Today, we are going to take a look at the best football comebacks ever. Football is a very unpredictable sport. You never know what might happen at any time. No matter if you are winning or losing, there’s always a chance to turn things around. “Keep going until the final whistle” is an old football saying that makes sense in theory, but is hard to do when you’re 4-0 OR 5-0 down. “It only takes a second to score a goal” is another saying because one goal can change the whole scenario of the match and the match is not over until it’s truly over.
Comebacks in football give you a great sensation and a great feeling of joy. Especially if you make a comeback in UEFA Champions League. Your favourite team feels strong and proud of themselves. The feeling of a comeback in a football is a feeling of ecstasy that remains in every fan and football lovers for a long time.
Now without further ado, let’s break down the top 10 football comebacks that are near impossible to forget. Of course there are more than 10 great comebacks in football history but the limit of your time and the strain I get in my eyes from writing too much prevents me from digging in deeper.
Now let’s get started!
1. Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (2005 UCL Final, Istanbul)
Liverpool and comebacks are a combination that never ever disappoints. Some say Liverpool & Comebacks is a better love story than Twilight! We have seen some impossible comebacks by Liverpool and this one tops them all. Yes, we are talking about the “Miracle of Istanbul”.
Liverpool vs AC Milan is the greatest football comeback ever. Why do I say so? Let me explain. First and foremost, it was the 2005 Champions League final. Then Liverpool conceded 3 goals in the first half of the match and it was pretty much over for Liverpool. No one expected a comeback from Liverpool as they were playing against the legendary AC Milan side full of footballing legends, including Maldini, Kaka, Schivchenko, Gattuso, and many others. But guess what happened? Liverpool went berzerk in the second half scoring 3 goals in 6 minutes. This match is of the kind that you can watch on tape for the 100th time and never get tired of.
In the first half of the game, Milan played some out of the world football. As the commentator said, “no one could live with that.” In the second half of the game, Liverpool came knocking on the door. 54th minute, Steven Gerrard, the captain fantastic, with a sublime header scored for Liverpool, assisted by the legendary Xabi Alonso. His celebration was remarkable. Hands in the air asking Liverpool fans to make as much noise as they possibly could. 56th minute and BAANG! Vladimir Smicer with a screamer out of the box strike scored Liverpool’s second goal of the game. The comeback was truly on!
Miracles do happen in football. 59th minute, AC Milan’s Gattuso fouled Liverpool’s skipper Gerrard in the penalty box and the referee called it a penalty. Xabi Alonso stepped up to take the penalty and all eyes were on him. The penalty was saved by AC Milan’s goalkeeper Dida, but Xabi scored on the rebound. 3-3. Liverpool was 3-0 down 5 minutes before this penalty, and they got even! As the commentator of the match said, “Mission impossible has been accomplished!”
The match ended 3-3 and it was taken to extra time where both teams had great chances to put the game to bed but both goalkeepers were on point with their saves. Liverpool’s Jerzey Dudek stopped the strikes with a phenomenal double save in the extra time which was just incredible.
Finally, the match went down on penalty shoot-out. Dida saved a penalty, Liverpool’s Dudek saved two, and Serginho’s penalty landed on Moon! Liverpool won. The UEFA Champions League returned to England, and to Anfield, along with the greatest comeback in Champions League history. Not to mention the greatest football comeback ever.
Gerrard and company have rewritten football “possibilities” throughout this campaign, but even the heroic efforts of Olympiakos, Juventus and Chelsea were rendered insignificant compared to this. No one had predicted this. Many wrote Liverpool off because they didn’t have a strong squad to fight AC Milan’s star studded line-up. But immortals can not be destroyed. We all thought the match was over in the first half. It wasn’t. Never write Liverpool off.
2. Barcelona 6-1 PSG (2017 UCL Round of 16, Camp Nou)
This match is one of the most insane football comebacks yet also very controversial because of the referee’s decisions. Nonetheless, this match was one hell of a ride for Barcelona supporters. PSG had won the first leg 4-0. There was no hope for Barcelona to go through. Even their most optimistic fans couldn’t dream of a comeback. But haven’t we seen the Istanbul final? Miracles are possible in football! Isn’t that just true?
