It’s every player’s dream to score in the biggest game in the grandest club competition in the world – the Champions League final. It’s even sweeter when it contributes to a victory, more so when it’s a last minute goal. Just ask Ole Gunnar Solskjær who scored an unlikely winner in the 93rd minute for Manchester United against Bayern Munich in 1999.
Although that goal wasn’t exactly spectacular (it was a tap-in after all), it counts as one of the most memorable in finals. However, we decided to list five of the greatest goals scored in UCL finals since the competition was rebranded in the 1992/93 season.
5 Alessandro Del Piero in 1997 (Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Juventus)
Juventus have lost the most number of Champions League finals. The 2017 final loss was their fifth failure in a row and the club’s seventh overall. After winning the title in 1996, the Italian side were looking to become the first team to win it back-to-back in the UCL era in 1997.
However, Borussia Dortmund had other plans. They took a 2-0 lead in the first half through two quickfire goals from Karl-Heinz Riedle to leave The Old Lady rattled. This was a Juve side with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps, and Christian Vieri in the XI.
Alessandro Del Piero was brought on as a half-time substitute and within 20 minutes he was on the scoresheet with a sublime finish in the box that left Dortmund players both disappointed and surprised because of the ease with which he finished from such a tight spot.
Juve’s centre-forward Alen Boksic found himself in some space on the left side of the box and quickly put in a low cross in towards the six-yard box where Del Piero, with the ball behind him, produced an insanely clever backheel to put the ball past Dortmund goalkeeper Stefan Klos.
It wasn’t enough to spark a comeback, though, as Lars Ricken made it 3-1 six minutes later to give Dortmund their first-ever title.
4 Dejan Savicevic in 1994 (AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona)
This final was supposed to be one for the ages as Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona ‘Dream Team’ took on AC Milan who had last won it back-to-back in 1989 and 1990. Milan had also lost the 1993 final and the Rossoneri were looking to make amends.
What followed was a systematic dismantling of Cruyff’s Barcelona as Milan scored at regular intervals to keep the scoreboard ticking. Such was the dominance of the team that the likes of Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman, Hristo Stoichkov, and Romario had no answer to Milan’s overall superiority.
The score read 2-0 at half-time thanks to a first-half brace from Daniele Massaro. As if a 2-0 deficit in a final wasn’t bad enough, Barcelona never got going and lost the plot two minutes into the second half.
Pouncing on an error when Miguel Angel Nadal failed to clear the ball, Savicevic picked his pocket, allowed the ball to bounce and then lobbed Andoni Zubizarreta from the edge of the box. The ball looped over the desperately diving goalkeeper and into the goal to effectively seal the tie.
3 Hernan Crespo in 2005 (AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool)
Yet another goal that ultimately came in a losing cause but it remains one of the greatest goals scored in Champions League finals. Istanbul 2005 evokes some memorable moments for fans of this generation.
For the neutrals, it was one of the most thrilling finals in recent memory. For Milan fans, it was a night of ecstasy followed by agony while it was the exact opposite for Liverpool fans.
Milan couldn’t have asked for a better start when Paolo Maldini scored in the first minute from a set-piece. Liverpool were shellshocked and took some time to respond. But Hernan Crespo’s brace towards the end of the half almost signalled their doom. Almost.
One of those Crespo goals makes it to this list not just because of his fine finish but the pass that made it happen. It was Kaka’s magical assist that allowed Crespo to only beat the goalkeeper with a chipped finish.
Receiving the ball in midfield and shrugging off a challenge, the Brazilian playmaker spotted Crespo making the run and sent a pass upfield that curved past the last defender which allowed Crespo to finish past the advancing Jerzy Dudek. All it took was three seconds!
Of course, we all know what happened next. Milan collapsed in the second half and eventually lost in the penalty shootout.
2 Mario Mandzukic in 2017 (Juventus 1-4 Real Madrid)
Nobody saw it coming. Even though Juventus had dominated most of the first half of the 2017 final, it was Real Madrid who drew first blood through a Cristiano Ronaldo strike. But Juventus fought back valiantly and then produced a moment of magic that had been building up throughout the first half.
There was no question that Juve’s players were finding each other with ease, almost as if they were telepathically linked and making the right movements all over the pitch. But at 1-0, they were at their sublime best.
A long ball towards the left of the box saw Alex Sandro run in and then volley the ball back into the box while he was in mid-air. The ball found Gonzalo Higuain who chested it before flicking it with his foot to Mario Mandzukic.
The Croatian then chested it himself to set himself up for the shot. Real defenders Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane did not stand a chance – and neither did Keylor Navas. Mandzukic’s touch and aim were true and the ball looped over everyone before dipping into the top corner of the goal. Navas made a desperate dive but clutched only air as the ball found the back of the net.
It should have been the goal to spark a comeback. Unfortunately, Juventus simply failed to get out of the dressing room in the second half and conceded three more to lose 4-1.
1 Zinedine Zidane in 2002 (Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Real Madrid)
Two early goals in the 2002 final set the stage for a mouthwatering finish to the 2001/02 Champions League campaign as Real Madrid took on Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park. Raul had given Los Blancos the lead in only the eighth minute before Lucio equalised just five minutes later.
Then came the moment of inspiration that sealed Zinedine Zidane’s status as a bonafide legend. Santiago Solari lobbed the ball into space in the left channel for Roberto Carlos to beat his man on the sprint before lobbing the ball himself into the box.
Three men surrounded Zidane in the box as he waited patiently for the ball to come back down to earth but none of them interfered. Why would they, it was a tough angle to score from – that too with his ‘weaker’ left foot.
But this was Zidane after all. He wound up his left leg and he made sweet contact with the ball as it came down. Leverkusen goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt could do nothing as it whistled past him to almost tear the back of the net, such was the force with which he smacked it goalward.
It was a goal worthy of a final and one that eventually saw Real Madrid lift the trophy for the ninth time in history.