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Europa League | Final
Aug 21, 2020 at 8pm UK
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3 - 2
Inter Milan

de Jong (12', 33'), Lukaku (74' og.)
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Lukaku (5' pen.), Godin (35')
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Top 10 UEFA Cup/Europa League finals of all time

Ahead of the 2023-24 Europa League final between Atalanta BC and Bayer Leverkusen, Sports Mole rounds up the 10 greatest finals in UEFA Cup/Europa League history.

History will be made in Dublin on Wednesday evening as Atalanta BC and Bayer Leverkusen face off in the 2024 Europa League final.

Both clubs have enjoyed memorable runs to the showpiece event, and for Atalanta there is a chance to lift a first-ever European trophy in their first-ever European final, having toppled the likes of Liverpool, Sporting Lisbon and Marseille en route to Dublin.

However, Gian Piero Gasperini's underdogs are still not the main story of the final as they attempt to halt a Leverkusen juggernaut which has remarkably swept all before them this season, putting together one of the greatest campaigns in football history.

Xabi Alonso's side not only won a first-ever Bundesliga title, but they did it with an unbeaten season and are now only two games away from remaining unbeaten in all competitions throughout an entire campaign.

Victories over Atalanta on Wednesday and then Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal final at the weekend would achieve that unprecedented feat while also earning a treble for a club that had only won two major trophies in their entire history before this season.

If Leverkusen produce another one of their trademark late shows in order to achieve that then we could well be talking about another all-time classic final in this competition, joining a long list of previous thrillers in the UEFA Cup and Europa League.

Ahead of the 2024 showpiece, Sports Mole has delved back into the history books and picked out the 10 very best finals from this competition in both its current and previous guise.

10. Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 2-3 Sevilla (2015)

Sevilla were already the kings of the competition in the modern era by 2015, and they went into this final as holders against surprise package Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk - a Ukrainian club for whom this final came just four years before the entire club was dissolved.

Dnipro had already upset all the odds to make it to Warsaw and looked on course to do so again when former Blackburn Rovers striker Nikola Kalinic gave them the lead after only seven minutes.

However, two goals in the space of three minutes from Grzegorz Krychowiak and Carlos Bacca turned the game around before a ludicrously languid Ruslan Rotan free kick restored parity again at the end of a frenetic first half.

Bacca then won it for Sevilla with 17 minutes remaining, firing his side to a record fourth title and seeing them become the first team to benefit from the new rule rewarding the Europa League winners with Champions League qualification the following season.

Even so, 12 months later Sevilla were back in the final again to lift the trophy for a third successive time.

9. Feyenoord 3-2 Borussia Dortmund (2002)

Feyenoord players celebrate winning the 2002 UEFA Cup final© Reuters

Almost 30 years on from their last European trophy, Feyenoord found themselves with a golden opportunity to end that drought when they reached the final in their own stadium in 2002.

The Dutch outfit made it there the hard way, recording one-goal aggregate victories over Freiburg, Rangers and Inter Milan in addition to a penalty shootout triumph over domestic rivals PSV Eindhoven, whereas Dortmund - Champions League winners only five years prior - had cruised through the knockout rounds in comparison.

Feyenoord boasted the tournament's top-scorer in their ranks, though, and Pierre van Hooijdonk added to his tally with a penalty and free kick in the space of seven minutes to send the hosts into the break with a two-goal lead.

Dortmund's hopes looked bleak having also seen club legend Jurgen Kohler sent off in his final game for conceding the penalty, but a spot kick of their own - won and converted by Marcio Amoroso - brought them back into the match two minutes after the interval.

Feyenoord's two-goal lead was restored by Jon Dahl Tomasson just three minutes after that, though, and the Dutch club held out despite Jan Koller pulling another back with a fine volley and Dortmund launching wave after wave of attacks in the final half an hour.

8. Lazio 0-3 Inter Milan (1998)

Italian football in the 1990s has a certain degree of inimitable nostalgia, and the 1998 UEFA Cup final between Serie A rivals Lazio and Inter Milan - the first one-legged final in the competition - was arguably the peak.

From the Brazilian Ronaldo wreaking havoc to Taribo West's hair, there were cult references almost everywhere you looked - not to mention a thrilling contest in which Inter Milan stamped their authority on Lazio with a 3-0 win which could have been even worse, with Ronaldo and Ivan Zamorano both hitting the woodwork too.

The deadly strike duo did both get on the scoresheet, though, bookending the scorers either side of a thunderous Javier Zanetti strike which ranks among the greatest ever UEFA Cup final goals and surely the best of the 21 he went on to score in 858 games for the club.

Throw two red cards into the drama and, while one-sided, the 1998 final was a classic as Inter lifted the trophy for a third time in the space of eight years - making them the most successful club in the competition's history at the time.

Italian clubs between them won the UEFA Cup eight times in the space of 11 years during this decade, in addition to one reaching the Champions League final every year from 1992 to 1998, but Atalanta are now bidding to become the first Serie A club to lift this trophy since 1999.

