Top Five Champions League Comebacks
5. Chelsea v Napoli 2012
In February 2012 Andre Villas-Boas was under a huge amount of pressure as Chelsea boss. He took his team to take on a dangerous Napoli side away from home in the first leg of a last 16 tie and things got a whole lot worse for the Portuguese coach.
It looked like it could be a triumphant evening in Naples when Juan Mata put the Blues ahead within half an hour, it went downhill from there though as the deadly duo of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edison Cavani struck, the former twice to leave the Londoners’ hopes of a quarter-final place in tatters.
This was the final straw for owner Roman Abramovich as he ditched Villas-Boas and let his assistant Roberto Di Matteo take the reins. The Blues needed a massive turnaround in front of their own fans and it looked like they might just do it when Didier Drogba and then John Terry gave them a two goal lead. Gokhan Inler then pulled one back for the Italians to leave the tie in the balance before Frank Lampard struck a penalty to take the match into extra-time.
With both teams trying to avoid penalty kicks it was an unlikely goal scoring hero that emerged in the shape of Branislav Ivanovic who popped up in the 105th minute to win the match for Chelsea and set them on their way to lifting the trophy five games later.
4. Monaco v Real Madrid 2004
The Galacticos were brought down to earth with a bang when they tossed away a 4-2 lead from the first leg of their quarter-final with Monaco in 2004, eventually going out by the finest of margins.
It was one of the great Real teams with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Raul, Luis Figo, Ronaldo and David Beckham all in the starting line-up for the first match. It was goals from Zidane, Ronaldo and Figo along with Ivan Helguera that gave the Spaniards their 4-2 lead although the strikes from Sebastien Squillaci and Fernando Morientes for Monaco were to have a big say in the final outcome.
Unbelievably Morientes was on loan at Monaco from Madrid and they still let him play against them in the competition which was to be something they would seriously regret.
It looked like it would go to plan for the Spanish team when Raul put them ahead in the first half with a stunning goal. However, Ludovic Giuly levelled things up before Morientes again struck and Giuly got his second to give Monaco a 3-1 lead and the advantage on the away goals rule.
Madrid couldn’t get the all-important second goal and went crashing out, thanks largely to their own player.
3. Manchester United v Juventus 1999
It looked at one stage that the Serie A club was pulling off the perfect semi-final performance and looked well on the way to yet another Champions League final. The first leg had finished 1-1 at Old Trafford as only a last minute Ryan Giggs goal rescued the tie for the home side.
The Italians would still have been happy with this result though and they were even more delighted when they were 2-0 up in Turin in the return fixture. It took Pippo Inzaghi just 11 minutes to give the Italians a two-goal cushion and everything looked very rosy for them indeed.
United were not to give up though, and led by an inspirational Roy Keane who had picked up a booking ruling him out of a potential final, they went on to win the match. Keane himself headed in United’s first before Dwight Yorke levelled the contest. It was a nervy second half for both teams but Andy Cole popped up with five minutes to go and secured the tie for the visitors. United were in the final and we all know what happened there.
2. Liverpool v Milan 2005
Arguably the greatest European final of all time as Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool proved once and for all that no match is ever over until that most famous of fat ladies has sung.
Taking on an AC Milan side that included the likes of Cafu, Jaap Stam, Paulo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko and Hernan Crespo was daunting enough from the start for the English underdogs but to be 3-0 down at half-time, they must have thought their chances were over.
An early goal from Maldini and then two from Crespo had left Liverpool’s hopes in complete tatters and it seemed they were only playing for shreds of pride from there on in.
However, they came out with nothing to lose and incredibly, within 15 minutes of the match restarting after the break the Merseysiders were level. Goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso had somehow turned it around. Heroic goal keeping from Jerzy Dudek also helped along the way and they managed to take it to penalties. Luckily Milan were in generous mood as they put in a pretty woeful display of spot-kick taking and Dudek again could be the hero as he clawed out Shevchenko’s pitiful effort to win the contest for his team.
It is unlikely that we will ever see a comeback of this nature in the final of the competition ever again.
1. Deportivo La Coruna v Milan 2004
Milan do have a great European pedigree but they also have something of a reputation for throwing away incredibly advantageous positions and they managed it quite spectacularly against Deportivo La Coruna back in 2004.
It was the quarter-final stage and they looked to have recovered from a shocking start by coming from behind to win 4-1 in the first leg at the San Siro. Two goals from Kaka and one each from Andriy Shevchenko and Andrea Pirlo looked to have given them a lead that they could not throw away even in the cauldron of the Riazor.
Deportivo did not agree though and they went at Milan like they had nothing to lose on their home patch and it worked a treat. Walter Pandiani got the ball rolling after just five minutes and when Albert Luque hit their third goal before half-time the Spaniards were already going through on the away goals rule.
They rubbed salt into the Milan wounds when Fran made it 4-0 with 15 minutes to go and Deportivo went through 5-4 on aggregate having produced one of the greatest comebacks in European football history against one of the great Milan sides.
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