Five of the best Champions League second leg comebacks
Is there still hope for Barcelona after their mauling in Paris?
Deportivo La Coruna players celebrate after Walter Pandiani opened the scoring against AC Milan in their Champins League win in 2004. Photo: Getty Images
Barcelona completed the biggest comeback in the history of the Champions League by overturning a four-goal first-leg deficit to stun Paris St Germain and reach the quarter-finals.
The Catalan giants were humbled 4-0 at the Parc des Princes, but defied overwhelming odds to triumph 6-1 in the return encounter at the Nou Camp and secure a highly improbable 6-5 aggregate victory.
While no other team has ever hit back from four goals down in the competition’s knockout stages, here we look at some of the more memorable times a team has come back from the brink of elimination.
After this game it should not have come as a major surprise to anyone when United pulled off that injury time comeback against Bayern Munich in the final to complete the treble.
Late turnarounds were a constant feature of the Alex Ferguson years at United but the treble-winning season bordered on barely believable.
‘Never say die’ is a cliché bandied about a lot in sport but it’s exactly what encapsulated that Ferguson team. They simply did not know how to lose.
It’s Roy Keane with a captain’s goal for Manchester United, game on!
And the driving force behind that mentality was unquestionably Roy Keane.
Even the first leg of this tie gave a hint as to what United were like. After Juventus captain Antonio Conte had given his side an early lead in Old Trafford it looked as if United would be travelling to Italy trailing by a goal.
But then Ryan Giggs popped up in the 92nd minute to stab home an equaliser and give his side something to cling on to.
It was still a huge task, however. United were going to the hostile Stadio Delle Alpi needing to score as Juventus had the away goal.
If it was a mountain to climb then, after 11 minutes, it had become Everest.
Two quickfire Filippo Inzaghi goals had given the Old Lady a 2-0 home lead, 3-1 on aggregate, and left United needing to score two against a typically tight Italian defence.
Step forward David Beckham. In what was undoubtedly the best season of his career Beckham had been delivering pinpoint set pieces and crosses for fun.
In the 24th minute that’s exactly what he did when he swung in a curling cross to the nearpost.
It probably wasn’t his best delivery of the game and didn’t seem to be set to cause much danger until Keane came thundering through the Juventus defence, completely unmarked, to rise and flick the ball over goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi and into the far top corner.
“It’s Roy Keane with a captain’s goal for Manchester United, game on!” Clive Tyldesley exclaimed in one of his many line from that season which still resonate today.
It would go down as one of Keane’s finest ever moments in a United jersey and the fact that nine minutes later he picked up a booking which would rule him out of the final only adds to it. Despite that Keane continued to drive his team on and ensure that they would book their ticket to the Camp Nou.
Just a minute after that booking United were level and going through on away goals thanks to a quickfire passing move up the pitch.
Gary Neville’s long ball from right flank was headed down by Beckham towards Andy Cole on the right edge of penalty box. Cole took one touch and floated the ball towards Dwight Yorke who peeled away from Ferrara to head past Peruzzi. United were on their way to the final but there was a long way to go.
As the game wore on Juventus pushed and pushed for the goal that would turn the tie on its head. But, with a bit of luck and some good defending United managed to keep them out.
Then, with seven minutes to go and Juventus committed forward, Yorke ghosted through their non-existent defence and went around Paruzzi only to be brought down for what was a certain penalty.
But it wasn’t to matter as strike partner Cole was following up to roll the ball into the net and wheel away in celebration to the sound of Tyldesley yelling “full speed ahead, Barcelona!”
First leg: AC Milan 4 Deportivo La Coruna 1, second leg: Deportivo La Coruna 4 AC Milan 0 – aggregate: 5-4
This is the record Barcelona have beaten. No team has ever come back from a 4-0 first leg deficit in the Champions League, but Deportivo La Coruna did manage to overturn a 4-1 loss 13 years ago.
The Galician side of 2004 was a long way from the strugglers of today and they were still flying high just four years after winning their one and only La Liga title.
