The Champions League returns this week as the groups begin to take shape and guest writer, Colin Steven has been rifling through the archives to pick his Top 10 saves in the short history of Europe’s top club competition.
10. Hugo Lloris (Lyon v Bordeaux)
Lloris was a major factor in Lyon overcoming Bordeaux in the 2010 quarter finals, pulling off one magnificent, game-winning save in particular.
9. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid v Bayer 04 Leverkusen)
Casillas had been first choice goalkeeper for three seasons but during the 2001–02 campaign he lost his place after a patch of bad form. He started the 2002 final on the bench but with 20 minutes to go Casillas came on for the injured Sánchez. He redeemed himself by pulling off several brilliant saves. The pick of the bunch was a stunning near post save from a Basturk thunderbolt. Real Madrid won 2–1 and Casillas has maintained the number one shirt ever since.
8. Oliver Kahn (Barcelona v Valencia)
Oliver Kahn is considered one of the best goalkeepers of all-time and Bayern Munich won their first European title in 25 years thanks to his match-winning performance in the 2001 final. He made some good saves during the game but it was in the penalty shoot-out that he excelled. Kahn had already saved penalties from Zlatko Zahovic and Amedeo Carboni but his save from Mauricio Pellegrino won the game. His performance even won him the man-of-the-match award, still the only keeper ever to do so in a Champions League final.
7. Victor Valdes (Barcelona v Chelsea)
Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes is one of their most underrated players. He played a big part in Barça’s 2009 win against Chelsea in the semi-final first leg, making a superb double save from Didier Drogba right at the start of the game.
6. Petr Cech (Chelsea v Barcelona)
Chelsea’s second leg clash with Barcelona in 2005 is a Champions League classic. Chelsea won 4 – 2 on the night and 5 – 4 on aggregate but it could have been on so different if it wasn’t for Petr Cech’s heroics. With Chelsea leading 3 – 2 but losing on the away goals rule, Barcelona were pushing for another goal that would surely see them through. Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol met a corner sweetly with a diving header and it looked destined for the back of the net but somehow Cech produced a magnificent one handed save.
5. Manuel Neuer (Schalke v Man Utd)
United could have been well ahead in the semi-final first leg by half-time, denied only by a series of incredible saves from Manuel Neuer. Neuer denied Park Ji-Sung, Patrice Evra, Javier Hernandez twice and Ryan Giggs twice but the pick of the bunch has to be his first of the night, when he wonderfully clawed away Wayne Rooney’s deflected shot from the top
4. Gianlugi Buffon (Juventus v Milan)
The 0 – 0 2003 final was no classic but one of the game’s outstanding moments came from the great Italian keeper, Gianlugi Buffon. Filippo Inzaghi’s diving header looked to be heading into the bottom corner but somehow Buffon instinctively got a hand to it and kept it out. Inzaghi’s look of disbelief afterwards says it all.
3. Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United v Rapid Vienna)
In the 1996 Champions League, Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel made a save reminiscent of Gordon Banks’ famous save from Pele. Rapid Vienna’s Rene Wagner headed a cross down towards the line firmly but the Great Dane dived athletically and pushed the ball over the bar with one hand.
2. Jerzy Dudek (Liverpool v AC Milan)
Jerzy Dudek’s performance against AC Milan in the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ is best remembered for his heroics in the penalty shoot-out when he gave his version of Grobbelaar’s ‘spagetti legs’. It worked as he saved two kicks but what is less well remembered his amazing double save from Andriy Shevchenko at the end of extra time, blocking a header and then somehow diverting the follow-up shot over the bar from just a yard out.
1. Gregory Coupet (Lyon v Barcelona)
This is one of the best saves of all time, never mind merely the Champions League. First of all Lyon keeper Coupet heads a back pass from one of his own defenders onto his own bar and then gets up quickly to save a header from the rebound. Incredible stuff.
Colin Stevens works for the FA.com and he’d like to let you know that Wembley Stadium is currently hosting the ‘Exhibitions of Champions’ – a collection of famous memorabilia from the storied history of the European Cup.
The Wembley Stadium Tour has welcomed millions of sports fans since it first opened in 1978 and now from Monday visitors will be able to enjoy the ‘Exhibition of Champions’ as well as the England changing rooms, players tunnel, trophy winner’s steps, press conference rooms and Wembley’s famous Royal Box.
To book a place on the Wembley Tour and see the ‘Exhibition of Champions’ visit
www.wembleystadium.com/tours or call 0844 800 2755