Cameron Brooks – 2012 Champions League semi-final second leg – Barcelona v Chelsea
Chelsea, Barcelona. It’s a rivalry that has brought some of the most spectacular and scandalous moments to European football in recent times. To set the scene in this game, Chelsea were trailing by two goals and Barcelona attacker Alexis Sanchez has just tumbled to the floor off the ball.
It takes a few moments for the cameras to rewind and show it was an unprovoked and unnecessary attack from John Terry, duly sent off and leaving Chelsea down to ten men. The Nou Camp crowd thinks that’s the tie over. A certain Brazilian blue has other ideas though. Just before half-time Lampard delicately passes the ball back to Ramires who with an outrageous dinked finish over keeper Victor Valdes puts Chelsea back in the tie on away goals.
Messi then hits the crossbar from a penalty and the post from a fingertip save by Čech. While Barcelona’s midfield maestro’s of Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Busquets passed and moved using all of their creativity to get past the ten-man Chelsea bus. And then a moment that makes the crowd hold their breath.
It’s injury-time and the ball drops from a clearance to substitute striker Fernando Torres. After what seems like a marathon of a run he reaches the Barcelona goal, calmly rounds Valdes and passes the ball into the empty net. Sealing a fine comeback and getting Gary Neville rather excited in the commentary box too.
Chris Allen – 1967 League Cup Final – West Brom v QPR
QPR came into the 1967 League Cup final as underdogs from the Third Division. After First Division West Brom went 1-0 up in the 7th minute, the Baggies fans were full of confidence. “Easy”, they chanted. They had no reason to feel otherwise at half-time. By then they were 2-0 up.
Speaking at the break, Kenneth Wolstenholme appeared to be in little doubt about the eventual outcome: “Class will tell. It’s an old footballing clique but it’s certainly applicable to this match .… Albion are in command of the whole proceedings …. It looks as though they have 15 or 16 players on their side.”Rangers’ looked doomed. But manager Alec Stock had built an attacking side that led the third division by 12 points.
They took the game to West Brom in the second half but it wasn’t until the 63rd minute that they pulled a goal back. Within another 12 minutes, they were level. The comeback was complete when Mark Lazarus (who else?) pounced on a loose ball in the Baggies box in the 81st minute. “Has football known anything like this?” Wolstenholme squealed in excitement. So unexpected was Rangers’ victory that they hadn’t prepared a trophy cabinet. They placed the trophy in a bank vault instead.
Rodney McCain – 1999 Champions League semi-final second leg – Juventus v Manchester United
Manchester United certainly “did it the hard way” when winning the European Cup in 1999 to complete the fabled “Treble”. Having battled through a Group containing both Bayern Munich and Barcelona, and a quarter-final tie with Inter Milan, they faced a semi-final double-header against Italian giants Juventus that April.
The first leg at Old Trafford saw a last-gasp Ryan Giggs equaliser in a 1-1 draw give the Red Devils an outside chance of progression, at best. The return game in Turin was pure footballing theatre! What you want to ensure in a huge, noisy stadium as the away side, especially when big underdogs, is to keep things tight for the opening 25 minutes and make the home crowd less significant. After 14 minutes in Turin, it was “Pippo” Inzaghi 2 United 0. The visitors were surely out… and staring utter humiliation in the face.
Step forward Roy Keane! In probably the greatest individual performance I’ve ever seen at the highest level, Keane grabbed the game by the proverbial “scruff of the neck”. He scored with a brave glancing header after 24 minutes…and then got booked on 33 minutes. That booking ruled him out of the Final, should United get there; now he was determined that they would! Dwight Yorke made it 2-2 on the night with a diving header after 34 minutes.
By then, just twenty minutes after going 2-0 up, Juventus were “on the ropes”. In the second half United weathered the predictable Italian storm to score a late winner, Andy Cole tidying up a loose ball after Yorke was tripped by keeper Angelo Peruzzi. Against one of the great Juventus sides, to come back from 2-0 down away from home and win convincingly was just another fabulous evening in a fairytale season for the Red Devils!
Roddy Cairns – 2010 Scottish Premier League – Motherwell v Hibernian
Ten years ago, Scottish football was treated to a match that constituted not only the highest-ever scoring match in the Scottish Premier League but surely the greatest comeback of all time. Twelve goals (including a hat-trick and no less than three braces) flew in at Fir Park as Hibernian (6-2 up with 65 minutes played) contrived to throw away one of the strongest positions imaginable.
