The 12 best second-leg comebacks in European football history
First Liverpool, now Tottenham. After two remarkable nights in the Champions League, we're going to need another update here...
12. Partizan Belgrade vs QPR, 1984/85 (2-6, 4-0)
Pitted against Partizan Belgrade in the UEFA Cup, QPR hammered the Yugoslavs 6-2 in a ‘home’ game played at Arsenal’s Highbury (thanks to Loftus Road’s plastic pitch).
Alan Mullery’s side then travelled to Belgrade for the return, only to be taken apart 4-0 and tumble out on away goals. “Mullery chased us down the tunnel telling us to come back for extra-time,” said goalkeeper Peter Hucker. “He didn’t even know the rules.” Unsurprisingly, the ex-Spurs man was axed weeks later.
11. Bayer Leverkusen vs Espanyol, 1987/88 (0-3, 3-0, 3-2 pens)
Back when UEFA Cup finals were two-legged affairs, Espanyol would have been fairly confident having won 3-0 in Catalonia.
In Germany, Leverkusen didn’t pull one back until the 57th minute, but substitute Falko Gotz and Cha Bum-kun levelled the tie late on. It went to penalties, which of course the Germans won. The game is known as The Tomb of Leverkusen to Espanyol fans. Leverkusen, meanwhile, remain the only German side to win a European competition but never their domestic league.
10. Real Madrid vs Derby, 1975/76 (1-4, 5-1)
After Brian Clough's glorious era at Derby it was his best signing, Dave Mackay, who led the Rams during their second European Cup campaign. Up against Real Madrid in the second round, Charlie George netted a hat-trick in a remarkable 4-1 home win.
Midfielder Archie Gemmill remembers: “We arrived two days before the [return] game and had time to do some sightseeing – though nowadays there would be no walking around a city for hours.”
But their joy was short-lived: Derby were dismantled 5-1 in front of 120,000 fans at the Bernabeu, thanks in part to a Roberto Martinez (no, not that one) double.
9. Ajax vs Panathinaikos, 1995/96 (0-1, 3-0)
77,000 expectant Panathinaikos fans packed the Olympic Stadium in Athens after a single-goal win in the first leg of this Champions League semi-final, but were quickly silenced by Jari Litmanen’s early goal at the Spyridon Louis.
Louis van Gaal’s young side then took control, netting two goals late on via Litmanen and Nordin Wooter, becoming the first side in the Champions League era to overturn a first-leg home defeat. It wasn't enough to take them all the way, though – Van Gaal's men lost the final to Juventus on penalties.
8. Odense vs Real Madrid, 1994/95 (2-3, 2-0)
Real Madrid have lost only one UEFA tie after winning the away leg first, and that came against Danish side Odense. After los Blancos won 3-2 in Denmark courtesy of local hero Michael Laudrup's last-gasp winner, few gave Odense a chance at the Bernabeu – so much so that only 30,000 bothered showing up.
After pulling a goal back with 15 minutes to go, it was Morten Bisgaard – later of Derby County – who rifled past Santiago Canizares for a sensational 4-3 aggregate win. Odense's adventure ended in the quarter-finals against Parma.
7. Metz vs Barcelona, 1984/85 (2-4, 4-1)
After winning the first leg of this Cup Winners' Cup first-round game in France, Barça star Bernd Schuster offered to “give the Metz players some ham to thank them for all the presents they’ve given to us tonight”. No French TV or radio station bothered to send anyone to the Camp Nou return, and their decision looked vindicated after Metz fell 5-2 behind on aggregate.
But two goals before half-time were followed by another one 10 minutes after the restart, before Yugoslav striker Tony Kurbos wrapped up a hat-trick and stunning win three minutes from time. Metz keeper Michel Ettorre was particularly chuffed. “At full-time I ran straight up to Schuster and bawled ‘Where’s your ham now?’” chuckled the glovesman. “I don’t think he speaks French but he understood me that night.”
6. Inter vs Bayern Munich, 2010/11 (0-1, 3-2)
As if beating Bayern in the previous May's final wasn’t enough, Inter became only the second side in the Champions League era to overturn a first-leg home defeat.
