Comeback wins are exhilarating for fans, memorable for players and heartbreaking for the opposition. They are also inspiring in a non-sports context. In a new series, we take a look at some of the biggest comebacks in sports, starting with football.
Barcelona vs Paris Saint-Germain, UCL Round of 16 2016-17
The two leg home-and-away format of the UCL makes it possible for teams to overcome a bad result suffered in the first leg. Even so, no team in the history of the competition had managed to surmount a four goal deficit before FC Barcelona did so in this unforgettable Champions League clash.
PSG’s wealthy Qatari owners have had long-standing ambition of winning a European title, sparing no expense in assembling a squad consisting of the world’s finest players.
Being 4-0 up against mighty Barcelona after the 1st leg of the round of 16, it looked like PSG had all but crossed the first hurdle on their quest to a maiden title.
FCB are never a club that should be taken lightly. Heading into Camp Nou for the 2nd leg however, the Catalans did not have history in their favour.
Although Suarez scored for Barca in the 3rd minute and PSG’s Kurzawa made it 2-0 for the hosts after an own goal, at half-time the deficit still looked a bridge too far for the home team.
Edison Cavani’s 62nd minute away goal all but sealed the deal for the Parisians, even though Messi had scored off a penalty earlier in the half.
The UCL has famously produced injury-time miracles, and what followed in the closing minutes was nothing else but. It was Neymar’s turn to be a hero for the Catalan club.
The Brazilian first scored in the 88th minute, following it up with a successful penalty in the first minute of added time. The aggregate was now 5-5 though PSG still had the edge thanks to the away goal rule.
Neymar Junior was not done yet. It was his assist to goal scorer Sergio Roberto in the dying moments of the match that ensured his team’s victory.
This 6-5 win was perhaps the last big Barca moment of recent times. The club would themselves be on the receiving end of come-from-behind wins by Roma and Liverpool in subsequent seasons.
AS Roma vs Barcelona, UCL Quarter Finals 2017-18
In the first leg of this fixture, Barcelona cruised to an easy 4-1 home win over Roma. Two of the goals were own-goals by Roma players. The Italian club have never won a major European title; Barca with their vaunted lineup were undoubtedly considered on-course to go through to the next stage.
Things were to change dramatically a week later. Roma, who needed at least 3 goals, got their first in the 6th minute via striker Edin Dezeko. Dzeko in the first leg had scored a crucial away goal that would prove to be decisive.
Daniele De Rossi scored via penalty in the 58th minute. Roma could dare to dream. After near misses, the hosts finally found the winning goal in the 83rd minute as Manolas headed home a corner. The aggregate now read 4-4 with the Rome-based club the winners due to the away goal.
Roma had achieved the unthinkable. The club reached the European semifinals for the first time since 1984. They had also proven that the Barca magic was fading. The next year, Liverpool would overturn a similar deficit against the Catalans.
Barcelona has still not overcome these two reverses judging by their recent performances in the La Liga. The club desperately needs a reset.
Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid, UCL Final Lisbon 2014
The 2014 Champions League final turned out to be the Madrid derby. Real were looking for their first title since 2002. Their fans were eager to see the club win a record 10th title, La Decima.
Atletico on the other hand were fresh from a rare La Liga victory, and were looking for a maiden Champions League title to cement their position as one of the next big clubs of Europe.
For 57 minutes of the match, it looked like Atleti could get a fairytale double. Diego Godin’s 36th minute goal was the only factor separating the two teams.
After a goalless 90 mins for Real, Sergio Ramos finally opened the scoring for the Los Blancos 3 minutes into stoppage time. This late goal forced the match into extra time.
Atletico, who were just minutes away from triumph had to play another half an hour of football thanks to a defensive lapse. Their players seemed mentally drained.
Real having plenty of experience in winning titles capitalized on this. Their expensive new signing Gareth Bale got them in the 110th minute. Later Marcelo and Ronaldo’s goals added insult to injury for Atletico supporters.
The 4-1 score line does not justify how close the match was. It does show however how crucial each and every second is in football.
Liverpool vs AC Milan, UCL Final Istanbul 2005
No article on top footballing comebacks can be complete without this match. Liverpool FC have a passionate fan base, and with wins like these, it’s no wonder why.
Back in 2005, AC Milan were one of the top clubs in Europe while Liverpool were considered fortunate to have made it to the UCL finals, their first since 1985. The Reds did not have the best of times in the Premier League; their arch rivals Everton had finished ahead of them in the points table. Milan on the other hand had finished second in the Serie A and were looking to add yet another UCL title with their sixth having come in 2003.
The first half of the final followed a familiar script. Milan scored 3 goals, one by the veteran Maldini right in the 1st minute and a brace by striker Hernan Crespo just before half-time.
What happened in the second half though is inc-red-ible. Captain Gerrard opened the scoring for Liverpool via a header at the 54-minute mark. Substitute Vladimir Smicer scored a stunning goal just two minutes later. Xabi Alonso made it 3-3 at the hour mark, scoring on the rebound after a penalty miss. The game had turned on it’s head in a frantic five minutes.
Both sides had their chances in the remainder of the match though neither could manage the decisive goal. After even extra-time failed to break the deadlock, it was time for penalties.
Luck that day was on Liverpool’s side. For ACM, Serginho and Pirlo missed their shots and the Rossoneri could only score twice. The Merseyside club on the other hand scored 3 out of 4. It was upto the usually reliable Shevchenko to equalise for Milan but his shot was blocked by the Reds’ goalie Dudek. Winning 3-2 in penalties, Liverpool had pulled off a heist.
The triumph set off ecstatic celebrations among LFC supporters world over, none more so than in the club’s hometown in northwest England. Steven Gerrard became a bonafide Merseyside legend. The match still evokes goosebumps among football fans.
Manchester United vs Bayern Munich, UCL Final Barcelona 1999
In the 2000s, Manchester United became a phenomenon with a global fan base. Their long time manager Alex Ferguson became a coaching legend. It all started with a remarkable come-from-behind win against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final of 1999.
Mario Basler scored for Bayern in just the 6th minute of the match. The German club then held on to the lead for nearly 90 minutes.
Just when it looked as though the sole goal would be enough for Munich, Teddy Sheringham scored off a David Beckham corner 1 minute into stoppage time. Just a minute later, off another corner, current ManU manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored the winner off yet another Beckham corner.
United completed a historic treble with this win, and were the first English club in 15 years to become champions of Europe. The win also paved way for the worldwide popularity of the English Premier League which remains till date.