The list of sub-plots which contributed to this classic is endless: Colin Nish scoring a hat-trick within the first 36 minutes, before staying quiet for the remaining 54; one laughably soft goal per team as the keepers took turns to do their best hologram impression; Hibernian’s potent front five being undermined by its shaky defence, a reflection in a microcosm of John “Yogi” Hughes’ management.
Giles Coke started the comeback on 67 minutes with a simple tap in from a rebound (3-6). Then Tom Hateley’s freekick (4-6) and John Sutton’s powerful header (5-6) made for some sweaty palms among the travelling support. Nobody could have predicted just how dramatic the end to the game would be, though. With the final whistle approaching, Hibs keeper Graeme Smith clattered into Motherwell’s Lukas Jutkiewicz and a penalty was awarded. Unbelievably, Smith then saved the penalty, and it looked like Hibs had held on. But Jutkiewicz was having none of it; in the final embers of injury time, he got on the end of a bouncing clearance, held off his marker and lashed home a tight left-foot volley of the highest quality to cap a miraculous comeback that had never looked on.
Finn Janning – 2014 Champions League final – Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid
Saturday the 24th of May, 2014 – a day full of suspense. Real Madrid is playing against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final at Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, in Portugal. A game that not only divides one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals but also many football fans: a defensive versus an aggressive style of football.
As predicted, Atletico plays defensive with a discipline that makes any Italian team tremble with envy. The Atletico defensor Godin scores the first goal with only ten minutes left of the first part. For the rest of the game Ronaldo, Bale and Di Maria attack. Desperately they try to break the Atletico wall (it’s difficult as most Liverpool fans know).
And just as all the fans are listening for the final whistle, Real Madrid gets a corner. 90 minutes has passed, Modrić carefully places the ball at the right corner of the pitch, he sends the ball in hard, and within a group of players, the Real captain Ramos rise (who else?) – just above the penalty mark – and heads the ball in, with a strength that leaves no chances for Courtois. The rest is history: Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo score in the extra time making it 4-1, the first of three Champions League trophies is a reality.
David Nesbit – 1984 First Division – QPR V Newcastle
September 22nd 1984, and managers, Alan Mullery of Queens Park Rangers and Jack Charlton of Newcastle, are watching their sides run out at Loftus Road for a First Division match.90 minutes later and the two men struggle to describe the 5-5 draw just witnessed by 14,234 hardy souls.
Newcastle’s Neil McDonald opened the scoring on three minutes and then the rest of the half became the Chris Waddle show. Waddle netted in the 17th, 23rd and 41st minutes to bag a first-half hat-trick and send Newcastle into the break with a 4-0 advantage.
Whatever Mullery said at half-time had an immediate effect as Gary Bannister scored within four minutes of the restart. Further goals by John Gregory and an own goal had QPR to within one of their targets with still almost quarter of an hour to go, but when Newcastle’s Kenny Wharton scored with just six minutes remaining to put the Magpies 5-3 ahead, it looked as if Rangers’ valiant fightback was to end in vain.
However, the Rangers weren’t beaten yet and with Steve Wicks scoring in the 86th minute, it was left to Gary Micklewhite to write himself into QPR folklore by grabbing an injury-time equaliser.
James Jackson – 2011 Premier League – Newcastle v Arsenal
It’s half time in St James Park, Newcastle are 4 goals down against Arsenal. This game comes at the end of a torrid week for Newcastle fans, local hero Andy Carroll sold like a piece of meat at a market by the owner Mike Ashley, the stadium was eerily silent. The season ticket holders in the seats next to me contemplate on leaving, following the couple hundred that have already left. However, they’ve both brought their sons along to their first game “canny game for your first visit eh son” the father says “aye, yas better get used to it lads” the other replies.
In the 50th minute, a tussle in the middle of the park, Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan have Arsenals Abou Diaby sent off for pushing them both. The crowd give out a sarcastic cheer. A bigger cheer would follow (68th min) when Barton sent Szczesny the wrong way after Laurent Koscielny clumsily brought down Leon Best in the box. The toon grows wings, plenty of chances follow and Leon Best scores a perfectly good goal but is denied by the offside flag.
