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SPORTbible Pick The 15 Best Comebacks Of All Time

Ryan Sidle

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SPORTbible Pick The 15 Best Comebacks Of All Time

Newcastle's 4-4 draw with Arsenal in 2011 is one of football greatest comebacks but where will it fit on our list of sports all time greatest turnarounds?

Cheick Tiote's incredible 87th minute equaliser 10 years ago today, on February 5th 2011, meant that the Ivorian, who sadly passed away in 2017, will forever be a Premier League legend.

It was certainly the most remarkable comeback in England's top flight, with the Gunners leading 3-0 after 10 minutes and 4-0 at half time only to drop two points, but what are sports other great comebacks?

15. Happy Gilmore/Tune Squad vs Monstars/Rocky Balboa/Average Joe's Gymnasium vs Globo Gym - It's a close one between four of the greatest sporting comebacks in history but you've got to have them on the list. Shooter McGavin arguably threw away his lead but Gilmore stuck in there and his shot to win golf's Tour Championship 25 years ago was a masterstroke.

The Tune Squad faced adversity in losing all their powers and, whilst they did have Michael Jordan on their team, you can't downplay the fact they won under the pressure of saving the world!


Rocky Balboa came back from the doldrums time and time again to become a world champion boxer and even avenged the death of a dear friend.

And who can forget Average Joe's winning the Dodgeball championship on ESPN's The Ocho. Betting irregularities aside it was quite the comeback when you consider Chuck Berry had to vote to keep them in the competition!

14. 2011 Canada Grand Prix - Jenson Button started in seventh, had two crashes, including one with teammate Lewis Hamilton, and ended up in last place on lap 37 of 70. The rain poured down and had to be suspended. Two hours later they started again and the Brit forced his way all through the field to find himself in second place behind Sebastian Vettel. The German led by a second going into the last lap but overran on the sixth corner, Button went through and somehow won the race in dramatic fashion.

13. Australia vs India Test series 2021 - Recency bias perhaps but India were bowled out for 36 as they lost the first Test in Australia. Captain Virat Kohli went home after the first game and the visitors battled a huge list of injuries. India drew the series in the second Test and held on on day five of the third Test. They headed to the Gabba for the final match, where Australia hadn't lost for 32 years, needing a draw to keep the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Rishabh Pant's incredible 89 on day five led them to an unlikely match and series victory.

12. New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons, Super Bowl LI - Tom Brady could win a seventh Super Bowl ring on Sunday night but arguably his best achievement in NFL's showpiece came in 2017. The Patriots found themselves 28-3 down in the third quarter, facing the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. Brady threw 466 yards as Bill Belichick's side scored 25 unanswered points, including a last minute touchdown, to take it to overtime. The Patriots came up with the goods in overtime with another touchdown.

Tom Brady celebrates an incredible victory. Image: PA Images
Tom Brady celebrates an incredible victory. Image: PA Images

11. Dennis Taylor vs Steve Davis, World Snooker Championship Final 1985 - Defending world champion Steve Davis wracked up an 8-0 lead against former runner up Dennis Taylor and it looked like the Englishman would run away with it. The Northern Irishman had other ideas and got it back to 9-7 and then 13-11. Davis again led 17-15 and needed just one frame for the title. Taylor hit back to level things up and take it to a decider. A record viewing audience of 18.5 million tuned into the BBC past midnight, a record yet to be beaten, as the world number 11 won the final frame on the black ball, amazing drama.

10. Barcelona vs PSG, Champions League last 16, 2017 - Deportivo's win over AC Milan, Liverpool beating Barcelona or Spurs defeating Ajax could make their own claim for this list but there was something particularly special about La Remontada. PSG won 4-0 in Paris to put one foot in the quarter finals. Barca scored three at home in the opening 50 minutes to make it interesting but Edinson Cavani's away goal meant the hosts needed three more and the Parisiens kept them out until the 88th minute. Neymar scored a free kick and three minutes later made it 5-1 on the night and 5-5 on aggregate from the spot but PSG were going through thanks to Cavani's goal. However Neymar delivered a cross and Sergio Roberto scored in the 95th minute to send the Spanish side through.

