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Football's Greatest Comebacks: When The Impossible Was Made Possible

Josh Lawless in  football

Barcelona produced one of the greatest comebacks in football history on Wednesday night when they overturned a 4-0 defeat to PSG in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 by winning 6-1 and sending football fans around the world into a frenzy.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring to revive Barca's hopes of advancing to the next round.

His effort was followed by a bizarre own goal which gave the Catalans a two-goal lead at half-time.

Lionel Messi then made it 3-0, coolly converting his penalty minutes after the restart. Though PSG's feared marksman Edinson Cavani bagged a crucial away goal, appearing to end their hopes.

However, the brilliance of Neymar from his free-kick, spot-kick to the delightful assist to Roberto secured their passage to the next round pulling off an unlikely victory.

And though Barca's comeback is right up there in terms of the top comebacks in football history, but there have been a plethora of results that have come against all odds and where supporters have gone from complete despair to ultimate joy.

Here are just a few that spring to mind.

AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties)

You simply cannot write about football comebacks without this one popping in your head in an instance. Liverpool looked dead and buried at half-time in the 2005 Champions League final when a goal from from Paolo Maldini in the first minute, and a brace from Hernan Crespo meant AC Milan were already planning what order they would go in to collect the trophy.

But inspired by skipper Steven Gerrard, Liverpool came back - with goals from Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso levelling matters. The game would eventually go to penalties, where Jerzey Dudek became a Liverpool hero, saving Andriy Shevchenko's penalty and giving Liverpool fans a night in Istanbul that they still talk about today.


Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich

Camp Nou was the place to be for one of the greatest comebacks in history but it has also been the host for another memorable mountain climb that also came in the Champions League. In the 1999 Champions League final, Manchester United were 1-0 down to Bayern as the game entered the final minutes.

However, Teddy Sheringham equalised from a scuffed Ryan Giggs shot and a second dramatic goal in stoppage time, from super-sub Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completed a remarkable turnaround. The iconic commentary that captured will be forever be etched in the heads of United fans.


Manchester City 3-2 QPR

United aren't the only team from Manchester to stage an incredible comeback in injury time though, as Manchester City had a crazy comeback in the final game of the 2011/12 season. After United had handed them the initiative in the title race and with a superior goal difference, all City had to do against QPR at the Etihad Stadium was match or better United's result against Sunderland at the Stadium Of Light.

City went ahead on the stroke of half-time through Pablo Zabaleta but somehow managed to concede two goals against relegation-threatened QPR. The frustration set in for City fans in a situation that was about to completely underline the 'Typical City' phrase. However, Edin Dzeko headed home from a corner in the 92nd minute before City carved out one last opening in a minute later, as Sergio Aguero played a one-two with Mario Balotelli, nipped into the area and drove the ball past Paddy Kenny - snatching the title away from United's grasp, securing City's first league title for 44 years and sending the Etihad wild. The most dramatic moment in Premier League history.


Deportivo 5-4 AC Milan

Barcelona are not the only Spanish side to look down and out after being thumped in the first leg of a Champions League yet find it within themselves to turn it around in the second leg. Deportivo La Coruna, a great side to watch back in the day, were blitzed 4-1 by AC Milan at the San Siro and the odds were well against them to progress to the semi-finals of the competition in 2004.

Yet the team produced a stunning performance and were 3-0 up inside 43 minutes through goals from Walter Pandiani, Juan Pablo Valeron and Albert Luque. And not settling for qualification on away goals, Depor bagged a fourth in 75th minute through Gonzalez Fran, completely conquering a Milan side that contained Dida, Cafu, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo, Kaka, Clarence Seedorf and Andriy Shevchenko.

Tottenham Hotspur 3-5 Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United had an innate ability of well and truly fighting to the end and not knowing when they were beaten. A result that typified this was in the 2001/02 season when the Champions were 3-0 down to a rampant Spurs side at White Hart Lane, yet a dressing down from Fergie led to United looking like a completely different team in the second half.

Five second half goals from Andy Cole, Laurent Blanc, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastian Veron and David Beckham completed a quite remarkable turnaround for United.