Juan Carlos Valeron, Albert Luque (who would go on to play for Newcastle), Fran and Uruguayan former binman Pandiani captured the hearts of neutrals as they put it up to the giants of European football.
However, it looked as though one of those giants was about to put them back in their place as they took a 4-1 lead to Spain.
However, it’s easily forgotten that Pandiani actually put the Spaniards ahead in the first leg at the San Siro with an 11th minute strike.
But that quickly became the Kaka show as the Brazilian netted in the 45th and 49th minutes – with an Andriy Shevchenko strike in between – before Andrea Pirlo completed an eight-minute blitz on the mark of 53.
All of a sudden Deportivo were 4-1 down and looking completely lost. They managed to stifle the Italians for the last 35 minutes and ensure the scoreline didn’t get any worse but still left the San Siro needing to win their home leg 3-0 to progress on away goals.
They went one better.
For the first and only time in my life, I wondered if my opponents were on something
Pandiani got the ball rolling with another early strike which shot through the legs of Paolo Maldini and past Dida. It was an identical start to the Milan game however and nobody was getting too excited.
Any hope that was there was very nearly killed just minutes later when Kaka went through on goal but José Molina stood tall in the Deportivo goal to get a hand to his effort and steer it around the post.
Then, on the 35th minute-mark, the tide really began to turn.
Luque delivered a cross into the box which was met by the head of Valeron and sent flying into the back of the net.
It was 2-0, the Riazor crowd had reached fever pitch and there could only be one winner.
Right on half-time the comeback was complete when the Milan defence, clearly rattled by the speed of Deportivo’s attacks, got caught at sixes and sevens, allowing Luque to burst through and hammer his shot into the top corner to make it 4-4 on aggregate.
The home side looked more than comfortable in the second half and added the icing to the cake when Fran stole in at the back post with 15 minutes to go to control a cross and force a deflected shot past Dida, cementing his side’s place in the semi-finals.
Milan were out on their feet and out of competition after being run riot by the Spanish side. Such was the intensity of the attacks they faced it led Pirlo to say after the game that “for the first and only time in my life, I wondered if my opponents were on something.”
Just four months later the same Deportivo side would be held to a 0-0 draw at Lansdowne Road by Shelbourne before beating them 3-0 in the second leg to reach the Champions League group stages.
First leg: Real Madrid 4 Monaco 2, second leg: Monaco 3 Real Madrid 1 – aggregate: 5-5 (Monaco advance on away goals)
On paper the giants of Real Madrid should not be caused many problems by a side from the tiny principality of Monaco where the majority of the population are much more concerned with keeping their yachts clean than watching football.
And that theory looked likely to be the case most of the way through the first leg when Carlos Queiróz’s Madrid side smashed four past the French team who were playing well beyond their limits in the premier European competition.
Sébastien Squillaci had given the visitors a 43rd minute lead but Queiroz clearly kicked some life into his charges at the halftime break.
Iván Helguera equalised just six minutes after the break before the galacticos of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Ronaldo all netted in the space of 11 minutes to put their team 4-1 up with just nine minutes to go.
But then came a twist in the tail – or at least the beginnings of a twist which would flourish in the second leg.
Fernando Morientes, who was on loan from Real Madrid after being deemed surplus to the galacticos’ requirements, gave his side a lifeline with an 83rd minute goal.
There was still life in this tie and Monaco now had a bit of momentum to take back to the south of France.
But after 36 minutes at the Stade Louis II that momentum took a dent when Raul put Real Madrid 1-0 up and 5-2 ahead on aggregate.
However, there was something about that Monaco team – they would go on to reach the final don’t forget, where they were beaten by Jose Mourinho’s Porto.
Ludovic Giuly pulled one back in first half injury time before his side burst out of the blocks after the break.
Morientes again came back to haunt his parent club with a goal three minutes into the second half and the aggregate scoreline was suddenly only 5-4 to Real.
Monaco just needed to score once more thanks to their two away goals at the Bernabeu and score once more they would.
Right-back Hugo Ibarra caused problems down the wing before hitting a low shot across the face of goal which took a deflection into the path of Giuly, allowing him to cleverly flick home.
