Top 10 comebacks in recent times

by Mystical Mike

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

As Turkey progress to the semi finals of Euro 2008 with the last kick of the game and a few penalties, they once again proved that a game of football is never over until it’s over. Just when it seems your side is cruising to victory and nothing in the world can prevent a win, things can suddenly turn around.

This leads me to the top ten comebacks of recent time as we look back on some truly memorable turn arounds (in no particular order)…


Turkey 1-1 Croatia…Turkey win 3-1 on penalties (Euro 2008)

The dark horses of Euro 2008, Turkey, look dead and buried not for the first time in the competition, after falling behind to an Ivan Klasnic header following a mistake from Turkish keeper Rustu Recbar dashed out of goal. But with the whistle in the referee’s mouth, Semih Senturk fired the Turks to spot kicks with virtually the last kick of the game. Recbar was eventually the hero after saving the decisive penalty from Ivan Rakitic and Turkey progressed in dramatic style.


Turkey 3-2 Czech Republic (Euro 2008)

Earlier in the competition and the Turks were involved in a winner takes all showdown in Group A as both they and the Czechs were ties on points, goal difference and goals scored going into the game. Czech Republic looked like they were cruising with a 2-0 lead given to them by Jan Koller and Jaraslav Plasil but in an incredible last twenty minutes resulted in one of the finest comebacks the competition has seen. Arda Turan gave Turkey hope before Chelsea keeper Petr Cech dropped a howler to let in Nihat Kahveci for the equaliser. In stoppage time, Nihat crashed in a shot off the under side of the cross bar to complete an astonishing fight back and to add to the drama, Turkish keeper Volkan Demirel was sent off, meaning Middlesbrough striker Tuncay had to take over in goal for the final few seconds as his side held on to book a place in the Quarter Finals.


AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool…Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties (Champions League Final 2005)

Liverpool were set to create history by claiming the European Cup for the fifth time as they came up against Milan in the heart of Istanbul. But the game was looking over for them as early as half-time after Paolo Maldini’s first minute goal and a double from Hernan Crespo. Liverpool fans did their bit to try and rally their troops and what happened from then on has gone down in scouse folklore.

Steven Gerrard scored within ten minutes of the restart and they were off and running. Vladimer Smicer hit a second just two minutes later before the come back was complete within five crazy minutes. Xavi Alonso scored from a rebounded penalty and Milan’s early work was undone. The initiative was with Liverpool and following a wonder save from Jerzy Dudek late on the game went to penalties. Dudek saved from Pirlo and Shevchenko in the shoot out and Liverpool had created both a piece of history and a game that will be considered one of the greatest finals on record.


Tottenham Hotspur 3-4 Manchester City (F.A. Cup Fourth Round, February 2004)

Manchester United awaited the winners of this tie in Round Five and Spurs fans were already planning their journey to Old Trafford at half time. Ledley King curled them in front early on before Robbie Keane and Christian Ziege added to that before the half time whistle. To make matters worse for City, Joey Barton was sent off for a second bookable offence so they had to face the second half with just ten men.

Sylvain Distin got what seemed to be only a consolation just after the break but Paul Bosvelt and Shaun Wright-Phillips had them level with ten minutes to go as Spurs collapsed. With extra time beckoning, John Macken stooped at the back post to header home into the far corner and complete one of the most memorable cup fight backs of all time.


Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal (Old Division One, May 1989)

With both sides locked on points, it was all set for a final day showdown at Anfield with Liverpool guaranteed the title even if they lost by a single goal to their nearest rivals. Alan Smith had given the Gunners the lead going into the last knockings but with just seconds left on the clock it was “all up for grabs” and Michael Thomas raced through the Reds’ defence to score a second and clinch the title in the most dramatic of styles.

The story of the title run in was also used in the film Fever Pitch, based on the novel by Nick Hornby.


