Everyone loves a comeback in football. Throughout history, some of the most memorable and exciting games are as a result of one team recovering a deficit and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Who could forget Manchester United’s dramatic late comeback to win the Champions League in 1999 or Liverpool’s heroic comeback to claim the 2005 Champions League when 3-0 down at half time? However, much emphasis is only placed on comebacks should they result in victory. What about the comebacks that were impressive and showed much resilience but resulted in the same outcome?
It’s a cold January in 2012. The FA Cup Third Round is upon us and one of the most eye-catching ties is a Manchester Derby, which, for the first time in years, also pitches first versus second in the Premier League against each other. In addition to this, there is much riding on this game. Manchester United were baying for Manchester City’s blood, following the 6-1 humiliation handed to them by their cross city rivals three months earlier. The first half of this game was an absolute shambles for the table topping blues. An impressive United side rushing into a 3-0 lead with a neat brace from Wayne Rooney and an acrobatic finish by Danny Welbeck. To make matters worse for City, they were to be a man down for the majority of the game, following Vincent Kompany’s dismissal. However, the second half of this game turned it into a classic cup tie. A free kick from Aleksandar Kolarov, followed by a tap in by Sergio Aguero reduced the deficit with 25 minutes remaining. United held on, but City had ended the match with a lot to be positive about, when half time had made it seem as if United were going to demolish their rivals and gain a revenge for the 6-1. This result, however, turned out to be no one off, as 11 months later, the sides would play out a similar game with United getting the victory, but City having made a dramatic comeback and putting United on the ropes.
When Chelsea faced Bolton at Stamford Bridge in 2009, a comfortable home win was expected for the high flying Blues. And it was looking that way when Michael Ballack, a brace from Drogba and a Lampard penalty put Chelsea 4-0 ahead by the 63rd minute. However, in the 70th minute, came eight frantic minutes that stunned Chelsea. Goals from Andy O’Brien, Chris Basham and Matty Taylor put Bolton well within touching distance of one of the greatest comebacks in Premier League history. Chelsea managed to hold on, and even a late chance by goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen wasn’t enough to claim a deserved point for the Trotters. It would go on to become a turning point in the season however, as Bolton would go on a four game unbeaten run after this and confirm safety in the Premier League.
After Bayern Munich stormed to a 3-1 away win at the Emirates, the tie was considered dead and buried and Bayern were expected to inflict more damage on a struggling Arsenal side. However, Arsene Wenger’s men gave a fine account of themselves and came very close to shocking the world and going through to the next round against all the odds. Olivier Giroud gave an Arsenal an early lead at the Allianz Arena and, after some determined goalkeeping from Lukasz Fabianski kept Bayern at bay, Laurent Koscielny added a late second to put Arsenal within touching distance of a quarter final place. Unfortunately for the Gunners, it was not to be and Bayern held on to both go through to the quarter finals and eventually win the Champions League. However, similarly to Bolton, this game was a turning point for Arsenal and they’d go onto pip arch-rivals Tottenham and claim fourth place.
Further back down memory lane, we come to this memorable clash from the 2002 World Cup. Senegal, playing in their first World Cup, had already beaten the 1998 World Champions France in their opening game and had gained a credible draw with the group topping Denmark, but they were still not certain of a Second Round place; twice World Champions Uruguay stood in their way. However, Uruguay had been somewhat disappointing and needed to beat Senegal to qualify, whilst Senegal needed only a point. However, it was Senegal who started the game with more intent. A controversial Fadiga penalty and a Papa Bouba Diop brace saw the Africans rush into a 3-0 lead going into half time and Uruguay on their way out of the World Cup. However, a Richard Morales goal straight after the break gave Uruguay hope. This was followed up by a stunning volley by talisman Diego Forlan and a penalty by former Inter Milan midfielder Alvaro Recoba, which dragged Uruguay level. This wasn’t to be enough, but Uruguay missed an agonizing late chance through Morales who headed wide with the goal gaping in injury time. It wasn’t enough to deny surprise package Senegal a passage through to the next round with Denmark, but it was one of the most exciting comebacks in World Cup history.
It was Inter who took the points in this game, but it was Tottenham who looked back at the game with more fondness as it was the birth of a star and one of the best players in Europe today: Gareth Bale. Spurs, playing in their maiden UEFA Champions League, went into this match knowing that then European Champions I Nerazzuri would be their hardest test and a chance to prove if they were the real deal in the Champions League. However, the first half did not go according to plan. Spurs found themselves 4-0 down and down to ten men with goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes sent off after just 8 minutes. Gareth Bale reduced the arrears on 52 minutes, but it was his dramatic two late goals to complete his hat trick after the 90 minute mark that made the headlines about the Welshman and not the victorious Inter. Both times, he ran down the left wing, leaving experienced players such as Maicon and Zannetti in his wake before firing past Julio Cesar. Bale’s performance proved to be no fluke; in the replay between the two sides at White Hart Lane, Bale gave Maicon a torrid time as Spurs won 3-1 to claim a place in the next round.
What do you think? What comebacks do you believe are memorable despite the outcome not improving? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Evening Standard