Thirteen minutes. That's how close Arsenal were to the European Cup.
Against all the odds Arsène Wenger's side had won through to the Final for the first time in their history and so nearly wrote another chapter in the Club's glittering history.
The Gunners arrived in Paris having kept 10 successive clean sheets in the Champions League - a competition record. That despite playing the majority of the tournament with an inexperienced defence deprived of the injured Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole. The 21-year-old Philippe Senderos started every game from the Second Round onwards while right-footed midfielder Mathieu Flamini covered at left back.
"On 37 minutes came the moment that so nearly won the trophy. Thierry Henry whipped in a free-kick from the right and Sol Campbell ghosted in to tower a header past Victor Valdes."
Ajax, FC Thun and Sparta Prague were all put to the sword in the Group Stage, Real Madrid were overrun in their own backyard, Juventus were humbled by the teenage Cesc Fabregas, Villarreal were denied by Jens Lehmann's spot-kick heroics and, until the 77th minute of the Final, Arsenal led Frank Rijkaard's brilliant Barcelona with 10 men.
It had looked improbable 17 minutes in. Lehmann caught the trailing leg of Samuel Eto'o as the Cameroon striker jinked past him. Ludovic Giuly tapped into an empty net but referee Terje Hauge overruled the goal, awarded a free kick on the edge of the box and sent off a stunned Lehmann.
The general consensus was that the goal should have stood and the Gunners be allowed to continue with their full quota. Arsenal just had to deal with it.
And that's what happened. Wenger's players rallied and on 37 minutes came the moment that so nearly won the trophy. Thierry Henry whipped in a free-kick from the right and Sol Campbell ghosted in to tower a header past Victor Valdes.
For much of the second half it seemed like this impossible mission would be accomplished. Henry and Freddie Ljungberg even had chances to put the tie to bed.
However, 13 minutes from time, Eto'o struck home from an acute angle. Soon after Juliano Belletti fired the winner in off substitute stopper Manuel Almunia. Substitute Henrik Larsson made the difference; he set up both Barcelona goals.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.