When Gabriel Hanot, the editor of the French sports newspaper L’Equipesuggested a European Cup match in the 1950s, I can honestly say that he never envisioned two teams from the same country competing in the final.
But now that his idea has been rolled out to today’s behemoth, the Champions League, such a prospect is once again coming into view.
After the breathtaking semi-final, the first leg between Man City and Real Madrid, there is a good chance that we can see a third all-English final in four years.
Whether that’s a good thing or not is obviously subjective, but what we can do is compare what happened in such games with those of a different nature.
There have been three previous all-English finals, while five other ‘title matches’ have been contested by teams from the same country – three all-Spanish, one all-Italian and one all-German.
Let’s start by calling them back…
2021 – Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0
Last year’s showpiece was decided by a goal from Kai Havertz, as Chelsea continued to hold onto the Indian mark to their English rivals.
Chelsea beat them in both the league and the FA Cup leading up to this match and again defended superbly to limit Man City to a handful of chances. On the other hand, they seized their opportunity when it was presented.
Pep Guardiola arguably undermined City’s chances, with an unusual no-midfield line-up as both Rodri and Fernandinho were surprisingly left out.
The attacking approach did not yield any results. Indeed, the match only had 15 shots — the lowest number in the 16 years we found data for.
What they said: “Chelsea defended like demons to take out Manchester City, but this was a perfectly calibrated triumph, built on a structured attacking approach, choosing the right moments for the transition and relieved by the fluidity of Havertz’ technique.”
David Hytner, Guardian
2019 – Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0
A game without drama, due in large part to Liverpool being up front within two minutes thanks to a controversial penalty scored by Mo Salah.
The fact that it was played in Madrid in early June didn’t help much either.
Spurs, who played a clearly unfit Harry Kane, rarely threatened, although the stats show they had 14 shots, three of them on target.
Liverpool added a second three minutes from time via perennial super-sub Divock Origi to seal the win.
what they said“They have won the first silverware of Klopp’s era with the greatest club trophy of all and the sixth European Cup in the glorious history of this club, to finally fulfill the potential of this team and this whole season – even if the performance in this 2-0 win over an even poorer Tottenham Hotspur didn’t materialize either, it was one of Liverpool’s finest recent moments, one of the worst recent finals.” †
Miguel Delaney, Independent
2008 – Manchester United beat Chelsea 6-5 on pins (after 1-1 draw)
The best of the all-English final was the first, one of the reasons the outcome was questionable until the final kick.
Manchester United started better with Cristiano Ronaldo heading them up front, but Frank Lampard equalized just before half-time.
Chelsea used that as a platform, but despite being the better side after the break, they couldn’t find a winner.
Overtime and penalties followed and Chelsea were left to regret forever John Terry’s untimely misstep as he emerged in the torrential rain at 4-4, knowing that if he scored, the Blues would be champions. His misplaced effort hit the post.
Minutes later, Edwin van der Sar’s save from Nicolas Anelka meant the trophy would go back to Old Trafford.
what they said: “The penalty shootout concluded a thrilling game with passages of the highest caliber, with United dominated in the first half, but Chelsea showed tremendous reserves of character, resilience and ability to dominate after the break.” †
Phil McNulty, BBC Sport
Other finals with teams from the same country
2016 – Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 5-3 on pens (after 1-1 draw)
2014 – Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 4-1 aet (1-1 after 90 minutes)
2013 – Bayern Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1
2003 – AC Milan beat Juventus 3-2 on pins (after a 0-0 draw)
2000 – Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-0
What the stats say
You can argue all day whether one final was ‘better’ than the other, but in terms of tangibility we can look at goals and shots.
It is generally believed that more goals make for better games, but comparing the all-English finals with others is not a good read for those looking for that kind of entertainment.
The Premier League’s three finals produced just five goals, averaging 1.67 per game.
In comparison, we can look at a long study period – we go back to the 1997/98 season, the first season in which more than one club per country entered. Two years later, no fewer than four per country were admitted.
That’s a total of 24 finals to watch and if we only use the goals scored in 90 minutes, they come out to 2.63 goals per game.
Just look at finals between teams from two different countries and that number of goals per game rises to 2.76.
What about shots?
Well, the stats comparison also shows fewer shots in those matches of the same country, though the contrast isn’t that great.
The same country’s matches yielded 25.17 shots per match, while the others averaged 26.3.
If we look specifically at the all-English final, they only saw 24.67 shots per game.
In short, the numbers suggest it might be better to see Liverpool face Real Madrid in the final rather than Manchester City.
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