In the aftermath of Barcelona’s incredible 5-0 dismantling of Real Madrid, my mind began to wander to other significant one-sided victories throughout European football in recent history. Here is a selection of five which spring immediately to mind. Feel free to agree, disagree and post alternative suggestions.
Celebrating Barcelona fans do not have far to go back to find a rival. Their 6-2 annihilation of the Madridistas in May 2009 effectively sealed Pep Guardiola’s first La Liga title contained equally joyous, ruthless tiki-taka football and was achieved at the Santiago Bernabeu. This too was a victory for the joyful over the pragmatic; a celebration of scintillating, one-touch passing remorselessly carving open a strong defensive unit.
As the passes and the goals mounted up, it was a victory too for the team over individualism; a problem which Real Madrid still seem not to have fully sorted under Jose Mourinho. Whether at his request or a certain Portuguese winger’s, they remain over reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo, the man signed to bridge the Real-Barcelona gap.
AC Milan 4-0 Barcelona: May 18, 1994
The 1994 UEFA Champions League final was meant to be the apotheosis of Johann Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’. With a certain Pep Guardiola dictating play from the centre spot and the devastating Romario and Hristo Stoichkov partnership in attack, Cruyff’s football, inspired by the Total Football of Rinus Michels’ Ajax and Holland teams, Barcelona had stormed to the Champions League final. However, the ultimate pragmatist Fabio Capello had other ideas.
Playing a rigid 4-4-2, Milan performed a masterclass in counter-attacking football. The star of the show was Dejan Savicevic. Wonderful at Red Star Belgrade, his virtuoso talents never won over Capello. His delicious lob, however, sealed the match long before Marcel Desailly’s rampaging fourth.
Ajax 8-2 Feyenoord: September 18, 1983
Feyenoord’s shameful 10-0 capitulation to PSV Eindhoven earlier this season was not the first time they have been embarrassed by their direct Eredivisie rivals. Whereas today’s shambles went to Eindhoven expecting nothing more than a defeat, this side was vintage Feyenoord. Containing a recently signed Johann Cruyff at the twilight of his career and an emerging Ruud Gullit, this was a fixture between Dutch football’s two biggest clubs with resonance.
Feyenoord quickly fell 3-0 behind. Amazingly in the context of the scoreline, they recovered from this horrendous start. With the score at 3-2, one of the all-time Eredivisie classics looked on the cards. The Rotterdam club reckoned without Marco van Basten. Adding two to his fourteenth minute goal, he and future Manchester United flop Jesper Olsen hit five uncontested goals. The twist: Feyenoord would eventually win the title at Ajax’s expense.
Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea: May 10, 2005
It may seem strange to choose a match played after the title was won, and whose scoreline does not indicate total domination. For the first time in Premier League history, this was the game where we recognised the vulnerability of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. The game reflected the season; Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea tactically outwitting Ferguson’s United before delivering three regal sucker punches, otherwise pedestrian midfielder Tiago’s being the pick.
The enduring image came before the game as grim faced United players stood a guard of honour as champions elect Chelsea entered the pitch. Never have United been more humiliated. Never have you been surer that they would wrest their crown back, which they duly did in 2007.
Milan 1-6 Juventus: April 6, 1997
Arrigo Sacchi must go down as one of the greatest coaches in football history. Between 1987 and 1991 he built a Milan team which was every bit as asphyxiating out of possession as it was wonderful with it. Eight titles, including a Serie A and two European Cups followed. They say never go back, but return Sacchi did. As Milan floundered in mid-table, this Juventus mauling must have made him wish history remained history.
Rarely has one match signified one team’s dominance over such a strong league. Serie A was at the time indisputably the best in the world. Wins were eked out by moments of genius amidst harsh defences, of which the Rossineri’s was purported to be strongest. As Zinedine Zidane probed, Vladimir Jugovic was blunter, hammering in twice from midfield. It is also the game which convinced the majestic Franco Baresi that his tie was up. A youthful Christian Vieri helped himself to a brace at the legendary centre-back’s expense.