Best gets the better of Szczesny moment later (75th min). 4-2, with 15 minutes on the clock, but the crowd had erupted, you just knew it was going to be at least a draw. Phil Dowd must have known as well when he gave Newcastle a second penalty for a very soft challenge on Mike Williamson from Laurent Koscielny. 4-3 Barton tucks it away. St James Park was electric by this point, you could have given the equalising goal to the Geordies in the terraces if it came.
Cheik Tiote however, had another idea. His only goal for Newcastle, in the 87th minute he perfectly smashes home the volley you’ve all seen. 4-4 mass celebrations erupt, in the stadium, in the city, on the pitch. What a game and what a night.
James Bolam – 2002 League One – Mansfield Town v Bristol City
This should have just been a nondescript third-tier fixture but this meeting in November 2002 proved to be an incredible game due to an unlikely comeback. Bristol City was chasing promotion under Danny Wilson and newly promoted Mansfield was struggling. Mansfield’s porous defence had led to their struggle and eventual relegation.
One of City’s problems was conceding goals away from home when compared to other promotion-chasing sides, so it was not that much of a shock when after being 2-1 up, City found themselves 4-2 down on 72 minutes. This is how it stayed going into the last three minutes before Brian Tinnion converted what looked a consolation penalty.
It was at this point that the game went nuts. Leroy Lita equalized three minutes into injury time sending the City fans into raptures thinking that they had snatched an unlikely point, but from the very next attack, Christian Roberts hit a 25 yarder that sailed in the top corner. Cue limbs.
Heading down the motorway a City fan rang the Radio Bristol phone in to complain to Geoff Twentyman at what he had witnessed. He had left with five to go. He was informed by Twentyman, a former Rovers player, that city had indeed won. The man was convinced that Twentyman was winding him up.
Marco Jackson – 1957 Second Division – Charlton vs Huddersfield
When Bob Ledger put Bill Shankly’s Huddersfield 5-1 up at the Valley in December 1957, Charlton looked dead and buried. Already down to ten men after the loss of captain Derek Ufton, the Addicks’ brief rally at the start of the second half looked over.
Home fans had started to make their way for the exits, with a combination of bitter cold and poor entertainment giving them ample reason. Winger Johnny Summers had been pushed up front, and while it paid initial dividends, things looked beyond his side. Within second of the restart, a cross from Summers found ‘Buck’ Ryan. He scored, before Summers added another himself.
Two goals in two minutes made it 5-3. Summers wasn’t done there. He completed his hat-trick, then added a fourth and a fifth, all within eight minutes, and in a flash, Charlton were 6-5 ahead. Huddersfield pulled level with four minutes to go through Stan Howard only for Summers to cross again for Ryan, who netted his second goal to clinch a famous 7-6 victory for the Addicks, and prompt a pitch invasion from the crowd that remained. As early as the evening press, it was described as the Match of the Century.
Pete Spencer – 2010 Africa Cup of Nations – Angola v Mali
There are comebacks and there’s this. Imagine the scene. Hosting your first ever international tournament, your opening game is in front of a packed stadium. You’re 4-0 up with 16 minutes to go.
You can be forgiven for uttering the most dangerous phrase in football; “nothing can go wrong now”. This was the scenario poor old Angola faced in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. They were up against Mali in their opening game. Flavio scored twice to give them a half-time lead. The second half saw them awarded two penalties. Gilberto had to retake his, yet still scored. Then he was fouled for the second one which Manucho dispatched. 4-0 and Luanda was bouncing.
They were still dancing when Barcelona’s Seydou Keita got one back for Mali. With two minutes to go former West Ham & Spurs striker, Freddy Kanoute got a second. Too little too late? Yeah. Two minutes into four minutes injury time and Keita volleyed his second. 4-3. Still too late? Sort of.
A minute later the keeper can only parry a shot and Mustapha Yatabare slammed it home. 4-4. Unbelievable Jeff just didn’t cut it. Four goals in 15 minutes to earn a point.
Sam Milne – 2016 Europa League quarter-final second leg – Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund
The first leg, marked by Klopp’s return to the Westfalenstadion, finished 1-1. Anfield was ready and the pre-match You’ll Never Walk Alone, sung by both sets of supporters, was spine-tingling, but within nine minutes any confidence had been eclipsed by Dortmund goals from Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang.
Three minutes after the break, Origi scored to kick off a roller coaster of a second half. The momentum was Liverpool’s. it wasn’t long though before Hummels sliced open Liverpool’s defence with a precise pass to Marco Reus who calmly finished, piercing the energy around the ground in the process. Not to be defeated, Phil Coutinho scored to get The Reds going again ten minutes later.