7. Liverpool 4-3 agg. Club Brugge (1976)

Liverpool lifted the UEFA Cup for the second time in 1976 in a two-legged tie widely credited with giving the players the belief for the European Cup success which would follow, lifting that biggest prize of all four times in the eight years that followed this triumph.

The first leg of the tie also set the template for famous European comebacks by Liverpool in the future, with Bob Paisley's side looking in trouble when they conceded twice in the opening 15 minutes of the first leg at Anfield.

In scenes eerily similar to a certain Champions League final 29 years later, though, the Reds stormed back with three goals in six second-half minutes to wrestle control of the tie back into their own hands.

A Ray Kennedy stunner just before the hour mark set them on their way before half-time introduction Jimmy Case scrambled home from close range and Kevin Keegan completed the quickfire turnaround from the penalty spot.

Liverpool still had to travel to Belgium for the second leg, but the home side's early penalty was quickly cancelled out by another Keegan strike to secure a 4-3 aggregate triumph.

6. Celtic 2-3 Porto (2003)

Porto's 2002-03 UEFA Cup campaign was the first time much of Europe became aware of a young up-and-coming manager called Jose Mourinho, and their victory over Celtic in the final provided the template for their shock Champions League triumph one year later.

History was bound to be made with no club from Portugal or Scotland having lifted the trophy before, and a whopping 80,000 Celtic fans were reported to make the trip out to Seville hoping it would be them.

That sizeable contingent ended up disappointed, but the neutrals did not as a topsy-turvy contest really caught fire in the second half and ended up going all the way to extra time.

Derlei opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time only for Celtic's talisman Henrik Larsson to restore parity almost immediately after the restart with his 200th goal for the club and his 10th of the season in the UEFA Cup.

Porto were back in front just seven minutes after that, but once more their lead was short-lived as Larsson struck again to make it 2-2 and force extra time.

Celtic's task was made tougher by a rash Bobo Balde challenge which earned him a second yellow card, though, and Derlei doubled his tally with five minutes remaining of extra time to fire Porto to the trophy, despite the Portuguese outfit also having a man sent off late on.

5. Ipswich Town 5-4 agg. AZ (1981)

While this list is littered with famous names from European football, the 1981 UEFA Cup final was contested between two more unfamiliar clubs as far as the upper echelon is concerned.

Dutch outfit AZ had only been formed 14 years earlier but had quickly become a force in the Netherlands thanks to some backing from wealthy investors, while legendary manager Bobby Robson had done what even Alf Ramsey could not and led Ipswich to a first ever European final.

AZ had stormed to the Eredivisie title with six games to spare, and yet they were no match for Ipswich in a one-sided first leg at Portman Road as the Tractor Boys ran out 3-0 winners - John Wark opening the scoring from the spot for his 13th goal of a remarkable UEFA Cup campaign during which he netted in every round.

After the match Robson said that his side had "blitzed" the "best of Dutch football", while he is later reported to have made an even bolder claim ahead of the second leg, threatening to leave Ipswich if they blew their three-goal advantage.

The chances of those words coming back to bite the future England and Barcelona boss looked impossible when Ipswich took an early lead in the second leg to extend their aggregate advantage, leaving AZ needing four goals without reply to force extra time.

By half time, AZ had three of those goals, but another Wark strike - a record-equalling 14th of the tournament season - shortly after the half-hour mark gave them some breathing space and even a fourth for AZ was not enough as they ran out 4-2 winners on the night, but 5-4 losers on aggregate.

4. Bayer Leverkusen 3-3 agg. Espanyol (1988)

While AZ's comeback in 1981 fell agonisingly short, Bayer Leverkusen's in the final seven years later ranks among the greatest in European history as they picked up their first - and to date only - European trophy.

Espanyol appeared to have taken the tie away from the Germans within an 11-minute blitz either side of half time in the first leg in Spain, as a brace from Sebastian Losada either side of a low strike from Miquel Soler put the hosts in command.

And so it remained until almost the hour mark of the return fixture in Leverkusen, when the hosts launched a stirring second-half comeback to level things up on aggregate and force extra time.

Brazilian striker Tita, who had already seen a goal chalked off for nodding the ball out of the goalkeeper's hands as he went for a goal kick, capitalised on another defensive error to spark the comeback after 57 minutes.

A thumping diving header from Falko Gotz saw Leverkusen reduce the deficit further just six minutes later, but it was not until nine minutes from the end of the 90 that they completed the comeback and forced extra time.

The extra 30 passed goalless to send the UEFA Cup final into penalties for only the second time, and there was another mini-comeback in that with Leverkusen missing their first spot kick but then scoring their next three, whereas Espanyol scored their first two but then missed three in a row to hand Leverkusen the trophy.