The second leg started at Camp Nou and Barcelona had to score 4 goals to qualify for the next stage of the Champions League. Luis Suarez scored a goal in the 3rd minute. Exactly the start Barcelona wanted. Now they only needed 3 more goals. They were piling on the pressure. Yet their attacks seemed fruitless. Meanwhile, PSG was denied a highly suspicious penalty, from a handball by Mascherano. That was a controversial decision by the referee.
PSG’s Layvin Kurzawa gifted an own goal to Barcelona. It was game on for Barcelona. In the second half of the game, PSG’s Edinson Cavani was very near to scoring an away goal for PSG but he hit the post. It was a sigh of relief for the Barcelona fans. 50th minute of the game, Meunier gave away a needless penalty which was converted into a goal by Lionel Messi. Comeback was on and Barcelona only needed one more goal to tie the game.
Twist in the tale. Edinson Cavani scored an incredible volley in the 62nd minute of the game. That was the goal PSG was desperately hoping for. The away goal that changed the whole scenario of the match. 5-3 on aggregate and now Barcelona had to score 3 goals to qualify. Surely PSG was going through the next stage. But not so fast! Neymar scored an amazing free kick in the 88th minute of the game. Now Barcelona needed 2 more goals in 5 minutes to qualify for the next stage. 91st minute, a penalty given by the referee which Neymar scored. Only 1 goal needed now.
96th minute, the final minute of the game, and an unbelievable goal from the most unbelievable player on the pitch, Sergi Roberto, won everything for Barcelona. Final scoreline 6-1 on the day and 6-5 on aggregate. Barcelona qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Mission impossible accomplished. One of the best football comebacks ever.
3. Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (4-3 AGG, 2019 UCL Semi-final, Anfield)
Liverpool football comebacks are something else. Remember when I said Liverpool is the king of comebacks? Yes, they really are and here we are with another comeback made by Liverpool. This time it’s the most recent. Surely one of the greatest comebacks in UEFA Champions League history. 7 May 2019, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp believed in something most people shouldn’t even dare of dreaming. From a 3-0 first-leg deficit against the mighty Barcelona, the Reds produced a comeback for the ages to secure a spot in the Champions League final for the second season running.
This is an insane football comeback in so many aspects. Firstly, Barcelona defeated Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg. Liverpool had to score 4 goals to qualify for the final. The star players of Liverpool including Mo Salah and Bobby Firmino were out injured and Liverpool had to play without them. So keeping these aspects in mind, most people wrote Liverpool off and Barcelona fans were already celebrating as if they had reached the final already. Jurgen Klopp said one thing to his team, “It seems impossible, but it is not impossible. Let’s give it our best and if we are to fail, let’s fail in a very beautiful manner.” When you have a manager like him, you will automatically want to do anything for him. What an inspiration!
The match started and it took seven minutes for Divock Origi’s opener to turn that flicker of hope into the embers of belief. It remained 1-0 in the first half of the game. Barcelona had their fair share of chances but could not convert them into goals.
Liverpool’s Andy Robertson was substituted at the start of the second half and was replaced by Wijnaldum who ended up Liverpool’s Champions League hero. In two second-half minutes, amid the tinder-box atmosphere of Anfield, Georginio Wijnaldum’s double set alight those embers. 3-0 on the night and the score was tied on aggregate. The 3 goal disaster at Camp Nou was wiped out in 56 minutes at Anfield! Phenomenal.
It was the time Liverpool looked all over Barcelona and was dominating them on the pitch. With Anfield rocking, Barcelona trembling and Liverpool utterly dominant, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quick-thinking brilliance from a corner allowed Origi to score and make it 4-0!!!! Trent Alexander-Arnold, 20 years of age, what a genius! This goal has to be the most cheekiest and the greatest goal scored in the Champions League history.
The impossible was made possible by the historic Liverpool side and the belief that immortals can not be destroyed. A glance at one of the scoreboards displayed the absurd truth: Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona. The greatest comeback in the history of Champions League, and the greatest comeback the great ground of Anfield has ever seen. History was made and it will be remembered for the ages to come.
