team were the real deal. Three of Europe’s leading attackers played for Los Blancos back then – Pablo Gento, Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas. Benfica had its own hero – Eusebio. The 20-year-old was already a household name in European football and he eventually was the match-winner, helping Benfica retain Their European Champions title.
In an eight-goal thriller where Madrid led twice, Ferenc Puskas scored three for the capital side only for Eusebio to make a dent in their dreams. The Portugal legend scored twice in 5 minutes making the scoreline 5-3 and helping Benfica to their second title in two years.
Aston Villa 1-0 Bayern Munich (1981/82)
This was the first and only final that Aston Villa participated in. And the east coast team made it count. Having gone into the finals as the tournament dark horses, Aston Villa were heavy underdogs against a Bayern Munich side that had been dominating Europe for quite some time back then.
The Villans won the match by a score of 1-0 courtesy of Peter White’s strike in the 67th minute. Under manager Tony Barton Villa won against the star-studded Bayern Munich side that has been steamrolling their way to the finals.
Aston Villa though could never replicate their success on the European stage again. Although under Unai Emery, they have been the side to beat and the Spaniard might just bring the glory days back.
Steaua Bucuresti 0-0 Barcelona [2-0 pens] (1985/86)
The only time a European Cup was won by an Eastern European club. The best underdog victory in the history of the Champions League/European Competition. The final between these two teams took place in Seville.
After 120 minutes of football could not separate these 2 teams, the match went into penalties. Barcelona had all their penalties saved by Romanian goalkeeper Helmuth Duckadam and was later dubbed the ‘Hero of Seville’.
This team was also the backbone of Romania’s Golden Generation and won five successive league titles along with this European Cup. No one had given them a chance to stand against the mighty Barcelona, but 37 years later their win is still fondly remembered.
AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona (1993/94)
Well while other finals on this list had one underdog or a comparatively weaker team than the opponent, this wasn’t the case in the 1994 Champions League final of AC Milan vs Barcelona. Two top teams at the peak of their prowess, clashed in the 1994 Champions League finals.
Under Fabio Capello, AC Milan had won several major trophies but so did Barcelona under the legendary Johan Cruyff. This Catalan team were famous for their Total Football philosophy played under the Dutch manager.
Noone predicted the 4-0 scoreline and many pundits predicted the scoreline to be the opposite. AC Milan and Capello surprised everyone by their performance brushing aside probably the best team in football history.
Chelsea 1-1 Bayern Munich [4-3 pens] (2011/12)
Well, this one was another special night for another underdog. Bayern were heavy favourites to easily brush aside this Chelsea team. The match was on their own backyard in the Allianz Arena, Germany.
On top of that, Chelsea had their captain and legend John Terry suspended for this final. The rest of their legends – Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech were at the twilight of their careers.
Bayern on the other hand had the most prolific duo back then in the form of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Robben took the lead for Bayern in the 80th minute and all hope was lost until Drogba did the most Drogba thing. The Ivorian scored another goal in the final and send the match into extra time.
He then scored the winning penalty for Chelsea, after Cech’s own heroics in the shootout. Since then Chelsea have won another UCL trophy in 2020/21.