7 of the best performances by teams with 10 men

Barcelona Inter Milan 2010

Spain 0-1 Northern Ireland (1982)

It’s fair to say that host nation Spain employed some... er, rudimentary tactics in this World Cup group game, scything down player after player without punishment and then chuckling away as Northern Irish players got booked for looking at an opponent.

In spite of the perceived injustice, the 48th minute produced the most famous goal in Northern Ireland’s history: a quick breakaway in which Billy Hamilton – a particular victim of Spain’s cynicism – put the afterburners on down the right wing. His cross was parried by Luis Arconada but only as far as Gerry Armstrong, who gleefully drilled the ball through Arconada’s legs to give Northern Ireland an improbable lead.

Mal Donaghy shoved Jose Camacho on the hour mark, though, and Paraguayan referee Hector Ortiz saw his opportunity to become a Spanish hero by sending Donaghy off. But Northern Ireland defended resolutely for half an hour to give Billy Bingham’s men victory.

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal (1999)

When Roy Keane picked up a second booking for a cynical and frankly nonsensical 74th-minute lunge at Marc Overmars, it appeared likely that there would only be one winner in this FA Cup semi-final replay – delicately poised at 1-1.

Especially when Ray Parlour won Arsenal a penalty in stoppage time. But Peter Schmeichel saved Dennis Bergkamp’s spot-kick, so the game went to extra time. Arsenal pressed for a winner, but Schmeichel was having one of those games where it appeared United were illegally fielding four goalkeepers.

You know what happened next: in the 109th minute, a tired pass from Patrick Vieira gifted possession to United substitute Ryan Giggs, who jinked past 3,719 challenges before smashing the ball into the roof of the net and wheeling off in celebration to reveal a chest deemed ‘a bit too hairy for me’ by Richard Keys.

Barcelona 1-0 Inter (2010)

Jose Mourinho’s Inter side took a 3-1 lead to the Camp Nou for their Champions League semi-final second leg. Stopping a peak, Pep-managed, Messi-inspired Barcelona scoring twice was a tough task anyway, but it was rendered even harder by the dismissal of Thiago Motta for a slap on Sergio Busquets in the 28th minute – a decision which drew sarcastic applause from Mourinho, who would of course never countenance such behaviour.

Regardless, Inter produced a defensive masterclass for the next 70 minutes, repelling everything that an increasingly desperate Barcelona could throw at them. An 84th-minute effort from Gerard Pique made for a tense final few minutes, but Mourinho’s men held firm.

Tottenham 3-4 Manchester City (2004)

Even for a club with a longstanding tradition of shooting themselves in the foot, Spurs looked comfortable at half-time in their fourth-round FA Cup tie against Manchester City. Goals from Ledley King, Robbie Keane and Christian Ziege had given them a seemingly unassailable lead.

Then Joey Barton talked himself into trouble (shocking, we know) as he walked off at the break, receiving a second yellow card. And, let’s face it: Spurs were up against the only club that had even more of a tradition for self-sabotage. 

However, something altogether weird happened in the second half: the 10 men of City rallied. Sylvain Distin glanced a header home in the 48th minute; then Paul Bosvelt's wayward shot took a deflection off Anthony Gardner and nestled in the Tottenham net. In the 80th minute, Shaun Wright-Phillips coolly lifted the ball over Kasey Keller for a scarcely believable equaliser which gave the 10 men a chance at extra-time.

Except it didn’t. Because in the final minute, John Macken powered a header past Keller to seal an unforgettable turnaround.

England 1-2 Brazil (2002)

England took a surprise lead against the tournament favourites in this World Cup quarter-final via a neat first-half finish by Michael Owen. They had several opportunities to stretch their lead too, before Rivaldo equalised following a fleet-footed run from Ronaldinho. Then came that free-kick. Did he mean it, or was it a mishit cross? He meant it. It was Ronaldinho. Come on, now.

But then the buck-toothed Brazilian was harshly sent off in the 58th minute for an innocuous challenge on Danny Mills, who absolutely did not make a meal of it because he’s English and that’s not what English people (incessantly tell themselves that they don’t) do.

Yet Brazil coped comfortably as the English threat wilted in stifling Japanese conditions, and saw the game out with ease. The Seleção went on to win the tournament, while the English public were left trying to concoct another socially acceptable reason to meet in the pub at 7am.

Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (2012)

Although Didier Drogba’s goal at Stamford Bridge had given Chelsea the lead going into the second leg of this Champions League semi-final, few held out much hope of the Blues preventing Pep Guardiola’s magnificent Barcelona side from reaching a third Champions League final in four years.

Fewer still gave them a hope going into the final minute of a frenetic first half in which Barcelona not only scored twice, but Chelsea’s captain John Terry was sent off for foolishly lashing out at Alexis Sanchez.

But Chelsea responded, and Ramires chipped them into an away goals lead on the stroke of half-time. After the break, Lionel Messi missed a penalty, Barcelona failed to make their pressure pay – and in the final minute, the much-maligned Fernando Torres scored a breakaway goal which guaranteed that Barcelona were again knocked out by 10-man opposition (and prompted that weird moan from co-commentator Gary Neville). A few weeks later came the seminal night in which Terry donned his full kit at a final where he was suspended.

Chelsea 2-2 PSG (2015)

Three years on from the above, Chelsea were confident of progressing to the Champions League quarter-finals following a creditable 1-1 draw in Paris. Their chances increased when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was shown a red card in the 31st minute for a high challenge on Oscar.

What followed was an end-to-end affair, with the 10 men of PSG knowing they had to score. Yet it was Chelsea that took the lead though through Gary Cahill’s half-volley. PSG continued to create chances, however, and Chelsea old boy David Luiz shocked his former team-mates with an 86th-minute bullet header to send the game to extra-time.

The Parisians were being forced to play 90 minutes with 10 men, but tiredness didn't hold them back. It looked like they'd finally caved when Eden Hazard scored a penalty in the 96th minute, but the tie was settled with six minutes remaining when PSG captain Thiago Silva sealed an away goals triumph with a looping header.

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