Liverpool clocked up their 200th European Cup match this month, but which memorable games stand out from the rest?
The Reds are the most successful English side in the history of the competition, winning ‘Big Ears’ five times between 1977 and 2005.
Jurgen Klopp‘s current crop came agonisingly close to sealing number six earlier this year, but current evidence suggests it may not be that far away.
Liverpool have become synonymous with both the European Cup and the Champions League, with the former becoming the latter back in 1992.
They dominated in both the late 1970s and early 1980s, although its format was easier in comparison to the modern day, meaning the Reds’ recent achievements have arguably been greater at times.
After a long sit down, scrolling through the annals of history, here’s how we rank the Reds’ 20 best games in the history of Europe’s premier club competition, excluding finals themselves.
20. Liverpool 3-0 Anderlecht – European Cup First Round, First Leg (1964)
A meeting with Anderlecht in 1964 kicks off our countdown—significant because it was the first time Liverpool wore all-red in a game.
Speaking about how it came about, Ian St John said:
“(Bill) Shankly thought the colour scheme would carry psychological impact — red for danger, red for power. He came into the dressing room one day and threw a pair of red shorts to Ronnie Yeats.
‘Get into those shorts and let’s see how you look,’ he said. ‘Christ, Ronnie, you look awesome, terrifying. You look 7ft tall.’ ‘Why not go the whole hog, boss?’ I suggested. ‘Why not wear red socks? Let’s go out all in red.’
“Shankly approved and an iconic kit was born.”
Liverpool were also excellent in the second round clash, of course—their first-ever ‘proper’ European fixture—with St John, Roger Hunt and Ron Yeats getting the goals.
Liverpool: Lawrence, Lawler, Yeats, Milne, Byrne, Callaghan, Stevenson, Smith, Thompson, Hunt, St. John.
19. Liverpool 8-0 Besiktas – Champions League Group Stage, Matchday 4 (2007)
This remains the biggest winning margin in Champions League history, with Besiktas humiliated at Anfield 11 years ago.
There was no stopping Rafa Benitez’s side that night, with Yossi Benayoun registering a hat-trick, Peter Crouch bagging a brace and the scoring relentless throughout.
The Reds needed a response after no wins in the first three group games, and they certainly got one against the Turkish side.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Aurelio, Benayoun, Mascherano, Gerrard, Riise, Voronin, Crouch.
18. Liverpool 2-0 Roma – Champions League Second Group Stage, Matchday 6 (2002)
Gerard Houllier returned to the touchline after life-saving heart surgery, in what was an emotionally charged night at Anfield in 2002.
A 2-0 victory, inspired by goals from Jari Litmanen and Emile Heskey, saw Liverpool reach the quarter-finals, having progressed from the second group phase at the expense of the Serie A giants.
The Reds would crash out to Bayer Leverkusen in the next round—the crippling defeat in Germany in the second-leg was never going to be on this list!
Liverpool: Dudek, Xavier, Henchoz, Hyypia, Carragher, Smicer, Gerrard, Murphy, Riise, Litmanen, Heskey.
17. Marseille 0-4 Liverpool – Champions League Group Stage, Matchday 6 (2007)
Liverpool were under huge pressure when they headed to Marseille for their final group game in 2007/08, needing a win to reach the last 16.
Benitez’s men showed their mettle and produced a brilliant team performance, though, with Fernando Torres’ solo effort the real highlight.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Kewell, Mascherano, Gerrard, Benayoun, Kuyt, Torres.
16. Bayern Munich 1-1 Liverpool – European Cup Semi-Final, Second Leg (1981)
This semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich is famous for Howard Gayle’s influential cameo from the bench, amid scenes of racial abuse from the stands.
Having drawn in the first leg on Merseyside, Bayern fancied their chances of progressing, even handing out directions to Paris ahead of the game—the location of the final.
Ray Kennedy scored late on, in what remains one of Liverpool’s most important away goals of all time, and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s equaliser proved irrelevant.
Alan Kennedy’s solitary strike in the final against Real Madrid secured European Cup number three.
Liverpool: Clemence, Neal, Hansen, Money, Irwin, Lee, Souness, McDermott, Kennedy, Dalglish, Johnson.
15. Liverpool 3-0 Borussia Monchengladbach – European Cup Semi-Final, Second Leg (1978)
Another classic from the past, Liverpool’s win over Borussia Monchengladbach in 1978 is regarded as one of their best home performances in the European Cup.
A 2-1 loss in the first leg gave Bob Paisley’s holders work to do at Anfield, but Ray Kennedy, Kenny Dalglish and Jimmy Case scored to earn the Reds a place in the final at Wembley.
Dalglish then did the rest against Club Brugge!
