Top 10 Greatest Comebacks in Champions League History
Of course, there are more than 10 greatest comebacks in Champions League history, yet, the limit of your time and the strain I get in my eyes from too much writing, prevents me from digging deeper.
Below, we look at 10 greatest comebacks in Champions League history. I tried my best to keep this list professional and to the point.
Wanna know the most unforgettable comeback in UEFA Champions League history? Scroll down below. And also, feel free to make your own list of UEFA champions league greatest comebacks of all time.
Champions league greatest comebacks ever
First on our list of the best ever UCL comebacks, goes back to 1999.
Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich
Surely, one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history, the story is exciting.
The year was 1999. I’m sure Camp Nou has seen so many great matches, but this one, was nothing short of magical. The two sides had played each other earlier in the competition, having both been drawn in Group D in the group stage; Bayern won the group, while Manchester United qualified for the knockout phase as one of the two best runners-up across all six groups.
Fun fact: Both teams had significant amounts of red color in their kits and UEFA regulations stated that only one of the teams could wear their first kit. However, the two teams felt it’s shameful not to wear the color of their tradition, thus agreeing to toss a coin to see which team gets to wear their first kit. As you all remember, Manchester United wore red shirts, white shorts and socks, because, they won the coin toss.
We were watching a great match already. One of the most memorable finals in UEFA Champions League history. Six minutes into the game, and Basler fired a low free kick around the United wall to put Bayern Munich 1-0 ahead. United dominated the possession, but failed to create any clear-cut chances.
Bayern’s defense remained strong and well-organized, while they began to look extremely dangerous in counter attacks. Minutes went by. United fans began to lose hope. Sheringham and the Norwegian wonder-kid, Solskjaer, came onto the pitch, but even they failed to pull the rabbit out of the hat, until injury time. Kahn forced to make a save, conceded a corner.
I’ll leave the rest to Clive Tyldesley, ITV’s commentator, with his historic commentary: “Beckham in towards Schmeichel. It's come for Dwight Yorke. Clear, Giggs with a shot – Sheringham! Name on the trophy! Teddy Sheringham, with 30 seconds of added time played, has equalised for Manchester United – they are still in the European Cup!”
“You have to feel this is their year...Is this their moment? Beckham in to Sheringham – and Solskjær has won it! Manchester United have reached the promised land! Ole Solskjær! The two substitutes have scored the two goals in stoppage time and the treble looms large!”
I feel that I should end it here, Tyldesley said it all. This match for sure, was one of the best ever UEFA Champions League comebacks.
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Real Madrid 1-3 AS Monaco (5-5 on aggregate)
Having won the first leg 4-2, Real Madrid came onto the pitch feeling like winners. Project Los Galacticos had just begun and with Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo in their prime, Real looked good and ahead of their value. AS Monaco had loaned Fernando Morientes from Real Madrid at the beginning of the season, and this move, turned everything upside down for Los Galacticos!
In the first leg, Morientes scored a vital away goal. We will later see how he had a major impact on Real Madrid’s elimination. Real looked on course when they stretched their aggregate lead to 5-2 with a superb strike from Raul. However, Stade Louis-II, witnessed a historic turnaround. A superb assist from Morientes, and captain Giuly, scored a right footed volley.
Hope remained in the hearts of Monaco players and fans. The second half kicked off with Monaco pouring in balls from left and right, and they got what they deserved. A 48th minute goal from Fernando Morientes made the aggregate score 5-4. Monaco needed only one goal to qualify for the next round. Enter Giuly again! The captain, to the rescue. 66th minutes into the game and Giuly scored his second and Monaco’s third goal in the match.
Madridistas looked desperate. Shabani Nonda twice hit the bar for Monaco in a frantic end to a thrilling game, and Raul was again off target in the dying minutes but Monaco prevailed. AS Monaco went on to reach the final, where they lost 3-0 to FC Porto, that had just introduced a fresh face to the world of football, Jose Mourinho.
Monaco made one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history.
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Liverpool 3-3 Milan
THE GREATEST COMEBACK IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HISTORY. Why you ask? I’ll tell you why. Liverpool conceded 3 goals in first half and came back from the dead in 6 minutes. Isn’t that fantastic? This match is of the kind that you can watch on tape for the 100th time and never get bored of.
In the first half of this match Milan played a football out of this world. Nobody, nobody could live with that. Second half came, with Liverpool knocking on door. Bang bang! Will the door open? It did. 54th minute, Steven Gerrard, the captain, with a sublime header scored for Liverpool. His celebration was exceptional. He frantically waved his arms up and down, asking Liverpool fans to make as much noise as possible, to give them hope. To plant fear’s seeds in the heart of Milan’s players. 56th minute and BOOOOOM! Vladimir Smicer with a strong strike, scored Liverpool’s second goal of the game.
