The Champions League is and has always been the most prestigious club football tournament. Comebacks on this big a stage always need to be acknowledged because it’s an accomplishment like no other. To finally have beaten the nerves and have risen through all the anticipation to beat an opponent. An opponent who already had beaten you before and you are on the cusp of elimination. Sounds heavy. But these teams, with their efforts on the ground, have written their story on the pages of history. Today, we look at the greatest UEFA Champions League comebacks ever.
The eventual champions of the competition, against every pundit’s predictions, were hit with quite the snag when they were facing the Italian side from Naples in the Round of 16. Napoli, at the Stadio San Paolo had managed a massive 3-1 victory against a then struggling Chelsea side. Chelsea were not in form, and were struggling with each fixture on their hands.
In between the two legs, manager Andre Villas-Boas was sacked after a defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion. Assistant coach Roberto Di Matteo as the interim coach saw out the rest of the season as performances improved. Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, managed a 3-1 full time score for the second leg of the round of 16 fixture. In extra time, Branislav Ivanovic’s right foot found the back of the net in the 105th minute. Chelsea completed a comeback, a 4-1 victory AET, paving their way to the cup.
Who can forget one of the most mesmerising matches of football ever to have been played? And fitting to the level of football was the stage on which it was being played, the Champions League Final. AC Milan painted the field in their iconic red and white in the first half. Before long, AC Milan grabbed a goal in the first minute from Paolo Maldini. Hernan Crespo banged in 2 quick-fire goals right before the half time whistle.
But the Liverpool that emerged from the dugout after the break were too hot for the Italian side to handle. The Reds scored 3 times in 5 minutes to level the score. A Steven Gerrard header, a long ranged effort from Vladimir Smicer and a Xabi Alonso penalty kick did the trick. Beautiful football all around the pitch but none of the teams could break the deadlock that ensued. The match progressed to penalties and Liverpool wrote their name on the cup with each of their kicks.
The comeback specialists on show, Fergie Time on display, Sir Alex Ferguson’s masterclass on air. Nobody needs an introduction to what had happened on THAT particular historical night. Bayern squandered a 1-0 lead in 2 minutes by two of Sir Alex’s substitutes in stoppage time. A match as the Champions League Final has bound to have nerves but the United fraternity has never had anything to do with those things, have they?
Bayern had taken their lead in 6th minute of the match from Mario Basler’s free kick. United had possession but they were not able to make any clear-cut chances for them to score. Bayern players managed to hit the crossbar two times in the second half of the game, but it just wasn’t their night. With ten minutes remaining into the game, Sir Alex introduced his baby-faced assassin, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The English fans all around the Nou Camp had their faces dug into the ground and all hope seemed to have vaporised from the stands by the time the fourth official announced the stoppage time, in the 90+1st and 90+3rd minute, both of the United substitutes, Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham, scored from dead ball situations and just like that, the Cup slipped from the German fingers.
The Italian side were the reigning champions this season and showed it when Deportivo came to the San Siro and were demolished 4-1. Four goals in eight minutes saw them crumble and a 3 goal summit seemed impossible for the Spanish underdogs to oversee in the second leg. But, they did beat all odds and did qualify. 3 goals in the first half and a goal in the 76th minute from a substitute completed Depo’s comeback and the match ended with 4-0 as the final scoreline. A fairy tale comeback for the time, this was a classic David beating Goliath story. Beating the defending champions took quite a bit of work and Walter Pladini, Juan Carlos Valeron, Albert Luque and Fran were all up for the job, getting on the scoresheet to down Milan.
THE fairy tale comeback. Overhauling a 4-goal deficit was unheard of in a Champions League fixture. Barcelona, arguably the best football club in the world, faced insurmountable odds. The French champions, Paris Saint Germain, thrashed them 4-0 in the first leg. 2 goals from Angel di Maria and a goal each from Julian Draxler and Edinson Cavani sunk Barcelona’s ship in the first leg. Nobody expected Barcelona to lose, let alone by this big a margin. But came along the second leg and the unstoppable Barcelona finally came back in its stride.
A goal inside 3 minutes from Luis Suarez marked the beginning of their comeback and a deflected own goal and a goal from the magician Messi ensured that the Catalans were well on their way. In the 62nd minute, Cavani scored a magnificent goal to put a dent in Barcelona’s hopes because it meant that Barcelona needed 3 more goals to qualify as his goal was an away goal.
All seemed lost for the Spanish giants and for the 96,000 fans as the final minutes of the game came about. But Barcelona’s onslaught began in the 88th minute with Neymar’s free kick, followed by a goal in stoppage time followed by an assist in the 90+6th minute. Sergi Roberto put the ball beyond Trapp’s hands into the goal to send the stands into a pandemonium as that goal meant that Barcelona had made history by qualifying even after a four goal deficit.