Top 5 Soccer Comebacks of All-Time

Our take on the five greatest soccer comebacks of all-time
Christian Broughton
Thu, May 9, 1:20 PM EDT

5. Manchester City 3 vs. 2 Queens Park Rangers - Premier League – May 13th 2012

The 2011-12 Premier League campaign came into its final day, with the title seemingly all but decided. The task was simple for Manchester City. Beat QPR and the title would be theirs for the taking, fail and it was very likely Manchester United would see off Sunderland to retain their crowns as the champions of England.

 

City took their time, but on the 39th minute, they took the lead with Paulo Zabaleta providing the unlikely opener. Queens Park, who were in their own battle to survive relegation, then kicked into top gear, something uncharacteristic of their season to this point. They pulled level in the second half before scoring again on the 66th minute to give them the shocking 2-1 lead, made all the more surprising given that they were down to 10 men.

 

 As time ticked down on the sky blues, panic struck the fans, with their inter-city rivals (United) coasting to a 1-0 away win at the Stadium of Light. Following the 90 minutes, the game went into added-time, where Eden Dzeko pulled one back for the Citizens, meaning that if they could somehow put another one in, they’d have won their first top-tier title in over 40 years.

 

Then news broke that QPR were safe from relegation following results from elsewhere, and just like that, it was as if the Rangers players decided to take an early bath and celebrate. The City players went on a charge and then those famous words were spoken…. “BALOTELLI... AGUERO!!!!”

 

They had done it, the greatest final day of the Premier League ever, leaving the prematurely celebrating Man United players heartbroken, and the millions of football fans screaming into their televisions.

 

 

4. Fulham 4 vs. 1 Juventus (5-4 agg) – Europa League - March 18th 2010

Perhaps one of the most overlooked greatest comebacks off all time was the 2nd Leg of the 2009-10 Europa League quarterfinal between the Italian titans Juventus, and a small London club by the name of Fulham.

 

The first leg was a decisive victory for the Italian giants as they coasted to a 3-1 victory at home, before they travelled over to play a game that seemed like a mere formality to them. La Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady) then ran away to a 1-0 lead just two minutes into the tie, thanks to a goal from the great David Trezequet, making the already unwinnable tie, look beyond doubt.

 

Bobby Zamora then hit back for the cottagers in the 9th, giving the Whites a lifeline. Then the legendary Fabio Cannavaro saw red for a challenge on Zoltan Gera in the 27th minute. Fulham then began to rally with Zoltan Gera putting away two goals to level the tie (4-4 on aggregate). And with 8 minutes to go of regulation time, Clint Dempsey pulled off the most beautiful chip over the Juventus keeper to send the Italians home and out of tie, or at least not before Jonathan Zebina saw red to put them down to 9 men.

 

It was a shameless way to see Juventus go out, but it didn’t shadow what many believe as being the greatest moment in the little club’s history.

 

3. Liverpool 4 vs. 0 Barcelona – (4-3 agg) UEFA Champions League – May 7th 2019

The Mersey side club put on a decent performance in their first leg with Barca, although the 3-0 score line wasn’t the most flattering of their efforts. With the CL Semi-Final appearing to be all but concluded, the Spanish champions went into a hostile Anfield to clinch their place in yet another European final.

 

To make matters worse for the Reds, they were missing two superstars with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino both sidelined for the match due to injury. What seemed like an insurmountable deficit, just seemed even less likely given that the largely underwhelming prospect in Divock Origi would be trying to fill the shoes of their best player. The occasion didn’t stop him however, as the Reds charged to a 1-0 lead within 7 minutes. The game was then In an end-to-end stalemate until half-time, with Liverpool still fighting against the odds.

 

During the break, Liverpool swapped out their injured left back in-favor of brining on Gini Wijnaldum into an attacking midfield style role. The Dutchman’s movement and ability to find space, then enabled him to bring Liverpool ahead to 2-0 on the 54th minute, before scoring just two minutes later in what was an outrageous turnaround for the English club. The Spanish clubs looked demoralised and it showed as their passes were nowhere near as precise as those of which European fans have been accustomed to seeing from them.

 

With Barcelona giving away possession, Liverpool capitalized once more with the final blow. The young Trent Alexander-Arnold took a cheeky corner to the unmarked Origi, who put the fourth and final goal past the sleeping Spanish giants. 

With the air gone from their sails, they weren’t able to comeback in the final ten minutes, thus sending Liverpool through to their first Champions League final in nearly twelve years, following a semi-final comeback, the likes of which that had never been seen before up until that moment.   

