With the Champions League once more about to grace our television screens this week, memories of past years have flooded the senses. With this in mind, it seems only fitting to look back on some of the greatest Group Stage upsets in recent memory.
5) Barcelona 1-2 Rubin Kazan, 2009-2010 Season
Going into the match Rubin Kazan were rank outsiders with bookmakers offering odds upwards of 22/1 for a Russian win. No one held out much hope for Rubin despite the fact that they were were Russian Champions in 2008-09.
In the second minute, Alexandr Ryazantsev shocked the hosts when he thundered the ball past Victor Valdes with a 35 yard screamer. Barca got one back through Ibrahimovic early in the second half but with 17 just minutes to go, Rubin got their second of the night to make it 2-1.
When the referee blew the final whistle Barcelona had 76 percent possession and 24 attempts at goal, two of which hit the wood work. Somehow Rubin held on.
4) BATE Borisov 3-1 Bayern Munich, 2012-2013 Season
Hailing from Belarus, BATE had shocked Lille in their opening Group F game with a victory. Regardless of BATE’s opening game heroics, few people held out hope for their second game against German side Bayern Munich.
Yet when Aleksandr Pavlov and Vitali Rodionov put BATE 2-0, it was clear the script had been changed. Franck Ribery pulled one back for the Germans before substitute Renan Bressan put the game beyond all doubt when he scored BATE’s third of the night in the dying minutes of the game. Incredible scenes.
“We are the Champions of the World.”
Just feel the passion.
3) FC Basel 1893 2–1 Manchester United, 2011-2012 Season
Fergie’s men travelled to Switzerland knowing they needed only a point to advance past the group stages. When Streller put the hosts 1-0 up after nine minutes, it was clear United were in for a long night.
The Red Devils pressed and pressed during the game and couldn’t break the home side down. When Frei made it 2-0 after 84 minutes, United’s Champions League hopes were dashed.
It was only the third time in 17 years that United hadn’t made it past the group stages. United fans couldn’t believe it.
2) AS Roma 1 – 2 CRF Cluj, 2008-2009 Season
Roma travelled to the match against Champions League débutantes Cluj with high hopes. Spaletti’s men were heavy favourites to beat a Cluj side that had shocked everyone by winning their opening group match.
Few believed Cluj could repeat their heroics in the Stadio Olimpico but they did. Two sweet left-footed strikes from Juan Culio ensured that Spaletti’s men finished the game with their heads hung in shame.
1) Celtic 2 – 1 Barcelona, 2012-2013 Season
Just one day after celebrating their 125th anniversary, Neil Lennon’s side welcomed Barcelona to Celtic Park knowing that a win would see them progress through the group stages. Few held out hope for the men from Glasgow. Barcelona had consistently put teams to the sword in that year’s Tournament and were playng the expansive brand of football the Catalans were synonymous for. Showing remarkable disciplice and doggedness in defence Celtic managed to nick two goals on the break. Barcelona ended the match with 84% possession. It was to little avail. Neil Lennon’s men went through to the second round, much to the surprise of fans everywhere.
Let’s hope this week’s games through up a few surprises.
Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena.