As a famous Argentine journalist once said, football is the dynamic of the unthinkable; that is to say, you never know what can happen until the referee blows for full time. After yesterday’s collapse by Manchester City, where yet again a Pep Guardiola side managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, we look at some of the UEFA Champions League’s best (or worst, depending on which side you’re on) late comebacks.
Barcelona 6-1 PSG (6-5 on aggregate), 2017
For a side that seemed able to sign any player they set their sights on, Paris Saint Germain had certainly failed to make an impact on the European stage, often coming out with sub-par performances, disappointing results, and failing to make the best of their best football options.
That all seemed to change when they beat Barcelona 4-0 at the Parc des Princes in the quarter-finals of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League. Barça wasn’t at their best, a long distance from the treble-winning side of 2015, but were still worthy opponents, and this was all but assured to be a marquee victory for the Parisian side
Enter La Remontada. Neymar’s now-iconic “1% chance, 99% faith” phrase became a motto for the Catalan giants that game out blasting at the Camp Nou to get 3-0 up. An Edinson Cavani goal seemed to put things back in the hands of PSG, but it would be Neymar himself who would put the scores at 5-1, just one goal away from the miracle; Sergi Roberto’s 95th-minute goal would be that miracle, as Barça came back to win the tie.
Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan (3-2 on penalties), 2005
The city we now know as Istanbul had been at the center of the history of mankind since the times of the Roman Empire. So you know something pretty important happened in 2005 for it to be branded “The Miracle of Istanbul”.
Liverpool, at the time four-time European Cup winners, had stumbled upon a great Champions League run under Spanish manager Rafa Benítez. Everyone’s favorite underdog, they had reached the final beating much more fancied sides like Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea or Marcelo Lippi’s Juventus. However, they faced a daunting task in the final, AC Milan. Carlo Ancelotti’s side had been champions in 2003 and featured a dream team side with Cafu, Maldini, Pirlo, Kaká, and Shevchenko among others.
Milan did their bit early on, overrunning an out-matched Liverpool side from the 1st minute; at halftime, it was 3-0 to the Italians. And yet, the Reds soldiered on. Some clever tactical changes by Benítez did the trick and in the span of six minutes from the 54th to the 60th Liverpool scored three times to put the score level. It was only half the job, as it would take resisting another hour between the remainder of the match and extra time, but some Jerzy Dudek magic, saving two penalties, gave Liverpool their fifth European crown, the first in the Champions League era.
Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich, 1999
It’s one thing to come from behind over two legs. It’s another to do it over 120 minutes. But it’s an entirely different thing to do in just three minutes. On May 26th, 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United did just that.
They were facing German giants Bayern Munich in what was set to be an iconic final. For starters, both teams were looking to seal a treble, something that hadn’t happened in European football since PSV Eindhoven had managed it in 1987/88. They were also looking for their first European crown in a long time, Bayern Munich chasing the top continental trophy since their last win in 1976, United having last won it in 1968.
For 89 of the 93 minutes played, it looked as if it was the Bundesliga meisters who would take the crown. However, in the 91st minute, a poorly cleared corner fell at the feet of Ryan Giggs, whose bad shot landed comfortably for Teddy Sheringham to push into the net. Just two minutes later, a much better cross by Beckham found Sheringham again, who this time flicked it into the six yards box for Ole Gunnar Solskjær to tap in. Just like that, United were champions.