TOP FIVE: The best moments of the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League campaign

The showpiece of club football in Europe is nearly upon us as the UEFA Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid takes place at Wembley Stadium this weekend.

As with any season in Europe’s premier club competition, there have been stellar moments, late goals, nail-biting drama, heartbreak and just about every emotion in between. Here at FromTheSpot, we take a look at five of the biggest moments from the competition this season.

A twenty-year wait eclipsed in one evening

Newcastle United 4-1 Paris Saint-Germain

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Although Newcastle United ultimately finished rooted to the bottom of their group, their one win will live long in the memory of everyone who packed out St James’ Park on a memorable October night.

Having qualified for Europe’s top table for the first time in twenty years, the Toon started their European adventure with a 0-0 draw in the San Siro against AC Milan – not a bad venue for your first UEFA Champions League clash in two decades.

The homecoming party then rolled onto the banks of the Tyne, as all four stands at St James’ Park were draped in Black and White. With the atmosphere reaching fever pitch before a ball had even been kicked, those in attendance were about to witness something special.

Newcastle’s last home outing in the Champions League came twenty years prior, in a 2-0 loss to Barcelona. For context, Anthony Gordon had just turned two when that game took place and Lewis Miley was still three years off being born when the bright lights of European football were last on the North East.

It took just seventeen minutes for the roof to come off St James’, when Miguel Almiron pounced on a loose ball to sidefoot Newcastle into an early lead, with local lad Dan Burn, who rejoined his boyhood club in 2022, going on to double the Geordies‘ advantage.

PSG’s star-studded lineup, including Kylian Mbappe, Theo Hernandez and Ousmane Dembélé were visibly rattled by the atmosphere created in one of England’s greatest footballing theatres, and fell further behind five minutes after the restart, when Sean Longstaff fired through Gianluigi Donnarumma in front of a raucous Gallowgate End.

Theo Hernandez did give the visitors a glimmer of hope, but Swiss international Fabian Schär curled in an unstoppable fourth on the cusp of added time to rubber stamp Newcastle’s return to Europe’s top table – and a night that will live long in the memory of everyone with a Toon Army persuasion.

The back-to-back dream is dead

Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid (4-4 agg, Real Madrid win 4-3 on penalties)

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When reigning champions Manchester City and fourteen-time winners Real Madrid were drawn together in the quarterfinals of this year’s competition, people expected the two fixtures to be games for the ages.

This exact fixture had thrown up plenty of carnage in seasons gone by – perhaps no more so than in 2021/22, when two late Real Madrid goals stole victory from the jaws of Manchester City, who had led as late as the 87th minute.

The first leg of this next chapter was to be played at the Bernabéu and boy, it did not disappoint.

City got off to the dream start inside two minutes, with Bernardo Silva’s free-kick squirming through the hands of Andriy Lunin in the Real Madrid goal to silence the majority of the crowd.

Eduardo Camavinga then fired in via a deflection from Ruben Dias to level it up, before Rodrygo’s effort trickled in – all before the quarter-hour mark in Madrid.

City hauled themselves level in the second half through a stunner from Phil Foden, which was then swiftly followed by Joško Gvardiol as City went 3-2 ahead… only to be pegged back by a sumptuous right footed Federico Valverde volley that left a six-goal thriller finally poised heading to the Etihad a week later.

A 3-3 draw in the first leg was followed by a 1-1 draw in Manchester, as a late Kevin de Bruyne goal dragged the Cityzens level after Rodrygo had opened the scoring – meaning this tie would be decided by virtue of a penalty shootout.

Real Madrid had nerves of steel in this particular lottery, as Manchester City missed three penalties to confirm that their reign as European Champions would come to an abrupt and disappointing end in April.

Barcelona’s monumental quarterfinal collapse

Barcelona 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain (4-6 agg)

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Having escaped Paris with a memorable 3-2 win in the first leg, Barcelona looked like they might be harking back to the glory days of Lionel Messi and co.

Barcelona took the French capital by storm, with Raphinha lighting up the first leg – the former Leeds man dazzled with a brilliant double.

He bagged 12 minutes into the second leg, giving Barca the freedom and cushion of a two goal aggregate lead – however, Ronald Araújo was dismissed due to a foul on Bradley Barcola in the first half, which was where everything started to unravel for the Blaugrana.

Ousmane Dembélé lashed home to give the Parisians hope, which was quickly realised when Vitinha cooly slotted into the back of the net to restore aggregate parity.

It wasn’t long untill Kylian Mbappé had his say on proceedings, stealing the show with two late goals, ensuring an almost-certain Champions League semifinal was ripped away from the Catalan side with a ruthless performance.

Borussia Dortmund upset the odds

Paris Saint-Germain 0-1 Borussia Dortmund (0-2 agg)

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A semifinal blockbuster between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund made for exciting billing – but somehow, PSG failed to score in both legs despite forcing a plethora of chances, allowing die Schwarzgelben to book their spot at Wembley.

The first leg was a proper performance: every single player in yellow and black dug in for each other, and Niclas Füllkrug struck the decisive blow in the first half.

Somehow the game stayed at 1-0, despite two PSG shots hitting the post within as many minutes and Fabian Ruiz somehow heading wide from no more than five yards out. Füllkrug could have easily had a second – but it wasn’t to be, and the slender nature of the result left everything to play for the following week in Paris.

Step forward a bonafide Borussia Dortmund legend in the French capital, as Mats Hummels’ thumping header five minutes into the second half sealed Dortmund’s place at Wembley – although it was far from plain sailing.

Ousmane Dembélé forgot his shooting boots, while Warren Zaire-Emery, Nuno Mendes, Vitinha and Kylian Mbappe all struck the woodwork in the second leg – taking the tally to six times the woodwork was hit in the two legs as PSG must’ve thought the football gods were against them.

A script fit for a Hollywood movie

Real Madrid 2-1 Bayern Munich (4-3 agg)

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Los Blancos are a team steeped in European glory, as evidenced by their status fourteen-time winners of UEFA’s premier club competition. From Zinedine Zidane’s stunning volley versus Bayer Leverkusen to Gareth Bale’s dazzling overhead kick and everything in between, la Casa Blanca are synonymous with the trophy fondly afforded the moniker of ‘the big ears’ by us English.

Despite all the aforementioned moments, not even the most ardent Real Madrid fan could’ve expected what would come in their second leg against Bayern Munich.

Following a 2-2 first leg draw at the Allianz Arena, Alphonso Davies cut inside and lashed Bayern ahead in the second half as part of what could be perceived as a figurative job interview for the Canadian left-back, who is a target for Real Madrid in the summer.

With the time ticking down on Real Madrid’s Champions League journey, former Stoke City and Newcastle United striker Joselu was thrown on by Carlo Ancelotti – with just three goals to his name in the competition before his introduction.

He levelled proceedings in the 88th minute: after a spill from Manuel Neuer following a Vinicius Junior shot, the Spaniard tapped home to haul the game back into the melting pot.

He then turned home an Antonio Rüdiger cross, and after a VAR check that seemingly lasted forever, the goal was given to spark the most incredible scenes in the stadium as los Blancos completed arguably the most remarkable turnaround of their rich Champions League history.

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