Seven other great Premier League comebacks

Date published: Sunday 8th April 2018 4:10

Oh sure, Saturday evening’s second-half comeback by Manchester United was memorable. But does it hold its own with this lot?


Manchester United (vs Tottenham, September 2001)
You know about the game, so let’s just enjoy the quotes in full:

“I thought I knew what the group might need, that we didn’t need a big team talk,” said Roy Keane, Manchester United’s captain when they were trailing 3-0 at White Hart Lane.

“It was Tottenham at home. I thought ’please don’t go on about Tottenham, we all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll fucking do them’.

“He came in and said: ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham’, and that was it. Brilliant.”

In Keane’s defence, he retracted that view when watching Spurs draw with Real Madrid in the Bernabeu in October 2017:

“There was a saying – ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham’. Those days are over, they look like they belong with the top teams in Europe.

“Those days are over. I think Spurs now look rock solid, a really good team full of energy. We saw the game against Real Madrid, they were very brave, showed a lot of courage, looked like they belong with all the top teams in Europe now, and I think their manager and players deserve great credit – this is a really good Tottenham team now.”


Fulham (vs Manchester City, April 2008)
Manchester City losing 3-2 at home in April having been 2-0 up at half-time, is it? Where Roy Hodgson leads, Jose Mourinho follows. I’ve always said that.

In late-April 2008, Fulham were several types of a bit buggered. With three games of the Premier League season remaining, Hodgson’s team were five points from safety, and their poor goal difference dictated that they probably needed to win all three remaining matches to survive. At 2-0 down with 65 minutes played away at top-half Manchester City, they would be mathematically relegated if scores stayed the same. Birmingham were leading 2-0 against Liverpool too.

What then followed was a Hodgson-inspired dream sequence. He sent on Diomansy Kamara, who scored twice including a stoppage-time winner that sent the away support into raptures. Liverpool equalised against Birmingham, who then lost to Fulham the following week, and a 1-0 away win at Portsmouth on the final day relegated both Birmingham and Reading.


Newcastle United (vs Arsenal, February 2011)
The greatest comeback in Premier League history, but one that is now tinged with sadness after the tragic passing of Cheick Tiote in 2017. The Ivorian scored the left-footed volley that completed the ludicrous scoring. I’ll turn to my Newcastle United-supporting mate to take it from here:

“I ended up about three rows in front, with a fan I vaguely recognise from previous celebrations screaming in my face. I didn’t even see the ball hit the net, so clear was it that it was going in. Some people were jumping, but others just stood still, looking up with their eyes closed.

“The chances of us winning a trophy? Minimal. Despite that, the blind faith we have keeps us going after each hard luck story. Occasionally on this amazing journey we have the odd moment that warms the heart. Not the sneaky one-nil home win to the relegation fodder, but the moments you look back on for years to come and they bring a beaming smile to your face. That was one of those.”


Wolves (vs Leicester, October 2003)
Who would have thought that there might be seven goals in a Premier League game in which defenders Paul Butler, Lee Naylor, John Curtis, Alan Rogers, Riccardo Scimeca, a 33-year-old Gerry Taggart, a 34-year-old Matt Elliott and a 37-year-old Denis Irwin started and the goalkeepers were Michael Oakes and Ian Walker? The Premier League has got a lot better, folks.

Scimeca did at least score a goal of his own during a first half that saw Leicester race to a 3-0 lead. Les Ferdinand got the other two at the age of 36. Why was everyone so bloody old?

Yet Wolves manager Dave Jones changed the game at half-time, bringing off striker Kenny Miller for midfielder Hassan Kachloul and watching his team run riot. Colin Cameron (almost 31, obviously) scored their first two goals before the hour mark, before Alex Rae (34, naturally) equalised with 20 minutes remaining. Henri Camera (a mere baby at 26) scored the winner with five minutes to go. Both teams went down; shocker.


Wimbledon (vs West Ham, September 1998)
Coming from three goals down to win is one thing, but doing it away from home another entirely. Only two teams have done so in Premier League history. One is Manchester United at Tottenham, as above. The other is Wimbledon, who conceded three times in the first 27 minutes against West Ham in 1998.

It was achieved in pure Wimbledon style, launching the ball long in an aerial bombardment that the home side could not cope with. It may sound ludicrous, but West Ham were actually fortunate not to lose by a greater margin.

The first Wimbledon goal came via Marcus Gayle, before Javier Margas’ mistake allowed Jason Euell to score with 25 minutes remaining. When Gayle scored again in the 77th minute, West Ham had capitulated under pressure and Wimbledon sensed as much. With nine minutes still remaining, Efan Ekoku latched onto a through ball and scored the winner. Wimbledon moved to fourth in the Premier League. Gulp.


Southampton (vs Norwich, April 1994)
A win that inspired an extraordinary survival mission. Southampton were rotten in 1993/94. They lost 15 of their first 21 league games, before enjoying a mini-revival when Alan Ball took over from Ian Brandfoot. Ball’s grand plan was to give the ball to Matthew Le Tissier at every opportunity, and told Southampton’s players as much.

Still, Ball’s bounce (ooo err) quickly wore off after four wins in five matches. With six games of the season remaining, Southampton were four points from safety having played a game more than Oldham, the team directly above the bottom three. They had also taken three points from their last seven games, so when Norwich went 3-1 up, Southampton looked buried.

And then came Le Tissier. He had already scored once in the second half when he steered home a penalty with 30 minutes remaining to make it 3-3. The incompetence of his side’s defending allowed Sutton to score again to make it 4-3, but Le Tissier completed his hattrick ten minutes later to earn what seemed an unlikely point.

And then, with seconds remaining, Le Tissier swung in a corner and Ken Monkou headed home Southampton’s winner. They would beat Blackburn and Aston Villa in two of their next three games, and stay up by a point thanks to a final-day draw at West Ham.


Crystal Palace (vs Liverpool, May 2014)
If Steven Gerrard’s slip became the defining image of Liverpool’s title collapse in 2013/14, the 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace was the extended version of a hundred thousand Scouse hearts breaking as one.

Liverpool knew that they had to score a hatful of goals, but it was not out of the question that they could still win the Premier League. Making up a nine-goal swing on Manchester City looked like far-fetched fancy, particularly having scored just once in the first half at Selhurst Park in their penultimate game. But when Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge both scored in three second-half minutes, Liverpool had made up a third of those nine goals and still had 35 minutes of the match remaining. Two or three more goals, and this was on.

Or not. Brendan Rodgers’ fragile defence haunted them at regular intervals during the season (they conceded 23 more goals than Chelsea, directly below them), but never more so than when allowing Glenn Murray and Dwight Gayle to run riot in the final third.

Damien Delaney scored Palace’s first with a badly-deflected shot, before Yannick Bolasie squared for Gayle and Murray chested the ball into his strike partner’s path for the third. Three goals in 20 minutes, and the sight of Suarez crying on the pitch.

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