Miracles are possible. 59th minute and Gattuso fouled Gerrard in the penalty area. Liverpool won a penalty. Xabi Alonso’s penalty was saved by Dida, and he scored on the rebound. 3-3. Liverpool was 3-0 down 5 minutes before this penalty, and they got even! Mission impossible is accomplished! Both teams had great chances in extra time, especially Milan in the last minutes, but Jerzey Dudek stopped them with a phenomenal double save.
Everything got down to penalty shoot-outs. An unfair way to decide the winner in many respects. Dida saved a penalty, Dudek saved two and Serginho’s penalty landed on Mars! Liverpool won. The UEFA Champions League returned to England, to Anfield, along with the greatest comeback in Champions League history.
When you get homesick, nothing will stop you returning to the arms of those you love...
The European Cup didn't fancy Paolo. She wanted Steven, but it took a series of remarkable chat-up lines from the Liverpool manager to ensure his skipper got his wicked way.
The only reason Liverpool weren't fatally wounded by a first half blitz is the fortunate fact immortals can't be destroyed.
Gerrard and company have rewritten football "possibilities" throughout this campaign, but even the heroic efforts of Olympiakos, Juventus and Chelsea were rendered insignificant compared to this.
It shouldn't have happened. Some of us aren't convinced it did. Only the pinch marks confirm it. We thought it was all over. It wasn't.
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Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea
Next on our list of the best ever UCL comebacks goes back to Barca vs. Chelsea match in 2012.
2012 was a strange year for Chelsea. They had “the next Mourinho” as their coach. Andre Villas Boas, or as we know him, AVB! AVB got sacked, and Roman Abramovich appointed Roberto Di Matteo as their interim manager for the rest of season. Nobody believed in Roberto Di Matteo.
A man with zero experience, coaching a giant for the first time in UEFA Champions League. The margins of success and failure at the highest level of football are so infinitesimal that sometimes analysis can be rendered utterly pointless, and perhaps no two teams demonstrate this more pertinently than Barcelona and Chelsea. Fernando Torres stated in an interview: “the best team does not always win.” His words were prophetic for England's last men standing in Europe as they scrapped their way past the defending champions and into the final in Munich on 19 May.
As an ambitious coach, Guardiola wanted to get even with Chelsea, since they had lost 1-0 to The Blues before. Barcelona started a storm. Pouring in balls from left, right and middle. Sergio Busquets turned the ball in, in 35th minute, and John Terry was sent off in 37th minute. Chelsea had lost hope. Iniesta fired a low ball in, in 44th minute. Barcelona 2-0 Chelsea. Captain Frank, to the rescue!
Lampard gave a through ball and Ramirez chipped the ball in. 2-2 on aggregate. Chelsea had hope again. Drogba conceded a penalty in 49th minute. Messi stood before the ball. Messi hit the bar! Barcelona players were desperate to win. They kept the pressure going. Ashley Cole cleared a ball, and Fernando Torres got it. He dribbled past Valdes and scored. Chelsea 3-2 Barcelona.
The headline had been written. The most dramatic story for a crippled Chelsea. Roberto Di Matteo was Chelsea’s savior. Thus, Roman Abramovich offered him a two-year contract. However, he was sacked after a 3-0 loss to Juventus and was replaced by Rafael Benitez. If you take a look at the match stats, you’ll think the team that didn’t deserve to win, won. Yes, Chelsea may have not deserved to win a trophy, but not all heroes win. The villain won this time. One of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history.
Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid
One of the best Champions League comebacks in history. The story is different here. Diego Simeone, known for his aggressive on pitch mentality in his playing days, had taken Atletico Madrid’s hot seat. His management style was a whole lot similar to his playing days mentality. His team played a defensive football, based on aggressive pressing, deadly counterattacks and giving possession to his opponents.
With this style, they had won a La Liga, a week earlier. Atletico Madrid looked good and ahead of their value, and got in front, in 36th minute with a header from Diego Godin, who caught Casillas off his line. Real Madrid looked onto aggressive pressing and creating chances with the help of BBC (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo), but they were denied by Courtois and their carelessness.
Atletico Madrid’s defense was finally breached in the 94th minute, last minute of the game by a fabulous header from Sergio Ramos. He sent Real Madrid fans into rapture with that goal. Real Madrid became even more dominant in extra time, which proved decisive after Ángel Di María's run on the left flank saw him dribble past three Atlético defenders and shoot at goal. Thibaut Courtois attempted to block the Argentine's shot but only managed to deflect the ball to Bale, who headed the rebound in from two yards out to put Real ahead for the first time, in the 110th minute.
