Cubbie’s Favorite Finishes, Part 1

Since Amir blogged on his favorite sports finishes, I figure I might as well add a few of my own. Some of his posts would make my list, but I’ll stick to ones he hasn’t listed.

Number 1 on the list will require a little background, since it deals with a sport not all that familiar to most Americans… soccer (“football” in most of the rest of the world). In European soccer, clubs participate in multiple competitions in each year. First, they play in their respective domestic leagues… typically a home-and-home double round-robin, with no playoffs. Each country also has a cup competition–a knockout tournament running in parallel with the league, with the ultimate winner receiving a separate trophy. The top teams in each country also participate in one of two major continental competitions, with the biggest being the UEFA Champions League, featuring the winners of every league in Europe plus other high finishers from the top European domestic leagues. The Champions League also runs at the same time as the domestic leagues and cups. Win one and your season is a success (unless you win the cup and get relegated… but that’s for another time). Winning two is historic. Win all three and your team will be remembered as long as the game is played. Now that I’ve set the stage:

May 26, 1999. Camp Nou, Barcelona. The UEFA Champions League is down to two of the most storied teams in Europe. In corner number 1, we have Manchester United, indisputably one of the biggest clubs in England and arguably the most widely followed team in the world. Going into the Champions League final, they had already won the Premier League title and the FA Cup. In corner number 2, we have Bayern Munich, the most successful club in German football history. Like United, they had already won their domestic league, in this case the Bundesliga. They would go on to win the German Cup the next month. Presiding over the game is Pierluigi Collina, perhaps the most famous referee in history and certainly the most recognizable.

On to the game. Six minutes in, Uniited fouls Bayern just outside their own penalty area. Bayern lines up the free kick, and Mario Basler curls it in, with United’s goalkeeper having no chance to stop it. Bayern 1, United 0.

Although both teams have several good scoring chances, the game remains 1-0 to Bayern at 90 minutes of play, when the fourth official on the touchline (sideline to Americans) signals for three minutes of added time.

And then comes the madness.

United’s two second-half substitutes strike. First, Teddy Sheringham equalizes. Then, Ole Gunnar Solskjær etches his place in football lore by putting in the winner. Man United enter football immortality, while Bayern are stunned.

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