Every season, the Champions League brings us some of the most entertaining matches in world football, as the biggest European clubs clash for continental glory.

Being crowned the champions of Europe is by no means an easy feat, given the sheer quality of all the teams and players competing to lift the famous trophy.

From the qualifying rounds and throughout the group phase, followed by thrilling encounters as tension intensifies during the knockout stage, the excitement and passion of every game make the Champions League one of the most popular sports betting events around.

Games can be won or lost in a single moment and when glory is at stake, such moments can make all the difference in the final battle to be crowned as champions of Europe.

Although choosing the most memorable moments from such a rich history of finals is eternally difficult, these are three in the last two decades that were decided key moments of inspiration and greatness.

 

Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich (1999)

If ever there was an encounter to highlight that a football match is never over until the final whistle, this 1999 Champions League final clash between Manchester United and Bayern Munich has to be one of the best examples.

Mario Basler gave the Bavarian giants an early lead and in truth, they dominated for most of the game and should have increased their advantage on numerous occasions.

However, the side managed by Sir Alex Ferguson never knew when to quit and had live betting been available back then, they would have been a great in-play choice to make a comeback.

German legend Lothar Matthäus was all smiles as he sat on the bench, substituted near the end.

The Champions League was the only major silverware the Bayern Munich captain hadn’t won, and he was just moments away from lifting the trophy when iconic Italian referee Pierluigi Colina checked his watch with the 90th minute approaching, adding just three minutes of stoppage time.

Nobody could have predicted what was about to happen next. United won a corner and even giant Danish keeper Peter Schmeichel made his way to the rival area.

David Beckham swung in the kick, Samuel Kuffour scuffed his clearance and when Ryan Giggs fired the ball back into the area, Teddy Sheringham was there to poke in the equaliser.

Seemingly destined for extra-time, the Red Devils won another corner in the dying seconds. Beckham provided the delivery again, Sheringham connected with a glancing header, and the outstretched boot of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found the back of the net.

In three remarkable minutes, Manchester United had snatched Champions League victory from the jaws of defeat.

 

Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (2005)

While there has been no shortage of memorable Champions League finals, if pure adrenaline and edge-of-seat excitement are the key factors, along with key moments of inspiration, the 2005 encounter between Liverpool and AC Milan that took place in Istanbul had all this and more.

Arguably the greatest and most popular left back of all time, when Paolo Maldini opened the scoring in the very first minute of the game, it seemed like destiny favoured the Italian side.

When the lead was extended to 3-0 with a quickfire double salvo of goals by Hernan Crespo just before half time, it looked like job done and Milan would be the team celebrating come the final whistle.

One thing that Maldini and company probably didn't count on, or anyone following the football betting odds during the game, was that even three goals behind, Liverpool wouldn't give up the game as a lost cause.

Rafa Benitez changed things around during the half-time interval, adapting tactically and pushing Steven Gerrard into a more advanced role in midfield. The Reds captain then produced one of the most iconic displays of his career, sparking a spectacular comeback for his team.

Proving that one moment of inspiration can change the dynamic of a game, Gerrard led the charge with a headed goal in the 56th minute which restored belief amongst his teammates.

That moment was the key for Liverpool, with a low Vladimir Smicer drive reducing the deficit by another goal just two minutes later.

On the hour mark, Gerrard was felled inside the area and earned his side a penalty, which Xabi Alonso successfully converted from the spot to complete six moments of utter madness.

Neither side could produce a decisive winner in normal time, or the additional 30 minutes of extra-time, with utter exhaustion evident from the effort given by both sets of players. Inevitably, it was the lottery of penalties which would have to decide the outcome.

Liverpool emerged as the victors and Polish goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was heroic between the posts, but it wouldn't have got that far were it not for Gerrard reigniting the flame of belief for his team.

 

Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid (2014)

For much of the last decade, Spanish teams have been the dominant force in the Champions League, with Real Madrid in particular often found topping the list at betting sites as favourites to lift the trophy each season.

After all, they are the club with the most successful record in the competition over the years and in 2014, there was the chance to lift the trophy for an unprecedented tenth time.

Nevertheless, 2014 was also a spectacular year for their rivals across town. Atletico Madrid had already managed to break the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga, beating both to the league title.

Argentine coach Diego Simeone and his physically powerful side were now looking to win the biggest prize in European football.

As the first ever Champions League final to feature two sides from the same city, it seemed like half the population of the Spanish capital had descended upon Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, making the not-too-lengthy trip to Portugal.

Even thousands of fans without tickets were there, watching on giant screens outside the stadium, just to experience the magical atmosphere.

Despite the early setback of Diego Costa limping off injured just moments into the game, Atletico kept their nerve, looking to profit from set-piece opportunities.

From such an occasion, Diego Godin headed them into the lead before half time. Resisting wave after wave of Real Madrid attacks led by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in the second half, stoppage time arrived, and glory seemed certain.

Time was up when Real Madrid won a corner, which captain Sergio Ramos rose to power home and take the game into extra-time, saving the day for his team at just the right moment.

Atletico were utterly crushed and during the additional period, they fell apart. Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo bagged the three goals that won the trophy for Madrid in extra-time, but Ramos was undoubtedly the hero of the game.

 

*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

About the Author
By
888sport

The 888sport blog, based at 888 Towers in the heart of London, employs an army of betting and tipping experts for your daily punting pleasure, as well as an irreverent, and occasionally opinionated, look at the absolute madness that is the world of sport.