F365's Top Ten Champions League Comebacks

With both English clubs in need of a Toca's Miracle away at Bayern Munich and Barcelona this week, Daniel Storey picks ten comebacks from Champions League history to inspire them...

Last Updated: 11/03/14 at 10:18 Post Comment

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10) Chelsea v Napoli, 2011/12
A 3-1 first leg defeat at the Stadio San Paolo proved to be Andre Villas-Boas' last European match as Chelsea manager, with Roberto di Matteo installed as his replacement by the time the second leg at Stamford Bridge arrived. A first-half Didier Drogba goal gave Chelsea the start they needed, John Terry adding a second. Napoli's Gokhan Inler and Frank Lampard then traded goals before a Branislav Ivanovic goal in extra-time sent Chelsea through.

"I've had some great nights but this will probably go down in club history," said new manager Di Matteo at full-time. It was a line that he got used to repeating during a Champions League run that ended so famously against Bayern Munich in the final.


9) Arsenal v Porto, 2009/10
Arsenal may have only trailed 2-1 from the first leg in Portugal, and they may have eventually found progression pretty easy, thrashing Porto 5-0 at the Emirates, but this was a side that had never before turned around a first-leg deficit in the Champions League.

That, however, is not the reason for the inclusion. Oh no. Because, and sit down to read this, Nicklas Bendtner scored a hat-trick. Three goals! As rare as Jupiter, Venus and Mercury aligning together, this was a night on which the Dane's egoistical self-importance was matched by his performance.


8) Monaco v Real Madrid, 2003/04
Quite how Monaco managed to reach the 2004 Champions League final is unclear, given that they had finished two places above the relegation zone two seasons before. Their appearance certainly owed much to a hugely impressive response to losing 4-2 to Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu, a late Fernando Morientes goal against his former club giving the principality a mere glimmer of hope for the second leg.

Things didn't look much better with Real 1-0 up in the Stade Louis II approaching half-time, but Ludovic Giuly equalised just before the break, and two more second-half goals from Giuly and Morientes, and Monaco had pulled themselves through against a side containing Ronaldo, Raul, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Carlos, amongst others. They would then beat Chelsea in the semi-finals.


7) Deportivo La Coruna v Paris St Germain, 2000/01
Deportivo have only participated in five different Champions League campaigns, but this is the first of two entries on this list. In the second group stage in 2000, they faced a PSG side at the Estadio Municipal de Riazor that contained future Premier League players Mikel Arteta, Ali Bernabia, Jay-Jay Okocha, Sylvain Distin, Bernard Mendy and Aliou Cisse, with Nicolas Anelka on the bench.

Depor found themselves 2-0 down at half-time, and conceded a third shortly after the break, as they appeared to be falling to a humbling defeat.

However, the introduction of Diego Tristan and Walter Pandiani in an effort to claw their way back into the match transformed things completely. Pandiani scored a hat-trick and Tristan the other as Deportivo turned around a three goal deficit within 24 minutes. They would eventually advance to the quarter-finals, falling short in another comeback attempt against Leeds.


6) Liverpool v Olympiakos, 2004/05
Whilst Liverpool were only ever one goal behind Olympiakos on the night in their group stage match in 2004/5, the mathematics of the group meant that a victory by two goals was required in order to qualify at the expense of the Greeks.

Without a first half goal to show for their endeavours, Liverpool introduced the mighty Florent Sinama Pongolle at the break, and he scored an equaliser almost immediately. With 12 minutes, Rafael Benitez repeated the trick, bringing on Neil Mellor only to see the striker score within three minutes.

With five minutes remaining, a knockdown from Mellor found captain Steven Gerrard 25 yards from goal, his driven strike lashed past Antonios Nikopolidis. Cue exuberant celebrations and a run that would take Liverpool all the way to the final in Istanbul.


5) Manchester United v Juventus, 1998/99
After drawing the home leg 1-1, Manchester United were always likely to find it tough in the Stadio Delle Alpi, and a brace from Filippo Inzaghi confirmed such suspicions.

What then followed was one of the most memorable individual performances in Champions League history, with captain Roy Keane dragging his side through, despite having received a booking whilst still behind on the night that would rule him out of the final.

This was a hard man, defensive midfielder acting as the complete footballer. Keane scored the first before his driving runs and incisive passing allowed Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke to seal United's qualification.

Alex Ferguson was understandably hugely impressed by his captain's performance. "The minute he was booked and out of the final he seemed to redouble his efforts to get the team there," Fergie said. "It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field."


4) Werder Bremen v Anderlecht, 1993/94
There is still an article on the Werder Bremen official website entitled 'A Green Miracle In The Champions League', paying tribute to the remarkable comeback completed in December 1993.

After losing their first group game 3-2 to Porto, the pressure was on Bundesliga champions Bremen to respond, but found themselves 3-0 down with 25 minutes left to Anderlecht, the heavy rain, cold and dreary result forcing many of the German fans to leave the ground long before the final whistle.

What followed was five goals in 23 minutes, New Zealand international Wynton Rufer scoring the first and last to seal an phenomenal turnaround. The striker walked on his hands across the pitch at the end of the game, whilst Otto Rehhagel danced in the rain.


3) Deportivo La Coruna v AC Milan, 2003/04
Although Walter Pandiani had given the Spanish side the lead in the San Siro, Deportivo eventually succumbed to a 4-1 defeat in Italy, largely thanks to the majesty of a 19-year-old Kaka, who scored twice.

Depor manager Javier Irureta was less than confident going into the second leg, promising to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela should his side progress. "This is of course a very complex, difficult and challenging task," he said. "But in football, miracles often happen, things you might not rationally expect."

Irureta's prayers were answered. Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque all scored before half-time, with the winner coming with 15 minutes remaining from Fran Gonzalez. The Spanish side would lose to eventual champions Porto, whilst Milan would get a chance to make up for the defeat in the final the following year against Liverpool. Ah well.


2) Manchester United v Bayern Munich, 1998/99
'He who laughs last, laughs longest' is the obvious cliché for a match in which Bayern led for 87 minutes and trailed for 98 seconds, yet ended it broken.

By the time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had scored in the third minute of injury time, just a hundred seconds after Teddy Sheringham had turned in Ryan Giggs' weak shot, the entire mood had been reversed. Referee Pierluigi Collina restarted play, but first had to physically haul several Bayern players from the floor, where they lay distraught.

Watching the video back, that abiding image of Samuel Kuffour beating the floor in mental agony, tears straming down his face, brings a lump to the throat. A 22-year-old man, emotionally battered by the game he loved.


1) Liverpool v AC Milan, 2004/05
Sometimes, football does a wonderful job in reminding us just how it can inspire feelings ranging from woe to wonder in a matter of minutes, with an awful lot in that short time in between.

At half-time, Liverpool were spent, the Guardian's live text describing it thusly: 'This is turning into a rout. If the Liverpool team was a dog, you'd shoot it at this stage. Can they claw their way back? No chance, going on their dreadful first half performance." It was an opinion shared by Liverpool fans both at home and in Istanbul.

And then the unthinkable happened. Within the space of seven second half minutes, reality gave way to footballing make believe, with Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso scoring as Liverpool seemingly attacked at will, utterly opposite to their underwhelming first-half display.

By the time Jerzy Dudek had saved penalties from Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko, the greatest comeback in Champions League history had been completed. A squad including Djimi Traore, Scott Carson, Josemi, Antonio Nunez and Igor Biscan had won club football's biggest prize.

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