4. Tottenham 3-2 Ajax (3-3 AGG, 2019 UCL Semi-final, Cruyff Arena)
One of the best football comebacks 2019! After losing 1-0 to Ajax in the semi-final of the Champions League, Tottenham had a mountain to climb at the Johan Cruyff Arena. The fifth-minute header from Ajax captain de Ligt was the worst possible start for Tottenham. Things got even worse when Hakim Ziyech doubled Ajax’s lead with a sweeping finish after an assist by Tadic.
Now Tottenham had to score 3 away goals to qualify for the Champions League final. The second half started, and within 5 minutes Pochettino’s men scored 2 goals. Both goals were scored by Lucas Moura who was on a hat-trick now. We were watching another pulsating semi-final. Still one goal behind, Spurs were desperately looking to find a way.
Last minute of the game, 3-2 on aggregate, Lucas Moura picked up a sublime pass from Dele Alli and scored the third goal, thus completing his hat-trick and sending Tottenham to an all-English UEFA Champions League final. No one had predicted that and no one would have thought Tottenham would do this and reach their first Champions League final ever.
Tottenham did the impossible. Turning a 3-0 deficit to a 3-3 draw and winning on away goals looked impossible in Amsterdam, but, remember, miracles are possible in football. This match was the standard for not losing hope. Tottenham’s boss Pochettino doesn’t give up. He never gave up in his playing days, nor did he in his managerial days. The Argentine was on his knees after an unbelievable night. That night at Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam was an example of football last minute comebacks.
5. Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich (1999 UCL Final, Camp Nou)
The scoreline may not look fancy but it’s surely one of the top 10 football comebacks ever. The story of the match is interesting and incredible. Having met in the group stages, Bayern and Manchester United made it to the final and met once more. Fun fact: Both teams had significant amounts of red color in their kits and UEFA regulations stated that only one of the teams could wear their first kit. However, the two teams felt it’s disgraceful not to wear the color of their tradition, thus agreeing to toss a coin to see which team gets to wear their first kit in the neutral venue. As we know, Manchester United wore red shirts, white shorts, and socks, because, they won the coin toss.
During the first half, six minutes into the game, Bayern Munich’s Basler fired a low free kick around the United wall to put Bayern Munich 1-0 ahead. Manchester United dominated the possession, but failed to create any chances whole game. Bayern’s defense was well organized and was refusing to give United any chances.
Time was the key and it wasn’t in the favor of Manchester United. The fans started to lose hope. Sheringham and the Norwegian wonder-kid, Solskjaer, came onto the pitch to give some hope to the fans. It was the stoppage time of the game when Teddy Sheringham equalized for Manchester United. 1-1.
Last-minute of the game, and extra time looking likely, David Beckham delivered the corner and Solskjaer put the ball in the net. The late drama which led to the victory of Manchester United in the final minute of the game. The two Manchester United substitutes scored the two goals in stoppage time and won them the European Cup. A perfect example of grinding out the result and never losing hope!
Here’s the historic commentary by Clive Tyldesley, ITV’s commentator:
“You have to feel this is their year…Is this their moment? Beckham in to Sheringham – and Solskjær has won it! Manchester United have reached the promised land! Ole Solskjær! The two substitutes have scored the two goals in stoppage time and the treble looms large!”
6. Reading 5-7 Arsenal (Capital One Cup 2012)
This may not be a very fancy-looking fixture and this may not be a cup final but trust me this game was ridiculous. Edge of the seat stuff! Reading was coming as underdogs and no one expected them to put on a show in the Capital One Cup.
Reading played magnificently for 44 and a half minutes, putting Arsenal to the sword and going 4-0 up in this 2012 League Cup tie. Going 4-0 up in the first half of the game, against a strong Arsenal side was unbelievable and ridiculous, to say the least. The home side huddled in celebration, could hardly stifle their laughter. Arsenal was sometimes guilty of underestimating lesser opponents like Reading or expecting to waltz through games unchallenged, but it was never supposed to be this easy.
“Reading are running riot,” Sky Sports commentator Rob Hawthorne called out in astonishment. “Arsenal are being annihilated!”. And in all honesty, yes they are being annihilated. They were being embarrassed by Reading. The fourth was a wake up call for Arsenal and they responded when Theo Walcott goal on the stroke of half time proved the turning point. In the 88th minute of the game, Olivier Giroud made it 4-2, but with 2 minutes to play, it was still Reading’s game.