Sakho scored the third from a bouncing corner scored with fifteen minutes left but time was running out for the winner. As it stood, Liverpool were going out. It remained that way until stoppage time. Milner played a one-two with Sturridge before lifting the ball to the back post.
Lovren was hanging in the air for what seemed an eternity before he nodded the ball past Weidenfeller to send The Kop into raptures.
Although it was ‘only’ the Europa League, the result, another stitching onto a long tapestry of heroic European nights at Anfield, gave the team the belief that they could compete at Europe’s top table.
Rob Fletcher – 2006 Uefa Cup quarter-final – Middlesborough vs Steaua Bucharest
The unchartered territory of a UEFA Cup quarter-final came at the end of Boro’s decade of glory. In the victim role, Basel, who built a seemingly unassailable 3-0 aggregate lead with a game and 23 minutes gone. Three strikers propelled Boro to hit four goals. The winning goal burst the net in the final minute from forgotten man Massimo Maccarone.
Three weeks later, Boro are 3-0 down on aggregate again; Steaua Bucharest the opponents. Incredibly, it was after a game and 24 minutes had been played. History repeating. Two minutes after Steaua’s second, captain Gareth Southgate succumbed to injury. Manager Steve McClaren looked to his bench for a saviour; Maccarone. Surely not again. 63 minutes later and the game is level on aggregate.
Steaua going through on away goals. Boro had to find one more from somewhere. After 89 minutes they found it. Local starlet Stewart Downing found himself in space on the left. He swung the ball in. The ball soared towards the back post. Bodies stacked up inside the box ready to pounce. At the back post, Maccarone threw himself at the ball; virtually horizontal. Goal. Pandemonium. And a UEFA Cup final.
Matt Abbott – 2005 Championship – Southampton v Leeds
By the time we’d made eye contact, dad and I were four rows apart and topless. The only thing that’d stopped me was the staircase for half-time abandoners. The exodus was bolstered by Southampton scoring their third in the 45th: a penalty at our end. After taking the lead on 27, it couldn’t have been easier.
Another plummet in our excruciating downward trajectory, and our 500-mile round trip wasn’t representing great value. On 67, David Healy replaced Frazer Richardson: transforming a flat 4-4-2 into a dynamic 4-3-3. Four minutes later, Paul Butler headed in from a corner. A modicum of pride, at least. Except, something had changed.
Complacency had stifled St Mary’s and Leeds could smell panic. Six minutes later, Robbie Blake bagged a second. Most of our 5000 had remained to endure, and now we fuelled an unstoppable tide. Healy smashed a penalty into the top-left corner on 84. Two minutes later, Liam Miller’s left-footed volley saw us explode.
We’d barely stopped celebrating the equaliser. By the time we’d made eye contact, dad and I were happier than I’ve ever known us. It all ended in heartbreak on a soggy afternoon in Cardiff, of course. But that’s another story.
Liam Togher – 2005 Champions League Final- Liverpool v AC Milan
AC Milan, second in Serie A, the team of Kaka, Shevchenko, Nesta, Pirlo, Stam and Maldini. Liverpool, a limp fifth in the Premier League, starting with the likes of Harry Kewell, Djimi Traore and Milan Baros. On paper, it felt like a mismatch and so it proved for the first 45 minutes. As Hernan Crespo finished a rapier thrust through the Merseysiders’ defence to make it 3-0 just before half-time, Liverpool were in danger of being utterly humiliated on the grandest stage.
Then the clock struck 54 minutes. Steven Gerrard header, bang, 3-1. 56 minutes, Vladimir Smicer from 20 yards, bang, 3-2. 60 minutes, Xabi Alonso penalty saved but he tucks home the rebound, 3-3. Staggering. Milan were stunned but rallied to ask further questions of the Reds. Traore and Jerzy Dudek proved unlikely heroes in extra time. On we went to penalties at the Ataturk Stadium.
Serginho and Pirlo fluffed their lines for Milan, as did John Arne Riise for Liverpool. Shevchenko, the reigning European Footballer of the Year, had to score. He didn’t. Liverpool had done it, somehow. A fifth European Cup had been secured in the most Hollywood-esque fashion. Unsurprisingly, movies have been made about The Miracle of Istanbul, but nothing can top the original.