Liverpool: Clemence, Neal, Smith, Thompson, Hughes, Case, McDermott, Souness, Kennedy, Heighway, Dalglish.
14. Liverpool 5-2 Roma – Champions League Semi-Final, First Leg (2018)
The first entry from last season’s unforgettable road to Kyiv, Liverpool were unplayable for an hour in the semi-final at home to Roma.
To be quite so dominant in such a big game—Klopp’s men were 5-0 up after 69 minutes—was an astonishing effort and Mohamed Salah was the world’s most in-form player at that point, torturing his former club.
Two sloppy late goals may have taken a tiny gloss off the result, preventing it from being even higher on this list, but it was a special night, regardless.
Liverpool: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Mane, Firmino.
13. Benfica 1-4 Liverpool – European Cup Quarter-Final, Second Leg (1984)
Back in 1984, an Ian Rush goal had given Liverpool a 1-0 advantage against Benfica, as they made the trip to Portugal.
The Merseysiders clinched a superb 4-1 win at a tough venue, however, in a result that reverberated around Europe.
Rush again got on the scoresheet, in a season that brought him 47 goals, with Ronnie Whelan scoring twice and Craig Johnston also getting in on the act.
Joe Fagan’s side then defeated Dinamo Bucharest in the semi-finals and saw off Roma on penalties at their own ground, the Stadio Olimpico.
Liverpool: Grobbelaar, Neal, Hansen, Lawrenson, Kennedy, Lee, Whelan, Souness, Johnston, Dalglish, Rush.
12. Barcelona 1-2 Liverpool – Champions League Last-16, First Leg (2007)
A match that will forever be known as, “the one where Bellamy did that golf club celebration”—a long-lost Friends episode, perhaps?
Liverpool came up against a fantastic Barcelona team that featured Ronaldinho, Deco and a young lad called Lionel Messi…and turned them over in their own backyard.
Deco’s header made prospects look bleak initially, but the visitors recovered impressively at Camp Nou, with John Arne Riise and Craig Bellamy both netting either side of half-time.
Barca may have won 1-0 in the return leg, but Liverpool prevailed on away goals to reach the 2006/07 quarter-finals, before eventually succumbing to AC Milan in Athens.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Finnan, Sissoko, Alonso, Gerrard, Bellamy, Kuyt.
11. Real Madrid 0-1 Liverpool – Champions League Last-16, First Leg (2009)
Remember when Benayoun suddenly decided to be world class during the second half of the 2008/09 season?
Liverpool made the daunting trip to the Santiago Bernabeu to face Real Madrid in 2009, but they came away with one of the best wins of Benitez’s tenure.
Benayoun, of all people, headed home the only goal of the game, putting his side in pole position to reach yet another Champions League quarter-final.
More on the second leg later…
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Benayoun, Alonso, Mascherano, Riera, Torres, Kuyt.
10. Juventus 0-0 Liverpool – Champions League Quarter-Final, Second Leg (2005)
If Klopp’s Liverpool are all about attacking brilliance, Benitez’s were prided on organisation and unbridled levels of spirit.
That was never on display more than away to Juventus in 2005, as they desperately tried to hold on to their 2-1 lead from Anfield.
Without Steven Gerrard, the Reds defended for their lives and secured the most precious of goalless draws, sparking wild scenes of celebration at the final whistle.
That Juventus side were better than the Milan outfit Liverpool beat in Istanbul, winning Serie A that season, which sums up what an achievement it was to defeat them over 180 minutes.
Liverpool: Dudek, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Traore, Nunez, Biscan, Alonso, Riise, Luis Garcia, Baros.
9. Liverpool 3-1 Inter Milan – European Cup Semi-Final, First Leg (1965)
A legendary match in Reds history, Bill Shankly’s Reds had reached the European Cup semis, with Inter Milan standing between them and the final.
Anfield witnessed one its great occasions, with the 3-1 victory richly deserved, thanks to goals from Roger Hunt, Ian Callaghan and Ian St. John.
Unfortunately, a 3-0 loss in the second leg was a bleak moment, ending Liverpool’s dream, but it took nothing away from the display that preceded it.
Liverpool: Lawrence, Lawler, Yeats, Stevenson, Moran, Callaghan, Smith, Thompson, Strong, Hunt, St. John.
8. Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal – Champions League Quarter-Final, Second Leg (2008)
The Gunners were breathtaking in the opening 20 minutes, with Abou Diaby deservedly opening the scoring, but the Reds stayed in the contest.
Sami Hyypia scored a bullet header, Torres almost burst the Anfield net, Emmanuel Adebayor scored and missed a sitter, Gerrard scored a nerveless late penalty and Ryan Babel put the icing on the cake.