Real then added two late goals to the scoreline, starting with Marcelo's low left foot strike from just inside the penalty area in the 118th minute. At the end of extra time, Cristiano Ronaldo was fouled by Gabi for a penalty, which he converted into the left corner of the net for a record 17th goal in the tournament.
This was the second highest-scoring final in the tournament’s history as the Champions League, after the 3-3 draw between Liverpool and Milan in 2005. I repeat, one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history.
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Barcelona 6-1 PSG
One of UEFA Champions League greatest comebacks of all time. Oh my. We have reached to a dramatic point to the narrative of greatest comebacks in UEFA Champions League history. PSG had won the first leg 4-0. There was little hope for Barcelona to go through. Even their most optimistic fans couldn’t dream of a comeback. But haven’t we seen Istanbul final? Miracles are possible, and damn! Isn’t that just true? It surely is.
With little hope to revive, Barcelona started the game and they scored early on. Suarez in the 3rd minute. What a sensational start for Barcelona. Now they only needed 3 more goals. They were piling on the pressure. Yet their attacks seemed fruitless. Meanwhile, PSG was denied a highly suspicious penalty, from a handball by Mascherano.
Layvin Kurzawa may not forgive himself for the own goal he scored. Had that goal not been scored, the course of history would’ve changed and Barcelona may not have won the treble. It was game on mode for Barcelona. 2nd half started with PSG’s Edinson Cavani hitting the post. PSG had realized the danger they were facing.
They had smelled the fear of elimination and they had to do everything in their power to stop Barcelona, but seemingly, they didn’t do enough. Later, Meunier gave away a needless penalty, which Messi converted to a goal in 50th minute of the game. 3-0, 4-3 on aggregate. PSG still would have qualified with this score line. Cavani scored a savage volley in 62nd minute. That was the goal PSG was desperately hoping for.
Hello, Hello, here we go! 5-3 on aggregate. Everything looked good for PSG. Not so fast! Neymar scored a PHENOMENAL free kick in the 88th minute! PSG didn’t seem to have the winners’ mindset. Will there be more drama? The answer is yes. Two more goals in the stoppage time won it for Barcelona. A penalty in 91st minute, and an unbelievable goal from the most unbelievable player on the pitch, Sergi Roberto, in 96th minute won everything for Barcelona.
Unai Emery looked baffled. He couldn’t digest what was going on. Tacticians had warned PSG CEO, that you can’t win a UEFA Champions League with Emery, because he is not a winner. He can’t inject that mindset into his players, and this was what PSG was missing. Still, we can’t, and should not underestimate what Luis Enrique did. An exceptional job! Mission impossible, accomplished.
Roma 3-0 Barcelona
One of the best ever UEFA Champions League comebacks! With Barcelona winning 4-1 in Camp Nou, no one believed in the gladiators of Rome. But this is what gladiators do. They fight to death. They fight for what they believe in, even if no one believes in them. That’s what captain De Rossi told them in the dressing room right before the game began. That gladiators do what they gotta do, until they die. And they lived up to this premise.
Even Sir Alex Ferguson had come to Rome to watch this piece of art. An early goal from Dzeko exploded Stadio Olimpico. He ran and picked up the ball, shouting at his teammates to carry on and not to give up. Stadio Olimpico’s atmosphere had affected Barcelona’s morale. They couldn’t play their usual Tiki-Taka. Pique again made a crucial error in a crucial match and gave an idiotic penalty.
Dzeko picked up the ball and handed it to Captain, giving him a kiss on the cheek. He was probably telling him to finish it off. And he did. He scored for Roma. 2-0, 4-3 on aggregate. A gladiator never gives up. He fights to death. Either he dies, or he successfully kills his opponent.
Di Francesco brought on the wonderkid from Turkey, Cengiz Under. He set up the winning goal from a smartly taken corner kick, and Manolas, the Greek God in Rome, scored the winning goal. Roma had risen from their ruins. The unthinkable unfolded before our eyes.
For the next eight minutes, Roma employed an effective strategy. Hold the ball, win the time, make history. And they made History. Barcelona had fallen, Messi had fallen. Iniesta’s empire had fallen in his last season for Barcelona.
All thanks to the gladiator’s phenomenal comeback. A thrilling match. If you haven’t already, go play it on your devices. It was beyond reason and belief. How did that happen? Roma made it happen!
