7 of the best performances by teams with 10 men

Barcelona Inter Milan 2010

Barcelona can be forgiven for still being haunted by 2010's Jose Mourinho masterpiece as they prepare to face Inter in the Champions League for the first time since. That, and more of the finest deficit displays here...

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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.