Juventus shut out Barcelona, Marseille overcome Milan - the Champions League's best defensive displays

By Sports Desk April 19, 2020

The record-breaking goalscoring exploits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi tend to lead the discussion when it comes to the Champions League, but there have also been plenty of masterful performances at the other end of the pitch.

One such display came on April 19 three years ago, when Juventus proved nigh on impenetrable at the back and saw off Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the competition.

Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid and an Inter team led by Jose Mourinho have also provided some of the most memorable rearguard showings in Europe.

We look back at five of the best defensive displays in Champions League history.

 

1992-93 final: Marseille 1-0 Milan

Marseille were the underdogs at the Olympiastadion in Munich but managed to become the first French champions of Europe in the inaugural Champions League.

Daniele Massaro went close to an early opener for Milan when he nodded narrowly wide, and he was denied from an acute angle by Fabien Barthez after the goalkeeper blocked a low attempt from Marco van Basten.

Basile Boli had been struggling with a muscular injury for much of the first half but he headed home Abedi Pele's corner to put Raymond Goethals' side ahead on the stroke of half-time.

Marseille held firm for the entirety of the second period to claim the trophy, with Boli telling UEFA: "Those last 45 minutes felt like 45 years, and by the time the final whistle blew it felt like 100 years."

However, Marseille were barred from defending their title after a Ligue 1 match-fixing scandal saw them stripped of their domestic crown and relegated.

 

2004-05 semi-finals second leg: Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea (1-0 agg)

After a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge that saw Jerzy Dudek worked more than Petr Cech, Liverpool took just four minutes to score against Chelsea – who had been crowned Premier League champions for the first time in 50 years three days prior – in the return match at Anfield.

Luis Garcia cored with what was subsequently branded the 'ghost goal', with replays and a lack of technology unable to definitively clarify whether the ball had crossed the line before William Gallas cleared it.

Rafael Benitez's Liverpool sat back for the rest of the game and comfortably soaked up the limited pressure Chelsea placed upon them, ending their hopes of a treble.

Eidur Gudjohnsen spurned a glorious chance to equalise in stoppage time after a tame punch from Dudek, meaning Liverpool advanced to the final against Milan.

In Istanbul it was attack rather than defence that underpinned the Reds' success as they came from 3-0 down to defeat the Rossoneri on penalties and be crowned champions of Europe for the fifth time.

 

2009-10 semi-final second leg: Barcelona 1-0 Inter (2-3 agg)

Mourinho's Inter may have been defeated at Camp Nou, but a 3-1 advantage from the first leg meant it was they who advanced to the final.

Their resilience was put to the ultimate test when former Barca midfielder Thiago Motta was shown a red card in the 28th minute for putting his hand in the face of Sergio Busquets, who certainly made the most of the contact.

Even with a numerical disadvantage Inter nullified an attack that boasted Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pedro with a compact showing, while their continued gamesmanship caused frustration in the Barca ranks throughout a fiery encounter.

Gerard Pique gave Pep Guardiola's men a glimmer of hope when he finally broke the deadlock in the 84th minute, but they were unable to deny Mourinho cause to sprint across the pitch in celebration at the final whistle.

Inter made the final for the first time since 1972 and defeated Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu to complete a historic treble.

 

2015-16 quarter-finals second leg: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Barcelona (3-2 agg)

Barcelona's quest to become the first team to retain the Champions League trophy was ended by Atletico at the Vicente Calderon.

A trademark defensive masterclass from Simeone saw Atletico blunt one of modern football's greatest attacking units – the MSN of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

The hosts had just 28 per cent of possession and completed a fifth of the passes Barca put together (122 to 616), but the imperious combination of Diego Godin and Lucas Hernandez kept Luis Enrique's team at bay.

Antoine Griezmann converted a delivery from Saul Niguez in the first half and slotted home a late penalty after Andres Iniesta was penalised for handball, sending Barca crashing out.

A similarly brilliant performance at the back saw Atleti beat Bayern to a place in the final but they were defeated by local rivals Real Madrid in the showpiece for the second time in three years.

 

2016-17 quarter-finals second leg: Barcelona 0-0 Juventus (0-3 agg)

They may have been defeated in the first leg courtesy of an inspired Paulo Dybala display, but having overturned a 4-0 aggregate deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 Barca will still have had high hopes of getting past Juve.

Unsurprisingly they peppered the visitors' goal with shots but they were only able to hit the target with one of them, Messi warming Gianluigi Buffon's gloves from 25 yards in the first half.

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci – who were joined by third centre-back Andrea Barzagli for the final 15 minutes – showed tremendous composure and discipline to provide Buffon with outstanding protection throughout.

Massimiliano Allegri's side consequently joined Manchester United (2007-08) and Bayern (2012-13) as the only teams to stop Barca scoring in both legs of a Champions League tie.

Juve went on to reach the final but were unable to end a 21-year wait to get their hands on the trophy, with Madrid making it two in a row in Cardiff.

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