9. George Foreman vs Michael Moorer, 1994 - George Foreman was a 40-0 heavyweight world champion when he was beaten by Muhammad Ali in 1974, losing the WBA, WBC and the Ring titles. He retired in 1977 after six more fights, only to return 10 years later at the age of 38. The American went on another long undefeated run to earn title redemption against Evander Holyfield, but lost on points. He lost another fight for the WBO belt against Tommy Morrison in June 1993 but just over a year later got another crack at the WBA, IBF and lineal titles against Moorer. The younger boxer, 19 years Foreman's junior, was ahead on all scorecards going into the 10th. However Foreman stopped his opponent with a short right to regain the world title at 45-years-old, 20 years after losing it.

8. Newcastle United 4-4 Arsenal, Premier League, 2011 - Goals from Theo Walcott, Johan Djourou and Robin van Persie made it 3-0 to Arsene Wenger's side after 10 minutes. Van Persie made it four after just 26 minutes and all three points looked to be headed back down south. However Abou Diaby's red card in the second half changed everything. Joey Barton made it 4-1 from the spot in the 68th minute, Leon Best added a second with 15 minutes to go before Barton reduced the deficit to one from the spot again, with seven minutes to go. Then, with three minutes to go, the Gunners failed to clear a free kick and Tiote smashed home for his one and only goal in 156 games for the Magpies, incredible!

7. Monica Seles, Australian Open 1996 - Seles was a teenage sensation and won the French Open at the age of 16. The Yugoslavian won eight Grand Slam titles in total before the age of 20. However in 1993 the world number one, and then reigning Australian, French and US Open champion, was stabbed on court. A fan obsessed with Steffi Graf ran onto court and stabbed the German's rival in between her shoulder blades. Seles suffered depression and an eating disorder following the attack and didn't compete for two years. She returned in 1995 and lost that year's US Open final to Graf but completed her comeback by winning her ninth, and final, Slam in Australia at the beginning of 1996.

6. America's Cup 2013 - Sailing's most prestigious race was subject of one of sport's greatest comebacks in 2013. Emirates Team New Zealand were the challengers going up against defending champions Oracle Team USA in a best of 17 race. The challengers took an incredible 8-1 lead, meaning Team USA needed to win an unprecedented eight races in-a-row. They appointed four time gold medal winning sailor Ben Ainslie from the sixth race and the Brit turned the race on its head, as Team USA managed to win all eight of the remaining races to defend their title. Later this month Ainslie will attempt to qualify for this year's America's Cup with INEOS Team UK.

5. Tiger Woods, Masters 2019 - Between 1997 and 2008 Tiger Woods won 15 majors and was arguably the greatest golfer of all time, remaining number one in the rankings for a ridiculous 264 weeks in-a-row from August 1999 to September 2004 and another 281 weeks from June 2005 to October 2010. Personal problems and injuries affected him around 2010 but he was world number one again in 2014 before three injury hit years led to questions about if he'd ever play again, as he underwent four back surgeries. Woods came back in 2017 but wasn't quite the same player at first. A second place at the 2018 PGA Championship suggested he could be on the verge of something special and he managed it several months later at Augusta. Woods started the fourth round two shots off leader Francesco Molinari, the Open champion. Molinari kept that lead up until the 11th but soon messed up. Woods birdied the 15th and 16th to open a lead over Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and held on over the final two holes to win his first major in 11 years!

4. Ryder Cup, 2012, Miracle at Medinah - After Europe had won four of the previous five Ryder Cups it looked like USA were going to win the title back on home turf. Davis Love III's side took a 5-3 lead over Jose Maria Olazabal's team after day one and a 3-1 win in the opening session of day two extended their advantage to 8-4. Saturday's afternoon four balls opened with two more wins for USA and they could already see the finish line, with 10 of the 14.5 points they needed for victory already in the bag. Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald pulled one point back by defeating Woods and Steven Stricker but Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson looked on for a point for USA. That was until an inspired Ian Poulter shot five birdies in-a-row to help him and Rory McIlroy finish with a point and take it into the final day at 10-6 down.

Poulter's roar was iconic during Europe's comeback. Image: PA Images
Poulter's roar was iconic during Europe's comeback. Image: PA Images

Olazabal went strong out of the blocks and Donald, Poulter and McIlroy all won early, although the Northern Irishman nearly missed his tee-time in a moment of surreal drama. Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie helped Europe win five of the first six points on offer, with only Dustin Johnson putting red on the board. Dufner later made it 13-13 but Martin Kaymer beat Stricker on the 18th to guarantee a draw for Europe and Molinari halved with Woods for a huge win. Olazabal dedicated the win to his friend, and Ryder Cup legend, Seve Ballesteros who'd died a year before.

