Football is a magical sport, one minute you can feel pure elation and exhilaration, the next, disappointment and frustration.
It’s why we love the game, though, and so here at Rush Football we’ve decided to take a look at three of the greatest comebacks ever (unless you were on the wrong end of it in which case it was probably awful:)
Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (Penalties 3-2) (2005)
In the 2005 UEFA Champions League final, Liverpool faced AC Milan at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul. The Italians were regarded as favourites for the tie, with a team including football legends such as Cafu, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf among others. The first-half of the highly anticipated final was a total disaster to say the least for Liverpool. Paolo Maldini gave Milan a first-minute lead and Hernan Crespo’s double gave the favourites a seemingly unassailable lead at the break.
Following the interval, a dejected Liverpool side returned to the field of play with few predicting what was about to follow. Rallied on by the 20,000 strong Liverpool faithful in attendance, Steven Gerrard’s well executed header provided a glimmer of hope on 54 minutes and just 2 minutes later a long-range strike from Vladimír Šmicer had them believing again. What happened next sent the Liverpool fans into delirium. In the 60th minute, a Milan Baros lay-off set Gerrard free in the area only for him to be hauled down by Gennaro Gattuso – penalty. Up stepped Xabi Alonso whose initial spot-kick was well saved by AC Milan’s goalkeeper Dida but the Spaniard swept in the rebound to make it 3-3, cue madness.
The remainder of the second-half and extra-time passed with both teams wasting numerous chances. After 120 minutes, the only way these two sides were going to be separated was via a penalty shoot-out and like the rest of the game, it didn’t disappoint. Serginho and Pirlo missed Milan’s first two penalties, while Hamann and Djibril Cisse were on target for Liverpool. Substitute Jon Dahl Tomasson and Kaká put Milan back in contention either side of a Riise miss for Liverpool. In the decisive penalty, Andriy Shevchenko’s tame effort was saved by Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek which was followed by wild celebrations, capping a memorable night for all football fans.
Tottenham 3-4 Manchester City (2004)
In 2004, Manchester City faced Tottenham in an FA Cup 4th round match at White Hart Lane. In the first-half of the match, Tottenham had coasted into a 3-0 lead with little to no resistance from Manchester City. On the stroke of half-time it got a whole lot worse for the Citizens as Joey Barton was sent off for a second bookable offence. There was nothing to suggest this game would go down in history for any reason other than one of the greatest FA Cup thrashings ever.
The second-half began and the visitors, despite their numerical disadvantage, were showing signs of life. On 48 minutes a clever free-kick from Michael Tarnat found Sylvain Distin, who headed home from eight yards and in the 69th minute Paul Bosvelt pulled a second goal back via a deflection off Anthony Gardner, 3-2. The game seemed to be petering out as Tottenham had managed to regain control but in the 80th minute a delightful through ball from Robbie Fowler was latched on to by Shaun Wright-Phillips who chipped the ball over the onrushing Kasey Keller to even the tie.
However, the drama still wasn’t finished and in the 90th minute Manchester City completed one of the unlikeliest comebacks. A cross from Michael Tarnet found Jon Macken at the far post, whose looping heading beat Keller, sending the few City fans in attendance into raptures. While it may not have been the most glamourous of ties on paper, it will live long in the memory of those who were lucky enough to witness it.
Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal (2011)
Possibly the greatest comeback in recent Premier League years took place at St James’ Park in 2011. It was just 10 minutes into the game and Newcastle were already 3-0 down to title hopefuls Arsenal, courtesy of goals from Theo Walcott, Johan Djourou and Robin van Persie. It didn’t get any better for the Magpies as Robin van Persie scored again to make it 4-0 on 26 minutes and Newcastle boss Alan Pardew received sustained abuse from supporters immediately behind the dugout as the half-time whistle blew.
The second-half began and within 5 minutes Arsenal, who were in complete control, were reduced to 10 men after Diaby was shown a straight red for what can only be described as a moment of utter madness. The France international completely lost his composure after he and Joey Barton both challenged for a loose ball. The Arsenal midfielder put one hand on the back of Barton’s neck before pushing him to the floor and then he aggressively shoved Kevin Nolan, which in turn spurred Newcastle on. Joey Barton pulled one back via the penalty spot on 68 minutes and Leon Best made it 4-2 just 7 minutes later when he beat Clichy to a cross from Jose Enrique and shot beyond Szczesny from eight yards, game on.
Newcastle were awarded another penalty on 75 minutes for a push by Tomáš Rosický on Mike Williamson which Barton once again converted. It looked as if Arsenal had sealed the 3 points as the game approached its final stages but Cheick Tioté had other ideas. A free-kick in the 90th minute from Barton was cleared by the Arsenal defence with the ball falling to the Ivorian who struck a beautiful volley from 25-yards out which flew past Wojciech Szczęsny into the bottom corner resulting in jubilant scenes. The result has gone done in Newcastle folklore and will be remembered for decades to come, a fitting tribute to the midfielder who tragically passed away in June 2017.
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