France 3-3 West Germany…West Germany win 5-4 on penalties (World Cup Semi Final, 1982)

In a game of two technically gifted sides, Spain played host to a dramatic World Cup semi-final back in 1982. Pierre Littbarski gave the Germans the lead after soaking up early French pressure. Platini levelled things from the spot and the sides went in all square at half time.

Just after the break, Germany keepr Schumacher collided with Patrick Battiston just outside the area in a meeting that left the French star unconscious and their fans incensed that no action was taken.

The game went into extra time and a free kick from Marius Trésor and an Alain Giresse third gave France a 3-1 lead. Germany looked out of it but substitute Karl-Heinz Rummenigge set up a tense finale. Klaus Fischer incridbly levelled minutes later and Germany went on to inevitably win the penalty shoot out and progress to the final.


Bolton 2-3 Arsenal (F.A. Premier League, 2008)

With Arsenal clinging on to title aspirations and Bolton fighting for their lives at the other end of the table, it was a real six pointer at The Reebok Stadium. Bolton had never been a happy hunting ground for The Gunners over the years and it didn’t look like that was about to change as former Portsmouth man Matty Taylor put Bolton in front. To make it worse for Arsene Wenger’s men, Abou Diaby was sent off before Wanderers hit a second through Taylor again, this time a deflected shot.

But William Gallas halved the deficit to give his side hope and Robin Van Persie equalised with a penalty. It looked like a good point for the visitors in the circumstances but it got even better as JLloyd Samuel put through his own net late on and Arsenal had come back against all the odds with ten men to claim a rare Reebok Stadium win.


Gillingham 2-2 Manchester City….Manchester City win 3-1 on penalties (Division Two/League One Playoff Final, 1999)

In one of the most dramatic final ten minutes ever seen at Wembley, Gillingham looked certain to be promoted in the playoff final as an 81st minute goal from Carl Asaba coupled with an 86th minute strike by Rob Taylor had the Gills’ fans celebrated a sure-fire win. Kevin Horlock’s’ 89th minute goal for City looked to have simply delayed the inevitable but in the third minute of stoppage time, Paul Dikov swooped to equalise, firing into the top corner of Vince Bartram’s net. After extra time the teams could still not be separated and Nicky Weaver was the eventual hero, saving twice in the shoot out to send City back into the second tier of English football.


Tranmere Rovers 4-3 Southampton (F.A. Cup Fifth Round Replay, 2001)

Tranmere faced Southampton in a replay at Prenton Park following a hard fought draw at The Dell back in 2001. Premiership side Southampton were making no mistake the second time round, or so it seemed, as they raced into a 3-0 lead through Hassan Kachloul, Jo Tessem and Dean Richards.

But just before the hour mark, the home side were back in business as Andy Parkinson’s shot from range was deflected in by Paul Rideout. Ten minutes later and it was 3-2 as Rideout again found the net, heading home a Jason Koumas corner and with ten minutes to play he completed a sensational hattrick with another header. It was left for Stuart Barlow to seal a quite remarkable turn around three minutes later and Rovers were on the way to meeting Mersey rivals Liverpool in the Quarter Finals.


Bayern Munich 1-2 Manchester United (Champions League Final, 1999)

Another incredible night in Europe for an English side and arguably Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest hour. Munich were already celebrating a Champions League success with a couple of minutes left on the clock after Mario Basler had given them an early lead. They held out for 85 minutes but didn’t count on super subs Sheringham and Solksjaer ruining their party.

Teddy Sheringham turned the ball home with just a couple of minutes of added time to play and the relief was there for all to see from the United end as they looked to gain the upper hand for extra time. But the Germans were deflated as United won another corner. Sheringham met it and diverted it into the path of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and the baby faced assassin powered the ball into the roof of the net to send Bayern to their knees.

The win completed a historic treble for the Red Devils in 1999.




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  • Thomas

    Great article.