3. Liverpool vs AC Milan, Istanbul, Champions League final 2005 - We are mainly football on this page so the next two being so high up should come as little surprise, argue their position between yourselves. Carlo Ancelotti's AC Milan were one of the best sides of the generation, Rafa Benitez's Liverpool were talented but finished the league season fifth, behind rivals Everton. Legendary defender Paolo Maldini made it 1-0 to the Italians after one minute and it already looked tough from there, against a side that included Alessandro Nesta, Cafu, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Kaka and Andriy Shevchenko, amongst others. Hernan Crespo scored twice just before half-time to make it 3-0 and Liverpool's task looked impossible. Steven Gerrard gave his side hope with a headed goal after 54 minutes and the deficit was down to one just two minutes later. Vladimir Smicer, on as a first half substitute, cracked a long range shot past Dida. Liverpool completed a remarkable comeback in the 60th minute, Milan Baros was brought down in the box by Gennaro Gattuso but Dida saved Xabi Alonso's penalty, the Spaniard though slotted home the penalty to take things to extra time. The Rossoneri had the best chance to win the game as Jerzy Dudek made an incredible double save from Shevchenko with three minutes of the 30 to go. Dudek was the hero from the spot too, as he saved twice, including the final penalty, from the Ukrainian, to win the Reds their fifth European title.

2. Manchester United vs Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Champions League final 1999 - Only the one goal behind but given everything this one just edges it, I nearly whimped out and put them joint. Both United and Bayern had historic trebles in their grasps. United had won the Premier League and FA Cup and the Germans had won the Bundesliga and had the DFB Pokal final to come. Sir Alex Ferguson's side were without the suspended Roy Keane and Paul Scholes and they started poorly, with Mario Basler making it 1-0 from a free kick after just six minutes. United dominated possession but couldn't make any clear cut chances whilst Basler nearly added a second free kick and Alexander Zickler went close. Carsten Jancker and Stefan Effenberg had decent chances in the second half, with United offering little in way of attack, but it was Mehmet Scholl who came closest to doubling Bayern's advantage. His long range chip beat Peter Schmeichel but the ball hit the bar and into the grateful Dane's arms. and with not long to go Jancker also hit the crossbar from an overhead kick. Time was running out for United but substituted Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at least looked lively. United earned a corner as the fourth official showed the injury time on his board. Schmeichel went forward but the ball eventually landed to Ryan Giggs, his shot from outside the area was tame but Sheringham swiped it in and extra time loomed large. However 30 seconds later Fergie's team won another corner, David Beckham swung it in again, Sheringham nodded towards goal and Solskjaer flicked out a foot to knock it into the goal to complete the most dramatic of comeback.

Solskjaer celebrates his winner. Image: PA Images
Solskjaer celebrates his winner. Image: PA Images

1. Alex Zanardi - When a man loses both his legs in a crash during a race and goes on to compete in the World Touring Car Championships and win four Paralympic gold medals then you can't not put him at number one in the list. Former F1 driver Zanardi was racing in the Championship Auto Racing Teams championship in September 2001 when he was involved in an awful incident. The crash led one of his legs to be amputated at the thigh and the other at the knee, with quick medical intervention saving his life. Zanardi designed and made his own prosthetics that would allow him to race again, which he first did at the 2003 European Touring Car Championship. He later won races in the World Touring Car Championship and even returned to an F1 car in November 2006 as a test driver for BMW Sauber. The Italian took up Paralympic sport handcycling in 2007 and it turned out he was pretty good at it. The former Minardi driver has won 12 gold medals at five World Championships, as well as five silver and a bronze, and won two golds each at both the London and Rio Paralympic games in 2012 and 2016, plus a silver at each too. It truly is difficult to compete with a comeback as extraordinary as Zanardi's!

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Golf, Formula One, Liverpool, Tom Brady, Football, Manchester United, Barcelona, Boxing, Tiger Woods, F1, NFL, snooker, super bowl

Ryan Sidle
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