Dramatic is an understatement.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Hyypia, Aurelio, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Torres, Crouch.
7. Liverpool 4-0 Real Madrid – Champions League Last-16, Second Leg (2009)
Benayoun’s aforementioned header had put Liverpool in charge of their tie with Madrid, but their world-class team was one that merited respect.
They were powerless to do anything about a truly magnificent Reds display, however, at a time when no player in the world was more influential than Gerrard.
The legendary skipper scored twice, while Torres was also on fire against the team he grew up loathing as an Atletico Madrid fan.
That 2008/09 team was something else—it was such a shame that they couldn’t go all the way, eventually losing 7-5 on aggregate to Chelsea in the last four.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel, Torres.
6. Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea – Champions League Semi-Final, Second Leg (2007)
Few evenings on Merseyside have been more nerve-shredding than this semi-final encounter with Chelsea, at a time when there was genuine hatred between the two clubs.
The Blues were hellbent on revenge after their 2005 loss and their 1-0 advantage from the first leg made it an uphill challenge for Liverpool.
Daniel Agger levelled the tie with a cute effort, though, before the dreaded penalties were required to separate the two rivals.
Dirk Kuyt, so often the man for the big occasion, scored the winning spot-kick to send the Reds off to Athens.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Pennant, Gerrard, Mascherano, Zenden, Kuyt, Crouch.
5. Liverpool 3-0 Man City – Champions League Quarter-Final, First Leg (2018)
It’s not often you get to see Liverpool produce a perfect performance, but that was the case earlier this year when Man City came to town.
Many fancied Pep Guardiola’s team to prevail, given their Premier League dominance, but they were blown away by 11 heroes in Red.
A 2-1 victory in Manchester in the return fixture sealed an unthinkable 5-1 aggregate triumph.
Liverpool: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Mane, Firmino.
4. Liverpool 2-1 Juventus – Champions League Quarter-Final, First Leg (2005)
Liverpool love being the underdogs in Europe and they were strong outsiders when Juventus came to town in 2005.
It was a night when Luis Garcia scored one of the best European goals in Anfield history, with Hyypia also volleying home with the accuracy of a top striker.
A young Scott Carson may have allowed Fabio Cannavaro’s header to creep through his fingers to make for the nervy aforementioned second leg, but the Reds held on heroically.
It was an evening when we really started to believe that the impossible was possible.
Liverpool: Carson, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Biscan, Riise, Le Tallec, Baros.
3. Liverpool 3-1 Olympiakos – Champions League Group Stage, Matchday 6 (2004)
“Mellor, lovely cushioned header, for Gerrrrrrrrrraaaaaarrrrrrd!”
Martin Tyler’s legendary commentary will always remind us of the night Gerrard went from being a wonderful young player to a world-class talent.
Only a 1-0 win or a victory by two clear goals against Olympiakos would see Liverpool reach the last 16, so Rivaldo’s free-kick before half-time was a devastating blow.
Florent Sinama-Pongolle and Neil Mellor, two limited strikers who have become part of Reds folklore because of this one night, both scored off the bench before Gerrard’s late stunner in front of the Kop.
Without that strike, there would be no Istanbul.
Liverpool: Kirkland, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Nunez, Alonso, Gerrard, Riise, Kewell, Baros.
2. Liverpool 3-1 St Etienne – European Cup Quarter-Final, Second Leg (1977)
David Fairclough was a good player with a reputation for being a useful substitute, but one moment against St. Etienne has made him a Reds legend forever.
An unforgettable evening at Anfield in the European Cup quarter-final, second leg, saw the hosts 2-1 up late on, knowing one more goal would take them through.
Cue Fairclough, who was introduced as a 74th-minute sub and scored late in the day, leading to some of the wildest scenes ever captured at Anfield.
Two months later, Liverpool were crowned champions of Europe for the first time.
Liverpool: Clemence, Neal, Smith, Hughes, Jones, Callaghan, Case, Kennedy, Heighway, Toshack, Keegan.
1. Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea – Champions League Semi-Final, Second Leg (2005)
It just had to be number one, didn’t it?
The atmosphere, the tension, the rivalry, the controversy: Liverpool’s semi-final, second leg clash with Chelsea in 2005 had everything.
Anfield has arguably never been louder than when Garcia’s early goal was adjudged to have crossed the line, before a horrendous remaining 85 minutes or so took place.
Eidur Gudjohnson’s last-gasp miss remains one of the most heart-stopping moments in the history of Liverpool Football Club, but Benitez’s side held on against Jose Mourinho’s arrogant Premier League champions.
The greatest final of all beckoned.
Liverpool: Dudek, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Hamann, Biscan, Luis Garcia, Riise, Gerrard, Baros.