Every British Club's First European Cup Win: What Did It Look Like?

Manchester City could become the 7th British team to win the European Cup
10:34, 06 Jun 2023

Manchester City are on the brink of making history. Never before have they won a European Cup. Never before have they been kings of Europe. Now only Inter Milan stand in their way, as Istanbul beckons them. If they manage to do it, they will become the seventh different British club to win the Champions League, but when did those club’s win their first titles? We’ve taken a look back through the history books to find out. 

Celtic - 1967

The Lisbon Lions became the first team from Britain, and the first team from northern European to win the European Cup. Led by the legendary Jock Stein, an all-Scottish Celtic team featuring the likes of Billy McNeil, Tommy Gemmell and Stevie Chalmers beat Inter Milan 2-1 in the final in Portugal. 

It was a landmark moment for Scottish football, and the British game. Celtic beat Zurich, Nantes, Vojvodina and Dukla Prague on their way to the final where, despite falling behind from the spot, goals from Gemmel and Chalmers secured their most famous win. They’d lose another final in 1970 and this remains their only European Cup triumph. 


Manchester United - 1968

After the Lisbon Lions came the Busby Babes. Ten years after the Munich Air Disaster, during which 23 people died including eight players, the iconic manager rebuilt Manchester United to become kings of Europe. 

Bobby Charlton survived the Munich Air Disaster and ten years later, captained the side that won the final 4-1 against Eusebio’s Benfica. With Nobby Stiles and George Best in the eleven, United had built an entertaining side that overcame Real Madrid 4-3 in the semi-finals. By the time the final rolled around it felt like destiny, and three goals in the first ten minutes of extra-time secured the win.

United would go on to win two more, in 1999 (nobody’s mentioned that recently) and 2008.

Liverpool - 1977

The most successful English team in European history had to wait until 1977 to win their first European Cup. Liverpool have now won six Champions League titles, double that of their fiercest rivals Manchester United, but their first was inspired by Kevin Keegan and co. 

Managed by Bob Paisley, a team featuring Ray Clemence, Emlyn Hughes and Steve Heighway were an attacking force to be reckoned with and had won back-to-back league titles in England. However, this was their crowning moment. They hit 14 goals in four second-leg ties on the way to the final and then hit three past Borussia Monchengladbach in the final. 

A stunning victory. And the first of many. 

Nottingham Forest - 1979

The great Clive Tyldesley described Nottingham Forest’s triumph in 1979 better than I ever could. Read all about it, from Brian Clough to Tyldesley’s mates winning the European Cup. They’d only go and defend their title a year later as one of English football’s greatest stories was written. 

Aston Villa - 1982

Aston Villa’s march to the European Cup is still sung about on the terraces of Villa Park to this day. Villa became the sixth winner in a row from England but they were underdogs in the final against Bayern Munich. They fought their way past Valur, Dynamo Berlin, Dynamo Kiev and Anderlecht on their way to Rotterdam - with their remarkable defensive record taking them all the way.

Over the course of the quarter-final, semi-final and final - where they came up against lethal goalscorer Dieter Hoeneß - they didn’t concede a single goal. Five matches under huge pressure. Zero goals conceded. That record becomes even more remarkable when you consider that in the final first-choice goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer went off with a neck injury and was replaced by Nigel Spink, a youngster who had made just one previous first team appearance.

Spink had the game of his life to keep out the Germans, making save after save, and a solitary goal from Peter Withe was enough to win them the trophy. A remarkable tale. 

Chelsea - 2012 

John Terry’s slip cost Chelsea the 2008 final on penalties, as Manchester United won their second crown in an all-English affair. However, they were back four years later as Roberto di Matteo led them to one of the most unlikely wins. He’d only come in midway through the season but oversaw an epic second leg comeback against Napoli and a win over Benfica to take them to the semi-finals. 

There they faced the greatest club side we have ever seen: Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. Somehow, Chelsea beat them 3-2 on aggregate, despite Terry’s red card, before they faced Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Bayern were favourites on home soil, but Chelsea kept on fighting. Didier Drogba scored an 88th minute equaliser before Petr Cech saved a penalty in extra-time to take it to spot-kicks. There, it was left to Drogba to win the Champions League with the final penalty. Unforgettable - and they’d win it again in 2021 with a victory over Man City.

*18+ | BeGambleAware

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