Champions League's best defensive displays: Juve blunts Barca, Marseille edges Milan

To mark three years since Juventus shut out Barcelona at Camp Nou, we recount the best defensive displays in the Champions League.

Jose Mourinho (L), Basile Boli (C) and Diego Simeone (R) who played a key role in some of the memorable defensive displays in the Champions League   -  Getty Images

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 was the underdog at the Olympiastadion in Munich but managed to become the first French champion 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.

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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 was barred from defending its title after a Ligue 1 match-fixing scandal saw it stripped of its domestic crown and relegated.

 

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

Jose Mourinho, the then Chelsea coach, looks on during the Champions League clash against Liverpool.   -  reuters

 

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 champion 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 it, ending its hopes of a treble.

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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 it came from 3-0 down to defeat the Rossoneri on penalties and be crowned champions of Europe for the fifth time.

 

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

Inter players celebrate after going through to the final of the Champions League after beating Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate.   -  ap

 

Mourinho's Inter may have been defeated at Camp Nou, but a 3-1 advantage from the first leg meant it was the Nerazzurri 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 its continued gamesmanship caused frustration in the Barca ranks throughout a fiery encounter.

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Gerard Pique gave Pep Guardiola's men a glimmer of hope when he finally broke the deadlock in the 84th minute, but Barca was 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 quarterfinals second leg: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Barcelona (3-2 agg)

Lionel Messi (Centre) looks on dejected after the second leg defeat knocked out holder Barcelona from the 2015-16 Champions League.   -  ap

 

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.

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

 

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

Juventus avenged the 2015 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona by knocking it out in the semifinals of the 2016-17 season.   -  reuters

 

Barcelona 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 it peppered the visitor's goal with shots but was 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.

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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 was unable to end a 21-year wait to get its hands on the trophy, with Madrid making it two in a row in Cardiff.

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