Mario Gomez had netted an injury-time winner at San Siro three weeks previously, but despite another from the German and a Thomas Muller chip before half-time in the second leg, Samuel Eto’o, Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev strikes saw the Italians through on away goals.
Awaiting them in the quarter-finals was a 7-3 aggregate humping from Schalke, who finished 35 points behind champions Borussia Dortmund in that season's Bundesliga.
5. Bayer Uerdingen vs Dynamo Dresen, 1985/86 (0-2, 7-3)
In this West vs East Germany Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final showdown, the pressure was on Dresden after the Stasi insisted they got to the semi-finals. After a 2-0 home win, progress was a formality when Dynamo led 5-1 on aggregate at half-time, in part thanks to Ralf Minge’s first-minute goal (stop sniggering at the back there).
But Uerdingen then scored an implausible six goals in 30 minutes to progress, much to the Stasi's anger. Dresden striker Frank Lippman fled to GDR and never returned; coach Klaus Sammer was fired for bringing shame on the nation. Uerdingen were beaten in the semis by Atletico Madrid.
4. Monaco vs Real Madrid, 2003/04 (2-4, 3-1)
When Madrid loaned Fernando Morientes to Monaco, they felt it would give the forward the exposure necessary to land a big-money move the following summer. Little did they know that it would be their own man who would dump them out of the Champions League.
After netting a crucial away goal in a 4-2 Bernabeu defeat, the striker powered a header past Iker Casillas in the second. With Ludovic Giuly goals sandwiching the Spaniard’s strike, Monaco progressed on away goals.
SEE ALSO 5 club heroes who roughed up their old teams
3. Deportivo vs Milan, 2003/04 (1-4, 4-0)
“For the first and only time in my life, I wondered if my opponents were on something.” So said Andrea Pirlo after his Milan side were bundled out of the Champions League.
After winning 4-1 at San Siro, Milan collapsed in Galicia, with Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron, Albert Luque and Fran netting to send Deportivo through. Coach Javier Irureta fulfilled his pre-match promise to make the 35-mile pilgrimage to the catholic shrine in Santiago de Compostela if his team overturned the deficit, though he did so on foot, rather than his original pledge to do it on his knees. Lightweight.
2. Barcelona vs Roma, 2017/18 (4-1, 3-0)
Barça have been involved in outrageous Champions League ties for three seasons running – and twice come out as losers.
They swept aside their Italian rivals 4-1 in the Camp Nou first leg, with Edin Dzeko's 80th-minute goal of hope for Roma quickly wiped out by an 87th-minute Luis Suarez effort.
But, six minutes into the return game at the Stadio Olimpico, Dzeko got another to chop the deficit to two. The hosts smelled blood, and with just over half an hour left they put the fear into their crumbly Catalan rivals with a Daniele De Rossi penalty. And then it came: a corner in the 82nd minute, Kostas Manolas nodding home – and the Olimpico going potty.
1. PSG vs Barcelona, 2016/17 (4-0, 1-6)
It was over. Barcelona were gone. Dead. Buried. Paris Saint-Germain, in their fifth season of trying, would be claiming a giant scalp in their quest to progress beyond the quarter-finals – but in the end they didn't even get that far.
They really couldn't have asked for much more in a first-leg trouncing of the Catalans; two goals in each half, and denying an away goal in reply. So how on earth, then, did they manage to balls it up from there? No side in the history of the competition had overturned a four-goal deficit, but that's just what Barça managed in a madcap second leg that defied belief.
For a while it followed script: Luis Suarez got an early goal, then Layvin Kurzawa put through his own net before half-time. Lionel Messi plundered a penalty five minutes after the interval. Three-nil, 40 minutes remaining and PSG were on the ropes – this really could be done the easy way.
But then disaster: the reeling Frenchmen grabbed an away goal through Edinson Cavani, and Barça's dreams appeared dashed. They would now have to score three times in the last 27 minutes of normal time to go through, 25 of which they spent not scoring any goals. But no matter: in the 88th minute, Neymar converted a peach of a free-kick; in the 91st, he coolly slotted home Barça's second penalty of the night. Then, ridiculously, in the 95th minute, the brilliant Brazilian chipped one over PSG's backline for Sergi Roberto to score past Kevin Trapp. Bonkers.
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By Conor Pope
By Conor Pope