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Throwback to the all-English CL final in 2007/08 between Man United and Chelsea


Throwback to the 2007-08 CL final between Man United and Chelsea

The 2018-19 UEFA Champions League final contested between Liverpool and Spurs turned out to be a rather one-sided encounter, as the Reds, managed by Jurgen Klopp, romped home with a comfortable 2-0 victory and in doing so, claimed their sixth European Cup title.

It was also Liverpool’s first Champions League victory since the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ way back in 2004-05 when Rafael Benitez inspired the Reds to a penalty shootout victory over AC Milan in the final.

Both Liverpool and Spurs progressed to the final with dramatic victories over their opponents in the semi-final clashes. While Klopp’s side successfully overturned a 3-0 deficit from the first leg at Camp Nou against Barcelona, Spurs found themselves 3-0 down on aggregate at the halfway mark in the second-leg against Ajax away from home, yet managing to book their berth in the final.

Liverpool fell agonisingly short of Man City in the Premier League title race and finished the season as runners-up in the league, while Mauricio Pochettino also guided Spurs to a 4th-place finish in the league following a few hiccups towards the end of the campaign.

Both teams had promised a lot throughout the season without winning any trophies and the 2018-19 Champions League final was a golden opportunity for them to end their drought for silverware.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were pretty much the underdogs in the 2017-18 final against Real Madrid but they went in as the outright favourites this time around.

Moussa Sissoko, who had been so good for Spurs all season, turned into a villain in the final. The Frenchman’s handball incident inside the box just a few seconds into the game was deemed worthy of a penalty and Mo Salah converted from the spot to give Liverpool a 1-0 advantage.

Spurs retained most of the possession in the first half but they struggled to create any clear-cut scoring chances, whilst Liverpool continued to threaten on the counter. The rest of the first half was anything but eventful, although Spurs did make an attempt to up the ante in search of an equaliser after the interval.

Both managers made some key substitutions in an attempt to alter the balance of the game, with Klopp bringing in Divock Origi in place of Robert Firmino, whereas Pochettino opted for Lucas Moura in place in of Harry Winks.

Spurs pressed higher up the pitch and attempted several shots on goal in the last twenty minutes or so, leaving themselves vulnerable to Liverpool’s devastating counter-attacks.

Divock Origi, who was the comeback hero for Liverpool at Anfield against Barcelona in the semi-finals, struck in the 87th minute, taking advantage of some sloppy defending from the Lilywhites. The Belgian’s goal sealed the win for Liverpool and Klopp lifted his first ever trophy as the manager at Anfield.

Well, the 2018-19 season was the first time in history when both the major European finals were contested between teams from the same nation, with Arsenal and Chelsea fighting it out for the Europa League crown.

That hadn’t happened before but as a matter of fact, the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final was the last time when two English teams fought it out for the bragging rights in Europe’s top-flight.

It has been 12 years since that final in Moscow between Man United and Chelsea but shades of that fateful encounter still loom large in the memories of the fans each time the two heavyweights of English football lock horns in the Premier League.

From a neutral point of view, the 2007-08 Champions League isn’t one to forget and it has to go down as a Champions League classic, not only because it was an intriguing contest decided by a penalty shootout, but also for the tears, smiles and the completely different set of emotions that it evoked amongst both the sets of fans.

With that in mind, let us now open the vault and revisit that rainy night in Moscow when Avram Grant’s Chelsea and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United went head to head at the Luzhniki Stadium in what was the first ever all-English final in the history of the Champions League.

The build-up to the game

Chelsea

The 2007-08 season witnessed the end of Jose Mourinho’s illustrious reign at Chelsea and the Blues would eventually go on to finish runners-up to Man United in the Premier League.

Also, defeats in the Community Shield and the League Cup final meant that the Champions League final was the last opportunity for Chelsea to get their hands on silverware.

Chelsea were drawn in Group B along with Schalke, Rosenborg and Valencia and the Blues progressed to the round-of-16 as the undisputed winners of the group without suffering a single defeat.

The Blues faced Greek giants Olympiacos in the last 16 of the competition. A resounding 4-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in the second leg was enough to progress to the quarter-finals after the first-leg in Athens had ended 0-0.