Arsenal scored an 89th minute goal and a goal in the 5th minute of injury time took it to extra time. The score line was looking ridiculous. 4-4! In the extra time, Arsenal finally took the lead for the first time and made it 5-4 but minutes later, Reading equalized again to make it 5-5! This game was getting out of hand and it was becoming a roller coaster ride for the fans.
In the very last minute of the extra time, Reading gave away two unnecessary goals and Arsenal pounced upon them to make the final score Reading 5-7 Arsenal. Phenomenal, Edge of the seat stuff! What a roller coaster ride and even special for the neutral fans.
Twelve-goal thrillers aren’t nearly as commonplace as we’d each love for them to be, and there’s a good chance we’ll never be blessed with another game quite like this. The least we can do is treasure it, preserved in all its bewildering, bantery glory.
Reading manager Brian McDermott was asked if he’d watch the DVD of this extraordinary match, he replied “No, I’ll probably throw it in the bin.”
7. AS Roma 3-0 Barcelona (4-4 AGG, 2018 UCL Quarters, Stadio Olimpico)
Roma vs Barcelona is one of the greatest soccer comebacks ever in the history of Champions League. This match is another tale of comeback of the underdogs. We have seen that times and times again when people write off the underdogs yet they manage to prove all of them wrong.
With Barcelona winning 4-1 in Camp Nou, no one believed in the gladiators of Roma. But this is what gladiators do. They fight to death. They fight for what they believe in, even if no one believes in them. That’s what captain De Rossi told them in the dressing room right before the game began. That gladiators do what they gotta do, until they die. And they lived up to their skipper’s words.
An early goal from Roma’s Edin Dzeko exploded Stadio Olimpico. He ran and picked up the ball, shouting at his teammates to carry on and not to give up the belief of comeback. The atmosphere of Satdio Olimpico was affecting the Barcelona’s play-style so they couldn’t use their traditional tiki-taka play-style.
In the second half of the game, Barcelona’s defender Gerard Pique again made a crucial error in a crucial match and gave an idiotic penalty which was converted into the goal by Roma’s skipper De Rossi. 2-0 the scoreline on the night and 4-3 on aggregate. The gladiators of Rome needed only one goal to qualify for the Champions League semi-final.
In the 79th minute of the match, Manolas, the Greek God in Rome scored from a corner kick to make it 3-0 on the night, and 4-4 on aggregate. Here are the historic words from the commentator of the match Peter Drury:
“Roma have risen from their ruins! Manolas, the Greek God in Rome. The unthinkable unfolds before our eyes. This was not meant to happen, this could not happen, this is happening! (Roma boss Eusebio) Di Francesco does not know where to go, (Andres) Iniesta does not know where to look.
“It’s a Greek from Mount Olympus, who has come to the Seven Hills of Rome and pulled off miracle!”
Barcelona had fallen, Messi had fallen. Iniesta’s empire had fallen in his last season for Barcelona. The Gladiators fought, and showed us the fight-back spirit and took down the mighty Barcelona and the unthinkable unfolded before our eyes. Roma vs Barcelona has to be one of the biggest comebacks in Champions League history.
8. Germany 4-4 Sweden (2012 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers)
Germany vs Sweden was played in FIFA World Cup qualifiers in 2012. Germany started the qualifiers as the favorites and the team was even favorites to go and win the World Cup, which they did in fact. But let’s talk about one of the football classics and one of the most insane football comebacks.
The German powerhouse threw away a 4-goal lead for the first, and only time in their history. The Germans had looked to be cruising as they led 4-0 in this World Cup qualifier game with just 28 minutes remaining in the match. Once Mesut Ozil made it 4-0 early in the second half, Germany’s 14th consecutive win in qualifying competitions seemed to happen, but they were not expecting such a dramatic comeback by the Swedes.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mikael Lustig scored in the 62nd and 64th minute of the game to put a grain of doubt in the Germans’ heads and the comeback was on. Johan Elmander of Sweden scored with 14 minutes left to play and the stage was set for the most epic comeback in football. In the 93rd minute of the game, Rasmus Elm scored the stunning equalizer to make it Germany 4-4 Sweden. Rasmus Elm’s equalizer in the injury time earned Sweden a precious draw and silence the Olympiastadion at the end of one of the biggest comeback in football history.