3. Napoli 5-4 agg. Stuttgart (1989)

Three years on from Diego Maradona inspiring Argentina to World Cup glory, the maestro attempted to do something similar for Napoli on the European stage.

The legendary number 10 had come to embody Napoli as they emerged as a force in the Italian game following his arrival, and the 1989 UEFA Cup triumph was arguably their crowning glory during their greatest era.

It was by no means straightforward, though, with Stuttgart taking the lead in Naples before a largely subdued Maradona levelled things up from the penalty spot with 22 minutes remaining.

Careca's strike three minutes from time ensured that Napoli travelled to Germany for the second leg with the lead, and they enhanced that when Alemao gave them a 1-0 advantage on the night in Stuttgart.

A young Jurgen Klinsmann soon responded, but Napoli looked in complete command when goals from Ciro Ferrara and Careca handed them a 3-1 lead on the night and 5-2 advantage on aggregate with less than half an hour remaining.

However, two goals in the final 20 minutes, including one with only one minute of normal time remaining, made for a thrilling finale and Napoli just about held on for their first and so far only major European trophy.

2. Sevilla 2-2 Espanyol - Sevilla win on penalties (2007)

The foundation for Sevilla's dominance of this competition had been set with their first triumph in 2006, and just one year later they were back again to retain the trophy - the first team to do so since Real Madrid in 1986.

Hampden Park hosted the first all-Spanish UEFA Cup final as Espanyol looked to banish the demons of their collapse 19 years prior, but there was more heartbreak to come for the Catalan outfit.

Sevilla took the lead through Adriano after 18 minutes, only for Albert Riera to level things up for Espanyol 10 minutes later.

Espanyol may have felt that they edged the opening 45 minutes, but their chances of success were hit by a 68th-minute red card for Moises Hurtado and in the end they were forced to withstand heavy Sevilla pressure to force extra time.

A Freddie Kanoute goal at the end of the first half of extra time looked like being enough to hand Sevilla the trophy, but substitute Jonatas struck with five minutes remaining to take the game to penalties.

In all there were 43 shots during the 120 minutes, including 18 on target, but it all came down to the players' nerves from 12 yards in the end and Sevilla scored three of their four spot kicks whereas Espanyol missed three of theirs.

1. Liverpool 5-4 Alaves (2001)

In truth, there was not much competition when it came to top spot in this list.

The 2001 UEFA Cup final was a madcap affair which had everything - nine goals, two red cards, a penalty, an own goal, a golden goal, a comeback and, at the end of it all, a trophy which completed a treble of FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup for Gerard Houllier's Liverpool.

Even the story ahead of the game was fascinating; Liverpool as four-time European Cup winners and one of the continent's biggest clubs were appearing in their first European final since being banned in the wake of the 1985 Heysel disaster, while Alaves had risen from relative obscurity to reach the final in their first ever season of European competition.

The tale only got better when the opening whistle went, with goals from Markus Babbel and Steven Gerrard giving Liverpool a 2-0 lead within 16 minutes in Dortmund, and Gary McAllister then ensuring the two-goal advantage remained going into half time after Alaves had halved the deficit.

The Spanish outfit came flying out of the traps in the second half, though, with Javi Moreno scoring twice in the opening four minutes to restore parity.

Houllier turned to Liverpool favourite Robbie Fowler off the bench after 64 minutes and the move paid quick dividends as he restored his side's lead eight minutes later, but the drama was not over there as Jordi Cruyff - son of Johan and formerly on Manchester United's books - rescued extra time in the 88th minute.

Alaves may have even thought they deserved more having seen two penalty appeals turned down late on - one of which saw Magno handed a yellow card for diving which proved costly in extra time as he was shown a second to earn his marching orders.

The Spanish underdogs were then reduced to nine men early in the second half of extra time when captain Antonio Karmona also saw red, and from the resulting free kick Delfi Geli headed into his own net - an own goal which handed Liverpool immediate victory courtesy of the golden goal rule.

The unforgettable contest saw Liverpool lift the trophy for a record-equalling third time and was the only major European club final to have been decided by a golden goal before that rule was scrapped.

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Group A

Q Germany Germany22006
2 Switzerland Switzerland21104
3 Scotland flag Scotland20111
4 Hungary Hungary20020

Group B

Q Spain Spain22006
2 Italy Italy21013
3 Albania national flag Albania20111
4 Croatia Croatia20111

Group C

1 England flag England21104
2 Denmark Denmark20202
3 Slovenia Slovenia20202
4 Serbia Serbia20111

Group D

1 Netherlands Netherlands21104
2 France France21104
3 Austria Austria21013
4 Poland Poland20020

Group E

1 Romania Romania11003
2 Ukraine Ukraine21013
3 Slovakia Slovakia21013
4 Belgium Belgium10010

Group F

1 Turkey Turkey11003
2 Portugal Portugal11003
3 Czech Republic Czech Republic10010
4 Georgia Georgia10010

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