    But how about the 1967 European Cup Final between the giants of Inter Milan with their Hererra inspired, ultra defensive Catenaccio system against the plucky minnows of Celtic?

    The hotly fancied Nerazzurris took the lead after six minutes and then adopted their tried, tested and hitherto successful but sterile style of football. In many ways, the Italians played into the hands of Jock Stein’s bhoys, who were advised by their gaffer to ‘go out there and enjoy yourselves’ but who would’ve wagered 10 bob on the Hoops overturning yet another 1-0 lead for the fancy-dan Italians?

    For sixty minutes Celtic pummelled the Italian defence with a total of 42 attempts made on the Italian goal (to 5 from the Inter ‘attack’) and on the 65th minute full back Tommy Gemmell tucked away the equaliser before Stevie Chalmers completed the unlikely comeback with the winner with only a few minutes to go.

    On Thursday 25 May 1967, Celtic created history. The Glasgow club was the first northern European club to win the Big Cup and with a team comprised of footballers drawn solely from the greater Glasgow area.

    Moreover, it was a victory of attacking prowess over the Catenaccio way and in many ways heralded a new era in football; the era of Total Football. As Mr. Stein said after the game, ‘We did it by playing football; pure, beautiful, inventive football’.

    It is surely a comeback worth a mention here.

  • Mikey

    Tottenham V Manchester United (Premier League) September 2001.

    Sir Alex Ferguson’s men looked dead and buried at half-time after their defensive frailties were once again exposed with strikes from Spurs’ £8.1million new signing Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege.

    But in an incredible tale of two halves, the champions came roaring back to snatch the points and break Tottenham’s hearts thanks to second-half goals from substitute Andy Cole, Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Veron and David Beckham.

    Yet no one inside a captivated White Hart Lane could possibly have anticipated such a dramatic transformation when United trooped off at the interval, three goals in arrears and arguing bitterly among themselves.

    Truley one of the most entertaining football games i have ever seen. Can’t believe that you have Arsenal’s “comeback win” over Boltan (WHO!!) in this list, spot on with most of the rest and a great article too.

  • Darren

    Shirley HIgh 3 Lanfranc High 4. Trailing 3-0 at half time things were looking bad as Lanfranc were kicking up hill for the second half. An inspired team talk from Mr Green saw the mighty Blues come back to win one of the finest games in the schools history!

  • Danny Brothers

    The Celtic one is certainly worth a mention, although it didn’t fall into the “recent times” category it’s still an honorable fight back indeed. There’s plenty more around I’m sure so keep them coming!

  • tef1on

    Rehab vs Team Yeboah (Division 4, Mill Hill Power League 5-a-side)

    Last game of the season, 1st vs 2nd in the league with only 1 point in it. Rehab started poorly and ended up 4-1 down at half time… an inspiring team talk at half time, led to huge arguments between Hash and Ed (me) during the second half… with 2 minutes to go Hash slotted the perfect ball for Ed to finish…

    With 10 seconds to go Ed hit a shot from the half way line which sailed into the top corner of the Yeboah net… The game finished 4-4 and Rehab claimed the league title for the first time ever!

    Celebrations lasted for about 20 minutes as we headed strait for the bar drank 1 pint then everyone made up excuses to leave and go home… And we never did get our trophy 🙁

  • Thomas

    Danny – it only seems like yesterday to me! Does anything by the Harlem Globetrotters cartoon team count?

  • Darren

    how about this one then. We were playing in the Sun 5-a-side London heats for my work team Feref Fives, the winners went through to the the main finals at Wembley.

    We made the final after some blistering football. We raced into 4-0 lead, surely we would be making the trip to Wembley, or so we thought, we all wanted to get on the score sheet and incidentally forgot to defend, we actually ended up losing 5-4 and out we went.

    Shame up!!

  • dexylongshot

    The 2006 FA Cup Final
    Scousers V Cockneys
    Regarded by many as the best final in recent memory……..I don’t really want to talk about though, still hurting!

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