The quarter-final tie against Fenerbahce proved to be a much tougher one for Chelsea, as the Blues lost 2-1 away from home in the first leg. However, goals from Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard guided them to a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge and booked the Blues’ place in the last four with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

Chelsea faced Premier League rivals Liverpool in the semi-finals, with the first leg at Anfield ending in a 1-1 draw. The second leg at Stamford Bridge finished 3-2 in favour of Chelsea after extra time, as a brace from Didier Drogba sent the Blues through to their first ever UEFA Champions League final.

Man United

Having won the Premier League in the 2007-08 season, Man United were high on confidence and Sir Alex sensed the opportunity to complete the double.

As a matter of fact, United went into the Champions League final without losing a single game, registering victories over Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages. 

En route to the final, United won nine and drew three of their 12 matches, eclipsing their record of four wins and six draws in the 10 games they played to reach the final in 1999.

Brief Review of the Game

Sir Alex went into the game with his preferred 4-4-3 system, with a back four of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrick Evra and Wes Brown protecting Edwin van der Saar in goal.

Carrick and Scholes formed the double pivot in the midfield with Owen Hargreaves and Cristiano Ronaldo operating on either flank. Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney started up front.

Chelsea manager Avram Grant made a surprise decision by fielding Michael Essien at right-back alongside the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Ricardo Carvalho.

Claude Makelele started in a holding role in front of the back four with Lampard and Ballack operating in a more advanced role. Didier Drogba was complemented by Joe Cole and Florent Malouda up front.

Following a relatively lacklustre opening 20 minutes from both the teams, Paul Scholes and Makelele clashed in mid-air, prompting the referee to dish out a booking to both of them, with Scholes leaving the field to receive treatment for a bloody nose.

The opening goal didn’t take long to come though, as Wes Brown’s cross from the right was met with a well-timed header from Ronaldo, who put the ball past Petr Cech to make it 1-0.

Rio Ferdinand’s headed clearance towards his own goal in the 33rd minute almost evaded the reach of Van der Sar but the Dutchman pulled off a brilliant one-handed stop, thus saving United the blushes and denying Chelsea an equaliser.

United were clearly the dominant side in the first half and they could have had a couple of more goals, only for Petr Cech to deny Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick with his sharp anticipation.

Chelsea did, however, find the equaliser just at the stroke of halftime. Michael Essien’s pile driver from range, which deflected off both Vidic and Ferdinand, found Lampard, who sored with an easy finish to make it 1-1. The goal was a lucky one but it handed Chelsea the momentum heading into the interval, nevertheless.

With momentum on their side, Chelsea caught the game by the scruff of its neck following the restart and it was all one-way traffic in the second half, with the Blues keeping Man United on the back foot with some impressive attacking play.

Didier Drogba’s attempted finish from just outside the box struck the post in the 77th minute before the Ivorian came inches close to turning Joe Cole’s cross home for the winner four minutes from time.

With the scores tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation time, the game went into extra time and both the teams had a few golden opportunities to score the crucial second goal.

Frank Lampard’s shot came back off the underside of the post, while Ryan Giggs saw his effort cleared off the line by John Terry. However, the tension and the pressure of the final finally had a negative impact on the proceedings late in the second half of extra time.

Ballack and Terry were apparently annoyed with Tevez over a throw-in incident and what started as a confrontation between three players ultimately turned into a melee involving all the 22 players on the pitch.

In the midst of all the pandemonium, Droga received a red card for slapping Vidic on the face, whilst Ballack also received a booking.

United though, didn’t have the time to exploit Chelsea’s numerical disadvantage and with both the teams still locked at 1-1, a penalty shootout was required to decide the fate of the final.

Tevez sent Cech the wrong way from the first penalty kick before Ballack shot powerfully past van der Sar. Carrick and Belletti also converted their respective attempts before Ronaldo’s shot was kept out by a diving Cech, giving Chelsea the advantage in the shootout.

Lampard, Hargreaves, Cole and Nani all found the net and it was up to skipper John Terry to seal the deal for Chelsea. As both sets of fans watched on with anguish and nervousness, Terry lost his footing on a rainy night, and despite Van der Sar diving the wrong way, his scuffed effort went out off the crossbar.

Chelsea failed to grab their moment and Van der Sar kept out Nicolas Anelka’s penalty in sudden death, thus securing United’s third European Cup crown.

Terry and Drogba were in tears, as were most of the Blues fans in the stands, and the ecstasy amongst the Man United players and supporters made it all the more difficult for them to digest the defeat.

Indeed, it was agony for one and joy for another, but the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final, the first-ever all-English final, proved to be an intriguing game of football.