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Some hailed it as Celtic's greatest European night since beating Internazionale in the 1967 European Cup final and Rod Stewart certainly enjoyed himself, tears rolling down his face at the end of a victory over a side that was still regarded as the greatest in the world at the time. Celtic had been unlucky to lose in Barcelona two weeks earlier, conceding a stoppage-time goal to Jordi Alba, but their performance at Camp Nou gave Neil Lennon's side confidence they could spring an upset when Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi came to town, capitalising on the weakness Tito Vilanova's side had shown when defending set-pieces.
Sure enough, Celtic took the lead after 21 minutes when Victor Wanyama, the game's stand-out player, headed in Charlie Mulgrew's corner at the far post and they were then indebted to the woodwork and Fraser Forster, who made a number of saves to deny Messi and Alexis Sánchez. Then, with seven minutes to go, came the biggest moment of Tony Watt's young life. The 18-year-old had only been on the pitch for 12 minutes when Xavi missed Forster's long clearance and Watt ran through to fire a low shot past Victor Valdés, instantly making himself a Celtic hero. Inevitably Messi scored in injury-time to set up a nervy finish but Celtic, who defended with great maturity all night, held on. The final whistle went, Celtic Park erupted and the knockout stages were in sight. And then came the waterworks.
You have to feel sorry for those unfortunate people who do not like football. They do not know what they are missing. What, for example, could they possibly have been doing that was considered preferable to watching Borussia Dortmund's insane comeback in their quarter-final against Málaga, who were left seething at the refereeing decisions that led to their exit? After drawing the first leg 0-0 in Spain, Dortmund were expected to win easily in the second leg but their nerves and Manuel Pellegrini's nous in Europe meant that Málaga were comfortable for long spells.
The Spanish side took the lead midway through the first half through Joaquín's low strike, only for Robert Lewandowski to equalise with a wonderfully constructed goal just before half-time. That looked to be the cue for a Dortmund onslaught but Málaga edged much of the second half, forcing Roman Weidenfeller to make some important saves, and when Eliseu made it 2-1 to Málaga despite being offside, Jürgen Klopp's side needed to score twice in eight minutes to go through.
Even when Marco Reus made it 2-2 in the first minute of stoppage time, Dortmund were still heading out, but what followed will haunt Málaga for a very long time. As Dortmund launched one last attack, several of their players appeared to be offside as Lewandowski crossed from the left. The flag stayed down, though, and stayed down again when Felipe Santa touched the ball in from a yard out from an offside position. Málaga fumed, Dortmund celebrated and then Klopp made everyone forget about the injustice by gurning and chuckling his way through one of the most amusing post-match interviews of all time.
It ultimately proved to be a false dawn but this was a night when it appeared that Roberto Mancini might just have been getting the hang of European football. Having survived the early pressure from Real Madrid thanks to some stupendous saves from Joe Hart, Manchester City had settled well into the game by the time Yaya Touré romped through the Bernabéu and set up Edin Dzeko to put the visitors ahead after 69 minutes. Madrid had been drifting but José Mourinho responded to going behind by throwing on Luka Modric and Karim Benzema and they were soon level thanks to Marcelo's deflected strike. City kept their cool, though, and when Aleksandar Kolarov's free-kick restored their lead with five minutes left, it looked like a famous victory was theirs, only for Benzema to equalise immediately and Cristiano Ronaldo to win it for Madrid in stoppage-time. Mourinho celebrated by ruining his suit with a spectacular knee-slide and it would not be long before City's European campaign lay in tatters.
By now, you may have noticed our anti-Bayern Munich bias coming to the surface. Why, you must be wondering, have we not included one of their matches in this list? Well quite simply it is because they have been so good that many of their matches have lacked the requisite drama or excitement to truly capture the imagination. Their thrashing of Barcelona was an almighty statement of intent but their opponents were a rabble in both legs of their semi-final, meaning there was never any doubt who would triumph. There was no tension – unlike Barcelona's win over Milan in the round of 16.
After Milan won the first leg 2-0, the obituaries had been prepared for Barcelona, who were also reeling from being taken apart by Madrid in their Copa del Rey semi-final. Lionel Messi had other ideas. He gave Barcelona the lead with a stunning goal after five minutes and then, a minute after M'Baye Niang had hit the post for Milan, he levelled the tie on aggregate just before half-time. If Niang had scored, Milan would have been 3-1 up on aggregate and Barcelona would have needed three more goals to go through; instead David Villa put them 3-2 ahead on aggregate early in the second half. However Milan still only needed to score once and Jordi Alba had to deny Robinho in the dying stages of a game in which Barcelona's progression was only sealed when Alba made it 4-0 with the last kick of the match.
The final score makes it easy to forget that Dortmund were thought to be in turmoil before kick-off. The build-up had been tarnished by the news about Mario Götze's move to Bayern in the summer and there was fury in Dortmund about the disruption it caused before the first leg of their semi-final against Madrid. Yet instead of letting it affect them, they used it as a motivational tool. Götze played and created the first of Robert Lewandowski's four goals and Dortmund even overcame the concession of a foolish goal to Cristiano Ronaldo just before half-time. For the third successive match, Jürgen Klopp outwitted José Mourinho.
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