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The UEFA Champions League's greatest comebacks

April 23, 2015 08:57 IST
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Following Bayern Munich's brilliant 7-4 (on aggregate) win over FC Porto in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, here's a look at a few memorable come-from-behind victories in Europe's premier football competition.

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski scores

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski scores in the UEFA Champions league quarter-final second leg match against Porto at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Bayern Munich's brilliant 7-4 (on aggregate) comeback win over FC Porto in the quarter-finals not just assured them a berth in the last four of the Champions League, but also reiterated the fact that Pep Guardiola's side has enough depth to withstand injury worries.

Down 1-3 in the quarter-final tie, after a shocking first leg defeat at the Estadio do Dragao, and missing a host of key players - including the talismanic duo of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery - ahead of the return leg, Bayern had their backs to the wall.

However, instead of capitulating, the five-time European champions displayed the steely determination that has become synonymous with German football over the years.

The Bavarian side produced a stunning first-half display, going 5-0 up at the break, and completed the rout with another goal after it.

The result sealed one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the competition.

Here's a look at a few memorable come-from-behind victories in Europe's premier football tournament*.

* This analysis includes only matches from the Champions League era. The pre 1992-93 period, when the competition was known as the European Cup, is excluded from the list.

Manchester United vs Bayern Munich (1999 final)

Teddy Sheringham of Manchester United

Teddy Sheringham of Manchester United heads towards goal during the UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp in Barcelona, Spain. Sheringham scored the equaliser as United won 2-1. Photograph: Ben Radford /Allsport

It was arguably one of the best finals ever played.

And it earned Sir Alex Ferguson his first Champions League crown. However, it came the hard way.

A Mario Basler free-kick put Bayern ahead at the Camp Nou. The scoreline remained the same for the rest of the normal 90 minutes’ of play and victory in sight for the Germans.

However, in the first minute of added time, substitute Teddy Sheringham put United level and, two minutes later, another super-sub, Norwegian, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, beat Oliver Kahn to complete a memorable turnaround, one that helped the Manchester team complete the treble that season.

AS Monaco vs Real Madrid (2003-04 quarter-final)

Fernando Morientes

Monaco’s Fernando Morientes celebrates at the final whistle after the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid at the Louis II Stadium, Monaco, on April 6, 2004. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Real Madrid is undoubtedly the most successful side in the history of the competition. At the same time, they were also at the receiving end many a time.

One of those instances was in the quarter-finals against Monaco in 2004.

Real comfortably won the first leg 4-2, and went 1-0 up in the return leg at the Stade Louis, courtesy their legendary striker Raul.

However, Ludovic Giuly sparked a Monaco comeback, scoring just before half-time. The principality club went further ahead through Fernando Morientes, on loan from Real, and it was 3-1 when Giuly scored again at the hour mark.

The tie ended 5-5 (on aggregate), and Monaco won a last four berth on the 'away' goals rule, and a meeting against Chelsea.

Deportivo La Coruna vs AC Milan (2003-04 quarter-finals)

Walter Pandiani

Walter Pandiani of Deportivo La Coruna celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League match against AC Milan at the Estadio Municipal de Riazor in La Coruna on April 7, 2004. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

‘Sometimes the other team has a perfect night.’

An emotional Paolo Maldini uttered those memorable words after AC Milan surrendered their title to Spanish upstarts Deportivo La Coruna.

It was a shocking loss for Carlo Ancelotti’s side considering they had thrashed the Spanish side 4-1 in the quarter-final first leg.

However, it was the return leg in Galicia that produced one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history. The Rossoneri were blown away 4-0 at the Riazor stadium, losing 5-4 on aggregate.

Depor forwards Alberto Luque and Walter Pandiani, and the redoubtable Juan Carlos Valeron, were all on the score-sheet that evening.

Liverpool vs AC Milan (2005 final)

Liverpool defender John Arne Riise of Norway (right) and midfielder Vladimir Smicer of the Czech Republic lift the European Cup after Liverpool beat AC Milan in the final on May 25, 2005 at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Now this is one all football fans are aware of.

It is referred to as the Miracle of Istanbul since.

Liverpool had everything going against them. Their last title had come in 1984, when the competition was still known as the European Cup, with Milan winning the competition four times thereafter.

Besides, Carlo Ancelotti’s was a better side as compared to Rafa Benitez’s.

And, true to form and expectations, Milan went 3-0 ahead, thanks to a goal by Paolo Maldini and a brace by Hernan Crespo.

Liverpool, though, remained resilient, and goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso tied the game 15 minutes into the second half, resulting in a 3-3 tie that lasted until the end of regular time.

There were no goals in extra-time, courtesy some brilliant goalkeeping by Liverpool’s Jerzy Dudek, and the final went to penalties.

The Reds won 3-2 on spot-kicks to claim their fifth European title and complete a remarkable comeback.

Chelsea vs Napoli (2011-12 Round of 16)

Roberto Di Matteo, caretaker manager of Chelsea, celebrates victory with Didier Drogba after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match against SSC Napoli at Stamford Bridge, London, on March 14, 2012. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

It was a turbulent season for Chelsea in every which way.

And it became worse for coach Andre Villas-Boas in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples.

The in-form duo of Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi ensured Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli side a 3-1 home win.

Villas-Boas’s decision to relegate the dependable duo of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole to the bench was heavily criticised.

By the return leg the Portuguese coach was relieved of his duties, and Roberto Di Matteo took charge.

It was, perhaps, a change that suited Chelsea the best. An inspired Blues’ side completed a memorable come-from-behind win at Stamford Bridge, Branislav Ivanovic scoring the winner in extra-time.

The Londoners went on to win their maiden title a few weeks later.

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