Crystal Palace 3-3 vs Liverpool

Having been beaten at home by Chelsea at Anfield in the previous fixture and with Manchester City hot on their trail, the pressure was on for Liverpool at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. The Reds were 3-0 up and cruising on Monday 5th May 2014, with goals coming from Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.

However, three goals in nine minutes for Palace, including a Dwight Gayle double, let Liverpool fans know what it was like to be on the end up of an inspired comeback to get the scores back to 3-3.

Brendan Rodgers completely bottled their greatest chance of winning a Premier League title to date and victories against Aston Villa and West Ham for Manchester City meant Manuel Pellegrini lifted the League Cup and Premier League trophies in his first season at the helm.


Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal

Title hopefuls Arsenal raced into a 4-0 lead in 26 minutes during a trip to St James' Park in February 2011 but when Abou Diaby was sent off for Arsenal minutes into the second half, the momentum swung in the favour of the hosts and they mounted a stunning comeback.

Two penalties from Joey Barton, either side of a Leon Best strike gave Newcastle fans hope that they could get something from the game and they claimed their deserved point when midfield Cheik Tiote struck a sublime left-footed volley that nestled into the bottom corner. One of the greatest comebacks in Premier League history.


Angola 4-4 Mali

Turning our attentions to international football now, a crazy comeback happened in the African Cup Of Nations back in 2010. Angola and Mali met in the tournament's opener and played out an absolute cracker of a game.

Angola, who hosted the tournament, ran rampant and were 4-0 up by the time the 75th minute rolled around - a double from from Flavio and two penalties, one from Gilberto and one from former Manchester United man Manucho putting them on course for an emphatic start for the comeback.

But Mali would not give up and produced one of the greatest comebacks in football when they managed to score four goals from the 79th minute onwards to claim a point in the first game of the competition. Seydou Keita looked to have merely grabbed a consolation when he struck with just over 10 minutes remaining but somehow the Eagles scored three times, including twice in stoppage time to level matters and complete an incredible turnaround.

Freddy Kanoute bagged one in the 88th minute, Keita notched his second in the 93rd and then a minute later Yatabare did the business and well and truly screwed up the match reports that any African Football writers had ready to go out on the whistle.


Motherwell 6-6 Hibernian

One of the lesser known comebacks on the list, Motherwell were spurred on by their home fans to claim a sensational comeback against Hibs on May 5 2010. At one point in the game Hibs were 3-1 up, then it was 4-2 as the teams headed back to the tunnel for half-time. Two strikes from Anthony Stokes put Hibs well clear and good value to pick up a comfortable win but Motherwell fought their way back and four goals from the 67th minute onwards marked an unbelievable comeback for Well.

Goals from Giles Coke and John Sutton, who had both scored earlier in the game, sandwiched in between a strike from Tom Hateley gave Motherwell a chance but when substitute Ross Forbes missed a late spot-kick, their hopes of a comeback looked to have gone.

However, there was one last opportunity and it arrived for on-loan striker Lukasz Jutkiewicz, who latched onto a bouncing ball and smashed in a venomous volley that bulged the net and sent Motherwell fans wild.


Reading 5-7 Arsenal

We finish up with one of the greatest comebacks in recent memory. A below par Arsenal were destroyed by Reading in the first half of this League Cup tie and were 4-0 up down after 35 minutes - goals coming from Jason Roberts, Laurent Koscielny (OG), Mikele Leigertwood and Noel Hunt.

Theo Walcott scored just before the break and then Olivier Giroud struck in the 64th minute. But with just a minute remaining, Reading looked to have done their job and sealed the win.

However, Laurent Koscielny scored Arsenal's third just before the 90th minute and Theo Walcott levelled matters, taking the game to extra time with a goal deep into stoppage time.

And despite a couple of Arsenal players thinking the game was done after giving away their shirts to fan, the Gunners ran riot in extra time. Marouane Chamakh struck in the 103rd minute, though things were all-square again when Pavel Pogrebnyak headed past Damian Martinez.

But after that, Arsenal were dominant, with Walcott taking the match ball with a third and final strike, along with another goal from Marouane Chamakh. As far as League Cup games go, there aren't many better.


You can't beat a crazy comeback...

Words by Josh Lawless

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Josh Lawless

Was once told that Ousmane Dabo was going to be a Manchester City legend.

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