 

2. Ajax 2 vs. 3 Tottenham Hotspur (3-3 agg) – UEFA Champions League – May 8th 2019

Spurs headed into Amsterdam feeling the strain of a 1-0 home-leg defeat and the hole in their attack from a missing Harry Kane. Thankfully they did have Heung-Min Son back up top to partner their nifty Brazilian Lucas Moura to provide a pacey front two to challenge the Dutch side. At face value, the game was a winnable one for the North Londoners, albeit an away game against a good up-and-coming team.

 

They tore out of the blocks, searching for an early opener, but just as they did, the Dutch struck. 1-0 to Ajax via the head of Matthijs de Ligt. The Tottenham faithful were stunned into silence as the chorus of cheers came down from the home fans. Then what already was an up-hill battle got turned into a mountainous task as Ziyech buried the second to put the red and whites up 2-0, with almost no hope of Spurs coming back against the robust Dutch youngsters.

 

One can only imagine what Mauricio Pochettino said to his side in the break, but many would guess that he’d have drawn inspiration from the Liverpool side from the evening prior. His side took to the pitch in the second half with their heads held high, yet a swift Champions League exit looking imminent… or at least until Lucas Moura netted two in the space of four minutes. The first slotted calmly past the Ajax keeper and a scrappy second due to some suspect defending. The Ajax fans put their hands to their heads, from a game that looked signed and sealed, it had now become all to play for.

 

Tottenham then went ruthlessly into attack-mode, sending Son and Moura all over the attacking third of the pitch, in an attempt to find one more (that would put them through on the away goal rule). The clock wound down rapidly until some crazy end-to-end play occurred in stoppage time. Spurs sent their goalie up for a corner in the 94th, but still nothing for them. And just as the 95th minute ticked over, the Brazilian Moura ran onto a through ball, which he placed passed the goalkeeper.

 

The Ajax players collapsed onto the floor devastated and the Tottenham fans, players and management went into a frenzy. What seemed to have been another Champions League semi-final shortcoming, turned into the greatest Semi-Final comeback of all-time.  

 

1. AC Milan 3 vs. 3 Liverpool (2-3 on Penalties) – UEFA Champions League Final – May 25th 2005

The 2004-05 Champions League Final was contested between AC Milan and Liverpool in the Atatürk Stadium. Milan came into the fixture having been largely acknowledged as the best team in Europe at the time. Their line-up was set up with the best of the best, from Dida in goal, to Andriy Shevchenko leading the attack, and nothing but superstars in-between. Liverpool boasted their own stars, but largely they were looked upon as a strong side with some unlikely characters to be appearing in a Champions League final.

 

The Italians wasted no-time getting to work, with the legendary Paolo Maldini netting a volley off of an Andrea Pirlo free kick. The fast start then got even faster as Arginine Hernán Crespo netted a further two. The star-studded Milan outfit were 3-0 up and cruising into half-time, with Liverpool fans and players alike holding their heads in their hands. The whistle went putting an end to their calamitous first-half.

 

There’s only a handful of people who really know what words were spoken in those fifteen minutes, but it’s largely speculated that the Liverpool captain Steven Gerard gave the single greatest pep talk ever. The reds resurfaced and took to the field and the man himself put one in within nine minutes of the break to give them a hope. It didn’t take long before the Czech Vladimír Šmicer to reduce the deficit to one in the 56th minute. Then a penalty was awarded to the Mersey club following Baros being brought down by Gennaro Gattuso inside the box. Xabi Alonso stepped up to take the penalty. The Spaniard was stopped by Dida, but the Brazilian couldn’t stop Alonso converting the rebound.

 

Liverpool had hammered three past Europe’s best side in an even shorter time than Milan were able to put past them. The tie sat at 3-3, with 30 minutes still to play and each side had their chances, but they couldn’t be separated within the 90 minutes, nor in the further 30 for extra-time. The game was going to be decided from penalties.

 

Following some calm finishing by three of the four Liverpool penalty takers and some odd distraction techniques from Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek, they sat 3-2 up with Milan needing to convert to keep the shootout going. Up-stepped the prolific Andriy Shevchenko. He shot the ball straight down the middle of the goal, with the Liverpool keeper falling to his right, before his trailing left hand made the decisive stop.

 

A cruel way to lose for AC Milan, but a heroic way to complete the “Miracle of Istanbul” and in doing so, the greatest soccer comeback ever! That day like all of the above will forever be remembered as some of the greatest soccer comebacks, for as long as the game is played.

 

By Christian Broughton

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