The Germans never saw that coming. They took control of the game in the first 15 minutes of the game when Miroslav Klose scored 2 goals in first 15 minutes. They were not expecting such level of belief from the Swedes to pull that type of comeback.
The German manager Joachim Löw was in a state of disbelief at the final whistle, while the Swedes were sitting on the cloud 9. This match was definitely makes it to the list of top 10 football comebacks.
9. Monaco 3-1 Real Madrid (5-5 AGG 2003 Champions League)
Monaco vs Real Madrid in 2003 Champions League is considered as one of the best football comebacks ever by an underdog side. Real Madrid won the first leg 4-2 at Santiago Bernabeau and they were already feeling like the winners. The star-studded side of Real Madrid including players like Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, and Ronaldo were all in their prime and the era of the Galacticos had just begun. No one was really expecting a fight-back from Monaco but as we said earlier that miracles are possible it only requires belief and well, Monaco had the belief that they could pull off the impossible.
In the first half of the game, Madrid’s Raul curled in a beauty to make it 5-2 to Madrid, and the game looked done & dusted. However, Stade Louis-II witnessed an iconic turnaround. A superb assist from Morientes, and captain Giuly, scored a right-footed volley to make it 5-3 Monaco. There was hope and there was belief!
The second half kicked off, and Monaco looked very sharp. The fans had the sense of hope and Monaco started the half knocking the door. A 48th minute goal from Fernando Morientes made the aggregate score 5-4. Monaco needed only one goal to qualify for the next round of the competition. The come back was truly on and Monaco were fighting like warriors.
In the 66th minute of the game, Monaco’s skipper Giuly came to the rescue and scored the vital goal for Monaco to make it 5-5 on Aggregate. That’s exactly what Monaco wanted. The atmosphere was electric and the supporters were buzzing. Real Madrid was not expecting this at all they thought they put the game to bed already. But the unthinkable happened and Monaco pulled off one of the best football comebacks ever.
In the dying moments of the game, Real Madrid’s Raul shot was off target and the final whistle was blown, Monaco were through to the Champions League Final where they lost 3-0 to FC Porto. But the thing here is that Monaco showed great fighting spirit and showed the world that anything is possible in football and miracles do happen! Monaco really put on a show and pulled off one of the most insane football comebacks.
10. Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (3-2 AGG, 2012 UCL Semi-Final, Camp Nou)
Finally, we have Barcelona vs Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League semi-final. Having won the first leg 1-0, Chelsea looked to defend the whole game at Camp Nou but they were facing a very difficult task. They were facing the fearsome Barcelona team who had the likes of Leo Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, and Busquets, etc.
Even worse for Chelsea, their manager was sacked and Roberto Di Matteo became their interim manager for the rest of the season. Nobody believed in Roberto Di Matteo. A man with zero Champions League experience was given the task to take down Barcelona! The defending champions looked to exploit Chelsea’s ongoing situation and they were hoping to go through the stage.
Barcelona started the match with a storm. Putting balls from left to right and they looked all over Chelsea from the start. Sergio Busquets scored for Barcelona in the 35th minute. Things got worse for Chelsea when John Terry was shown a red card in the 37th minute. The score became 1-0 on the night. Chelsea had lost hope. Iniesta fired a low ball, in the 44th minute and made the score Barcelona 2-0 Chelsea.
Frank Lampard gave a through ball and Ramirez chipped the ball in. 2-2 on aggregate. Chelsea had hope again, but the hope was lost when Drogba conceded a penalty in the 49th minute. Messi decides to take the penalty but he hit the post. Barcelona players were desperate to win. They kept the pressure going. Chelsea’s Ashley Cole cleared a ball, and Fernando Torres got it. He dribbled past Victor Valdes and scored. Chelsea 3-2 Barcelona on aggregate. Barcelona was stunned. The fans were shocked and they were in a state of disbelief.
If you take a look at the match statistics, you’ll think the team that didn’t deserve to win, won. Yes, Chelsea may have not deserved to win a trophy because they did not attack the game as much as Barcelona and some would say Chelsea got lucky, but not all heroes win. The villains won the game and nobody could take that away from them. Chelsea were able to pull off one of the most insane football comebacks.
That’s it for today. Which comeback do you think is the best football comeback ever? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!