Manchester United 3-1 PSG
Remember the Norwegian wonderkid Ole Solskjaer from 1999 comeback? Undoubtedly, it was one of the most unforgettable comebacks in UCL history. He had a major impact in yet another comeback by Manchester United. PSG won the first leg 2-0. So, they walked in comfortably, looking like winners. Thilo Kehrer's big blunder made Lukaku score for United in 2nd minute. A quick response was made by Bernat in 12th minute.
Lukaku again scored in 30th minute, bringing hope back to United’s squad. 2nd half went by as United kept knocking on closed doors. The game appeared to be petering out to its conclusion before Dalot's speculative long-range strike hit the arm of the unfortunate Kimpembe, and after a long delay while the referee consulted his pitch-side monitor, Rashford's ice-cool penalty against a well-experienced Buffon sealed a remarkable win.
Solskjaer’s post-match interview shows what his mentality was. “This is what we do…. Manchester United can go all the way.” This explains why I say Ole had a major impact on United’s comeback. PSG with Tuchel sure looked like a different team, but they still didn’t look like winners.
Manchester United made a great comeback against a great team, but it sure wasn’t the best ever UEFA Champions League comeback.
Tottenham 3-2 Ajax
One of the Champions League’s greatest comebacks ever! Having lost 1-0 in first leg in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium, Tottenham had a mountain to climb in Amsterdam. The fifth minute header from Captain de Ligt was the worst possible start for Tottenham. Things got even worse when Hakim Ziyech doubled Ajax’s lead with a sweeping finish after an assist by Tadic.
That left Spurs 3-0 behind on aggregate, yet, within 5 minutes Pochettino’s men scored 2 goals. We were watching another pulsating semi-final. Still one goal behind, Spurs were desperately looking to find a way. Who did it? The same man who scored the first two goals. The marvelous Lucas Moura picked up a sublime pass from Dele Alli and scored the third goal, thus completing his hat-trick and sending Tottenham to an all-English UEFA Champions League final.
Poch’s men made the impossible, possible. Turning a 3-0 defeat to a 3-3 draw and winning on away goals looked impossible in Amsterdam, but, remember, miracles are possible. This match was the standard for not losing hope. Poch doesn’t give up. He never gave up in his playing days, nor did he in his managerial days. The Argentine was on his knees after an unbelievable night.
Ajax was a joy to watch throughout this incredible European campaign, which started all the way back on 25 July in the second qualifying round against Austrian side Sturm Graz.
They won a legion of new fans during their march through the rounds, which has included impressive wins over holders Real Madrid and Juventus. Boasting a three-goal aggregate advantage at half-time, their fans were in party mood before Tottenham's amazing comeback. Little did they know what was to come as the visitors, inspired by the exceptional Moura, produced an epic turnaround. Time to go through the last great UEFA comeback on our list of the champions league greatest comebacks ever.
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Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona
Surely one of the greatest comebacks in UEFA Champions League history. On 7 May 2019, Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool believed in something that many would not have dared to dream of, and willed it into existence. From a 3-0 first-leg deficit against the mighty Barcelona, the Reds produced a comeback for the ages to secure a spot in the Champions League final for the second season running.
Klopp had seemingly already prepared himself for a semi-final exit, conceding that any side would "have to be perfect" to beat Barcelona.
If their 4-0 win did not quite hit that lofty mark, it was simply because perfection is obtainable only in dreams. This was reality. In his pre-match media conference, Klopp suggested they would at least strive to "fail in the most beautiful way". There was not, however, any real sense of what was about to happen. Nobody outside of the home dressing room could genuinely bring themselves to the point of believing that a miracle would unfold on this night. And even for an unhinged optimist, the absence of Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for a Liverpool side who needed goals, and plenty of them, certainly made the improbable less probable. It took seven minutes for Divock Origi's opener to turn that flicker of hope into the embers of belief. In two second-half minutes, amid the tinder-box atmosphere of Anfield, Georginio Wijnaldum's double set alight those embers.
It does not take quite such a leap of faith to believe in something when it is happening in front of your eyes. The Reds stood on the brink of either their greatest comeback, or what would be perhaps their most agonising near-miss.
With Anfield rocking, Barcelona reeling and Liverpool utterly dominant, Trent Alexander-Arnold's quick-thinking brilliance from a corner allowed Origi to add the finishing touch.
After the mayhem of the celebrations, which even a neutral might have got a little swept up in, a glance at one of the scoreboards displayed the absurd truth: Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona.
You better believe the greatest comeback in Champions League history.
And history was made...
What are the greatest comebacks in Champions League history in your opinion? Make your own list and comment down below.