Philippe Mexès scored a once-in-a-lifetime goal, GNK Dinamo Zagreb scored after a lifetime of waiting, Isco breathed new life into the tournament and FC Bayern München reigned.
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Team: FC Bayern München
After the heartbreak of last year's final against Chelsea FC, not to mention being pipped to both major German trophies by Borussia Dortmund, Bayern found redemptioon in sensational style. Superb throughout the season, while simultaneously easing to the Bundesliga title with an eventual 25-point margin of victory over Dortmund, their brilliant dismissal of FC Barcelona in the semi-finals brought a fifth European title closer. And although their initial lead was cancelled out at Wembley, Bayern saw off Dortmund 2-1 with a last-minute strike from the man whose missed penalty proved so costly a year ago in Munich, Arjen Robben.
"After the disappointment of last year, and to a [lesser extent] 2010, and the World Cup for me – that's three finals and you don't want the stamp of a loser," Robben told UEFA.com. "At last we did it today, and we can forget about the other things a bit. It was a sense of 'finally'."
Goal: Philippe Mexès (AC Milan)
Mexès had not scored since March 2011 before this stunning strike away to RSC Anderlecht on matchday five. Controlling the ball on his chest, with his back to goal 20 metres out on the right, the French international conjured a magnificent overhead kick that sailed into the far corner. Not bad for a centre-back. "I don't think Mexès will score another goal like that in his life," said Anderlecht midfielder Sacha Kljestan. Quite.
Coach: Jürgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund)
Dortmund may have fallen short but their team and their charismatic coach proved a hit throughout Europe. Having suffered relegation with 1. FSV Mainz 05 in his only previous management role, Klopp has transformed Dortmund since joining in 2008 to the point when a second UEFA Champions League victory was in reach rather than improbable. "Now we start again," he said at Wembley. "In two years it will be in Berlin – and maybe that would be a good place to come back to the Champions League final. I hope next year we'll have even more quality and the game will move on."
Result: FC Barcelona 0-7 FC Bayern München
The biggest aggregate win in a UEFA Champions League semi-final; the first time Barcelona had lost both legs of a European tie in 26 years; and the Azulgrana's heaviest defeat in any competition for almost six years (4-0 in the first match in Munich). Whichever way you put it, this was a scoreline that rocked European football. "We weren't expecting two results like that, for the simple reason that Barcelona have been the best team in the world for years," said Bayern's Javi Martínez.
Moment: Ivan Krstanović (GNK Dinamo Zagreb)
Dinamo lost their first five group games without scoring. However, facing the prospect of joining RC Deportivo La Coruña (2004/05) and Maccabi Haifa FC (2009/10) as the only sides not to find the net in a group stage, striker Krstanović won and scored a penalty at home to FC Dynamo Kyiv deep into added time on matchday six. After 567 minutes – stoppage time included – of trying, Dinamo had broken their duck. "We have to be satisfied," said coach Krunoslav Jurčić. "We all wanted that goal, and that point, and we were rewarded at the end."
Save(s): Christian Abbiati (AC Milan)
Honourable mentions go to David de Gea (Manchester United FC) for a stunning display against Real Madrid CF, Joe Hart (Manchester City FC) for similar heroics against Borussia Dortmund, and Fraser Forster (Celtic FC) for defying Barcelona. However, Abbiati's exploits at FC Zenit St Petersburg on matchday two included a string of scarcely believable stops – most notably to thwart Hulk and Aleksandr Anyukov – that deserve special praise. "I don't know what he's been eating," said Rossoneri midfielder Urby Emanuelson.
Surprise package: Galatasaray AŞ
Defeats by Manchester United on matchday one and SC Braga a fortnight later failed to knock Galatasaray off their stride. The four points Cimbom picked up in subsequent back-to-back games against CFR 1907 Cluj set them on their way, yet it was the successive victories over United and Braga that put them through in style. After they saw off FC Schalke 04 in the last 16, Madrid proved too strong in the quarter-finals – though Galatasaray did not go down without a fight. "We deserve the respect of the whole world," said coach Fatih Terim.
Newcomer: Isco (Málaga CF)
Describing the UEFA Champions League as "the essence of football", Isco showed immense talent during the Liga team's competition debut. Excellent close control, cool finishing and an eye for the killer pass were all evident as the 21-year-old attacking midfielder – first capped by Spain in February – racked up three goals and four assists in eight outings. "An achievement like this seemed impossible a short time ago. It is a dream for everyone here,” Isco said after the Costa del Sol side got to the last eight.
Number: 100 and 50
In a season where Cristiano Ronaldo made his 100th appearance for Portugal and Madrid coach José Mourinho reached 100 UEFA Champions League matches, the tournament's top scorer for 2012/13 registered his 50th strike in the competition during the 4-1 semi-final first-leg defeat in Dortmund.
"Yes, we watch Braveheart, and before every game we also put our kilts on and all dance together."
Celtic's Scott Brown after being asked by a Russian journalist if the Hoops' pre-game rituals include the tartan-friendly Mel Gibson flick.