Thursday’s game is the latest in a long history of ties between two teams from one country on the European stage, and sparks have flown in plenty of the previous encounter
The maiden meeting between Manchester United and Liverpool in European competition has added an intriguing subplot to a broader Europa League drama that has its memorable moments but can occasionally seem rather overblown and interminable. It is not uncommon for teams from the same country to be paired against each other in Europe, but such meetings invariably add a welcome frisson even if they don’t necessarily take place between bitter rivals. The selection below contains an eclectic mix of encounters in which traditional domestic fixtures were nudged – in at least one instance, reluctantly – out on to the European stage. Some of these were more explosive than others but all boasted some element of intrigue.
Porto v Braga
Europa League final, 2011
Having finished 38 points ahead of Braga in Portugal’s Primeira Liga, Porto were overwhelming favourites to beat their rivals in this final in Dublin. They duly obliged in a cagey affair settled by a splendid cushioned header from Radamel Falcao, making André Villas-Boas, then 33, the youngest manager to win a European title. Four days later they won the Portuguese Cup final, securing a domestic treble and prompting Roman Abramovich to recruit Villas-Boas to succeed Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea.
In what was a fairly unnecessary attempt to avoid potential unpleasantness between the two sets of supporters, fans of the two northern Portuguese clubs were bussed from Dublin airport to separate fan zones, which they couldn’t vacate quickly enough upon discovering that no booze was being sold within their confines. Instead, most convened in Dublin’s stag and hen party HQ of Temple Bar, where the atmosphere was extremely cordial between supporters of two clubs that have no particular axe to grind with each other despite being separated by just 48km. “We are all friends, Braga and Porto,” one visiting fan told the Irish Times. “Thank God it is not Benfica. We don’t like Benfica.”
Having seen off Benfica in the semi-final, Braga found Porto a domestic rival too far and were perhaps hamstrung by their own cautiousness in a scrappy game. “I am very proud, I lived unique moments here,” said their manager Domingos Paciência. “These players also did – it’s a beautiful story. May Braga continue to grow. We dignified Portuguese football.”
Internazionale v Milan
Champions League quarter-final, 2005
Having contested a comparatively peaceful Derby della Madonnina from which Milan emerged victorious to qualify for – and go on to win – the Champions League final two years previously, the residents of San Siro were paired once again for the quarter-final in April 2005. Headed goals from Jaap Stam and Andriy Shevchenko had secured Milan a first leg “home” victory and they secured a further foothold in the last four when Shevchenko struck again 30 minutes into the second leg.
Inter thought they had pulled one back through Esteban Cambiasso in the 70th minute, only for his effort to be disallowed by the German referee Markus Merk. Displeased to say the least, Inter’s fans rained bottles, flares and assorted other missiles including an umbrella down on to the Milan penalty area, where one of the fireworks hit the Brazilian goalkeeper Dida.
With smoke billowing and the safety of the players far from assured, Merk stopped the game and ordered the players back to the dressing rooms, while firefighters were summoned to end the impromptu pyrotechnics and clear the Milan penalty area. They too were pelted. Merk restarted proceedings after a 10-minute break, but realised the futility of it all within a minute and abandoned the match. Milan were awarded a 3-0 win and therefore advanced to the semi-final 5-0 on aggregate, while Inter were ordered to play their next four European games behind closed doors.
“Endless shame,” mourned La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It was a disgraceful episode for an otherwise civil city like Milan. This is not the football we want, this is not the show we want to watch. The game is now only a secondary matter.”
Shakhtar Donetsk v Dynamo Kyiv
Uefa Cup semi-final, 2009
While the northern German rivals Hamburg and Werder Bremen contested one semi-final of the last Uefa Cup before Europe’s second-tier competition underwent rebranding, the Ukrainian footballing powers Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk were going toe-to-toe in the other. The prize could scarcely have been greater: the honour of being the country’s first representatives in a European final since the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.
Dynamo, traditionally the club of the Ukrainian communist party, had always been dominant but no longer enjoyed the benefit of state funding and were envious of the miners’ team from the industrial Donbass region, who were enjoying the generous patronage of Rinat Akhmetov. He had previously been listed as Europe’s richest man and had been the president of Shakhtar since 1996, when his predecessor had been assassinated.
A 1-1 draw gave Shakhtar the edge after the first leg at Dynamo’s Lobanovskyi Stadium, an advantage cancelled out at the crumbling RSK Olimpiyskyi bowl (the $400m Donbass Arena would open later that year), where Jádson opened the scoring for the home team only for Ismael Bangoura to restore parity. With the game inching towards extra time, Ilsinho, another of Shakhtar’s five Brazilians, won it for his team, who went on to beat Werder in the Istanbul final.
“We achieved something great today,” said Shakhtar’s coach Mircea Lucescu. “We’re now a part of the history of European football. The fact we’ll play in Istanbul means so much for us. It was a tough game as Dynamo were at their best as well. The result is just and deserved. The fans were treated to both a show and a battle.” Lucescu’s opposite number Yuri Semin was understandably less upbeat. “Everyone who was on the pitch today has something to reproach himself for,” he said. “They prepared well and looked good physically, but we also have to remember Shakhtar are a very strong side.”
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur
Uefa Cup final, 1972
Uefa was probably less than thrilled to see the first final of its spanking new second-tier competition contested by two teams from the same country and, truth be told, those playing in it were also decidedly underwhelmed. Played over two legs, the first was won 2-1 at Molineux by Spurs, who then secured the trophy with a 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane. Despite their victory, the manager Bill Nicholson deemed their performance so poor that he went in to the Wolves dressing room afterwards and told the vanquished players that the better team had lost.
With no particular enmity between the sides, neither was particularly thrilled to have made it all the way to an exotic new European final only to come up against another English team. The wives of the Tottenham players were particularly upset and with good reason, as Spurs striker Martin Chivers would later explain. “It was strange for our wives because they were promised an all-expenses-paid away trip to the final if we ever reached it,” he explained. “So they started dreaming of Madrid, Paris and Rome; and where did we finish? They weren’t enamoured to go to Wolverhampton, no.”
Intriguingly, the first leg was refereed by a rather famous official who was very popular in English football circles. A little under six years previously while running the line at Wembley, Tofiq Bahramov had been instrumental in awarding that controversial Geoff Hurst goal against Germany in the 1966 World Cup final.
Real Madrid v Atlético Madrid
Champions League final, 2014
The 4-1 scoreline suggests Real won the mother of all Madrid derbies at a canter, but nothing could be further from the truth. Staged at the Estádio da Luz, the Lisbon home of Benfica, the eventual winners were trailing to a 36th-minute Diego Godín header as the clock ticked deep into added time at the end of 90 minutes. With Atlético on the verge of securing their maiden European crown with the added bonus of denying their hated rivals their much coveted décima in the process, Sergio Ramos set about pooping their party in the most dramatic manner imaginable by arrowing a pinpoint header past Thibaut Courtois and sending the game into extra-time.
Atlético’s manager, Diego Simeone, was incensed and charged on to the pitch to confront the Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers as he demanded an explanation for the five extra minutes the official had played. Subsequent goals from Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo did little to calm his mood and he took to the field again to square up to Madrid’s centre-half Raphaël Varane for kicking a ball in his direction while celebrating the final goal near the Atlético bench.
“He’s a great player and he has a great life ahead of him,” said Simeone afterwards, by way of explanation for his spectacular meltdown. “But it was just ugly. At 4-1 it was pointless to create that.” Simeone went on to concede that “it was a lovely thing we had in our grasp”, although the manner in which it was snatched away could scarcely have been more brutal.