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The 12 most miraculous Champions League group stage escapes

Thierry Henry, San Siro

Tottenham have it all to do if they're to make it out alive this season – but history might offer some encouragement, writes Matthew Gault

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1. Newcastle 2002/03

Bobby Robson’s Newcastle were flying high in the Premier League but had struggled to mix it with Europe's best, losing their first three group games to Dynamo Kiev, Feyenoord and Juventus without even scoring.

But the Magpies didn't give up. Against a Juve side including Edgar Davids and Alessandro Del Piero at St James’ Park, one moment was enough for Newcastle to kick-start their campaign.

Andy Griffin rushed onto a quickly taken free-kick and skipped past a challenge, before seeing his cross-cum-shot inadvertently turned home by Gianluigi Buffon. Robson's men managed to pull off victories over Dynamo Kiev and Feyenoord, coming from behind in Ukraine before storming through against the latter via Craig Bellamy's last-minute winner. With that, they became the first side to lose their first three games and qualify for the knockouts.

2. Arsenal 2003/04

Despite becoming the ‘Invincibles’ in the Premier League, the Gunners were far from impenetrable in Europe that season, losing two of their first three group games – including a 3-0 hiding from Inter at Highbury.

But after Ashley Cole snatched a crucial 88th-minute winner in their fourth game against Dynamo Kiev, Arsenal went on to annihilate Inter 5-1 at San Siro in arguably their most formidable European display, led by the brilliance of two-goal Thierry Henry.

Arsene Wenger’s men managed to hold their nerve and clinched a 2-0 home win over Lokomotiv Moscow to progress on 10 points as group winners, demonstrating the steely character that proved the bedrock of that great Gunners side.

3. Lokomotiv Moscow 2003/04

Qualifying alongside Arsenal in second place were the Russians, who had defied the odds to oust Inter Milan and Dynamo Kiev. After amassing just a single point from their first two fixtures – a goalless home draw against Arsenal – Lokomotiv were rock bottom of Group B, exactly where most people thought they'd stay.

But they were determined to leave with more than just pride. The capital outfit took four points off Inter, including a 3-0 hammering of the Italian giants at home, and claimed a 3-2 win over Dynamo Kiev in the penultimate game to finish above Inter and hang on for a place in the last 16. 

4. Porto 2003/04

Nobody fancied then-UEFA Cup champions Porto going into the Champions League that year, but a young Jose Mourinho was determined to announce himself in style. But before he sprinted down the touchline at Old Trafford, the Portuguese prince masterminded a great escape in Group F.

After a 3-1 home defeat to Real Madrid left them on one point from two games, Porto stormed through the final four with 10 points from a possible 12. They collected wins over Didier Drogba's Marseille and then Partizan Belgrade, before drawing with Madrid at home. The Portuguese giant climbed out of the group unscathed before kick-starting their stunning tilt at European domination.

5. Liverpool 2004/05

After losing their penultimate fixture to Monaco 1-0, Liverpool needed to beat Olympiakos by two clear goals to qualify. But Rafa Benitez’s men didn't make things easy for themselves, and went behind to a Rivaldo free-kick midway through the first half.

It teed up one of football's most dramatic comebacks. The Reds netted within two minutes of the restart via Florent Sinama-Pongolle, before Neil Mellor made things interesting in the 81st minute. Then, in the dying embers, Gerrard pounced on Mellor’s cushioned header before drilling a superb volley into the corner from 25 yards to send Liverpool through and Sky's Andy Gray potty.

6. Werder Bremen 2005/06

After collecting just four points from five games, Bremen were in need of a minor miracle going into their final game against Panathinaikos. Level on points with the Greeks and needing victory themselves, Barcelona to beat Udinese and a four-goal swing overturning, the odds were stacked firmly against Thomas Schaaf's side.

But the Bundesliga club produced a thrilling finale to their group stage adventure by smashing Panathinaikos 5-1. It looked as though their five-star display would be in vain, though, until their Catalan friends produced a late show of their own, scoring twice in the last five minutes to knock Udinese out. Cruel.