Monaco nearly compounded Madrid’s misery in the 81st minute when Gaël Givet’s header bounced back off the post but another goal was not needed as they held on to knock out the nine-times champions.
Last 16 2011/2012
The Napoli team of Edison Cavani, Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi, captained by Fabio Cannavaro’s brother Paolo, heralded something of a golden generation for the team from southern Italy and they were already making waves on the European circuit.
On the other side of this tie, Chelsea were going through some tough times as they began to realise that André Villas-Boas was not the new José Mourinho. Indeed a first leg 3-1 defeat at the Stadio San Paolo spelled the end of the Portuguese manager’s time in charge when he was sacked and Roberto Di Matteo took charge.
With no managerial experience in European competition, not much was expected of the Italian who had made 119 appearances for Chelsea during his playing career.
Little did they know that he would be the man to lead them to their one and only European Cup victory.
A brace from Lavezzi and one from Cavani in that first leg had given the Italian side a 3-1 lead to take to Stamford Bridge, after Juan Mata had opened the scoring for Chelsea.
It was to be just his third game at the helm for Di Matteo and already he was facing a mighty scrap to keep Chelsea in Europe.
But they made the perfect start when Ramires crossed into the box, allowing Didier Drogba a yard of space to bullet a header past Morgan De Sanctis and into the net.
Now there was just one in it and, thanks to Mata’s away goal, Chelsea only needed one more to advance.
That goal came just minutes after halftime when John Terry rose to meet a Frank Lampard corner and score his side’s second goal of the game.
But this tie was far from over.
And it was Terry who was at fault for the goal which put Napoli back ahead when his clearance in the 55th minute only went as far as Gokhan Inler.
The Swiss midfielder controlled it on his chest before sublimely striking a half volley into the bottom corner of the net.
Mata’s away goal had been cancelled out and suddenly Chelsea needed to score again just to force extra-time.
In the 75th minute they were handed a lifeline when Andrea Dossena handballed in his own box to concede a penalty.
Lampard stepped up and held his nerve to drill the spot kick down the middle and send the game into extra time.
While it’s often the case that 30 minutes of extra time is quite a cagey affair with neither side willing to give an inch to their opponents, it was not the case here.
Chelsea had the momentum and pushed on for the winner.
It came right at the end of the first period when Drogba played a low cross into fullback Branislav Ivanovic who rushed in to fire his shot into the roof of the net and break Napoli hearts.
Chelsea were through to the quarterfinals and two months later would beat Bayern Munich on penalties to lift the trophy.
Last 16 2012/2013
First leg: AC Milan 2 Barcelona 0, second leg: Barcelona 4 AC Milan 0 – aggregate 4-2
It’s not Barcelona overturning a 4-0 deficit but it is the Catalans winning 4-0 in a second leg.
In 2013 Barca were still coming to terms with the exit of Guardiola after claiming Champions League titles in both 2009 and 2011.
Some will say some sort of decline had already start with the departure of the now Manchester City coach but, in the second leg of their last 16 clash with Milan, the best of Barcelona was certainly on show.
Goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sully Muntari had given the Italians a two goal lead to take to the Camp Nou but with Barcelona, and Messi in particular, in the form they were in that evening, Milan need not have bothered.
After just five minutes the Argentine played a lightning quick one-two with with Xavi on the edge of the box. On receiving the ball back Messi was still surrounded by white shirts but, with little or no backlift, he managed to force a low shot between them and past goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.
The comeback had begun.
Five minutes before halftime the tie was level. Iniesta robbed Massimo Ambrosini in midfield, Milan’s tight marking scheme was broken and an instant pass gave Messi the opportunity to shoot through Philippe Mexès’s legs and beyond Abbiati.
Barcelona were well and truly in control now and took the lead 15 minutes into the second half when Iniesta found Villa who controlled and curled a sumptuous effort past Abbiati.
In injury time Jordi Alba capped proceedings when he ran on to Alexis Sanchez’s pass to slide home a fourth goal.
After the game Messi said Barcelona achieved “perfection” that night.
They will need to do so again on March 8th if they are to have any chance of progressing in this year’s competition.