Top five Champions League second-leg comebacks

Date published: Tuesday 10th April 2018 11:06 - Ian Watson

Manchester City are seeking to become only the third team to overturn a three-goal first-leg deficit in the Champions League when they face Liverpool. If they are looking for inspiration…


Barcelona 6 Paris Saint-Germain 1 (Barcelona win 6-5 on aggregate) – Round of 16, 2016/17
Barcelona became the first team in Champions League history to overturn such a first-leg deficit after a 4-0 battering in Paris appeared to signal a European power shift.

But the Catalans came out fighting, taking a third-minute lead through Luis Suarez before an own-goal halved the deficit before the break. Lionel Messi smashed in a penalty early in the second half to put the hosts within a goal of PSG but Edinson Cavani netted just after the hour to see to it that Barca would have to score six.

So they did. But the fourth from Neymar didn’t come until the 88th minute, prior to the Brazilian netting a spot-kick in minute 91. Ten seconds of added time remained with the aggregate score level but PSG heading through on away goals until Sergi Roberto became an unlikely hero, sparking pandemonium at the Nou Camp.


What was said:
Gerard Pique: “I would say to the hospitals of Barcelona to hire nurses. Tonight, people will make a lot of love. It’s a miracle.”

Unai Emery: “We didn’t do the match we wanted and then the position of the referee was more often in favour of Barcelona. But Barcelona played with the right spirit to win the match.”



Deportivo La Coruna 4 AC Milan 0 (Deportivo win 5-4 on aggregate) – quarter-finals 2003/04
Holders Milan spanked Deportivo 4-1 in the first leg at San Siro, which caused little surprise given the Serie A giants has the likes of Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko, Cafu, Paolo Maldini and Andrea Pirlo in their side.

But Deportivo recovered that deficit before half-time with Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Newcastle flop Albert Luque turning the tie on its head with 43 minutes gone. Substitute Gonzalez Fran netted a deserved fourth with 15 minutes remaining before the La Liga side held out to join Porto, Chelsea and Monaco in the semi-finals.


What was said:
Andrea Pirlo, in his autobiography: “They were laughing at us that night. The first thing that needs to be said is we did ourselves in. But, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, something doesn’t stack up. Our opponents were going at a thousand miles an hour all night, even the older players who’d never exactly been known for their ability to combine speed with stamina…

“For the first and only time in my life, I’ve wondered if people I’d shared a pitch with might have been on something. Maybe it’s all just anger that I haven’t yet managed to work through. But the Deportivo players were like men possessed, galloping towards a target that only they could see. For our part, we were completely blind, and duly brutalised.”

Deportivo coach Javier Irureta:  “The game turned out exactly the way I dreamed. It was almost mission impossible but we gave a sensational first-half display to get the three goals we needed.”


Monaco 3 Real Madrid 1 (Monaco win on away goals after 5-5 aggregate score) – quarter-finals, 2003/04
The night before Deportivo’s triumph, Monaco offered their own glorious fightback, which looked even more unlikely when Real Madrid, featuring Roberto Carlos,  Zidane, Ronaldo and Figo, stretched their aggregate lead to 5-2 when Raul netted 10 minutes before half-time.

Ludivic Giuly offered Monaco a glimmer of encouragement to cling on to at the break before on-loan striker Fernando Morientes, facing his parent club, raised hopes even further with a 48th-minute header to pull the Ligue 1 side within a goal.

Giuly backheeled Monaco into dreamland when he finished through Carlos’s legs and beyond Iker Casillas, with Real’s late flurry failing to reap any dividends.


What was said: 
Didier Deschamps: “That was history for football here in Monaco. My players did something extraordinary tonight.”

Carlos Queiroz: “It was a disastrous result. Of course we missed Beckham, but you can’t pin this down to the absence of one player.”


Chelsea 4 Napoli 1 (AET, Chelsea win 5-4 on aggregate) – Last 16, 2011/12
The 3-1 first-leg defeat in Naples was just one of the reasons Chelsea decided to dispense with Andre Villas-Boas’s services. The return leg was only the second game of Roberto Di Matteo’s interim reign while flak continued to rain down on his players.

Goals either side of the break from Didier Drogba and John Terry gave the Blues the 2-0 lead they required to reach the last eight. But Gokhan Inler struck eight minutes after Terry to swing the tie back in the Italians’ favour.

Frank Lampard netted from the spot with 15 minutes remaining to level it up and send the match into extra-time, during which Branislav Ivanovic smashed a winner into the roof of the net, provoking Di Matteo to run into Drogba’s arms upon the final whistle.

It was only the fourth time in 45 attempts that a team had managed to overturn a first-leg deficit of two goals or more. Di Matteo would take his side all the way to their first European Cup.


What they said:
John Terry: “This is one of the very best nights for us. The lads put in a great display – really solid, really resilient – with real firepower when we went forward. It was really impressive watching the lads fight to the end. We proved we’re a team. First and foremost, that’s what we’re about: that desire, that togetherness and sticking together when it really mattered. We showed what Chelsea are really made of tonight.”

Walter Mazzarri:  I’m proud of my players and this is a lesson we need to take going forward. We should have been more careful defensively, but we came up against a team full of champions. But Napoli should be proud tonight.


Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0 (Barcelona win 4-2 on aggregate) – last 16 2012/13 
Barcelona made yet more history with this thumping win over Milan by becoming the first team to to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit without help from an away goal.

Two former Portsmouth players Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari had given Milan a cushion to take to the Nou Camp but Lionel Messi wiped out the Rossoneri’s advantage before the break, despite M’Baye Niang hitting during the first half.

With the momentum behind Barca, David Villa and Jordi Alba’s second-half strikes inflicted upon Milan their heaviest ever Champions League defeat.


What was said:
David Villa: “When you go through a night like this, all of the bad days are forgotten. We do not care who we get in the quarter-finals.”

Massimiliano Allegri: “Of course, qualification was always going to be a matter of centimetres. We hit the post with Niang, then conceded with Messi. Luck was with us in the first leg, this time it went against us. Barcelona are the strongest side in the world. Messi and Iniesta kept dribbling with such cool heads in stoppages, Xavi was so sharp. I have to praise my lads for not giving up to the very end, as they could’ve let their heads drop.”


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