The Best XI: Best Comebacks
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Comebacks are always more enjoyable than cakewalks. The thrill to watch a side chasing a lost cause, not giving up the fight until the last whistle is blown and turning things around is a joy for the lovers of the game. Add to that, the goal fest they treat us with. This edition we present 11 handpicked comebacks in the history of world football. Please leave your comments on the collection.
1. Angola vs Mali 4-4 (2010)
We start with probably one of the most incredible turnarounds in football history, 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola where Mali managed to turn round a deficit of 4 goals. Mali was down 0-4 till 78th min and scored 4 goals, two of which were deep into injury time. Mali can attribute this to inspirational performances from Frederic Kanoute and super substitute Seydou Keita but they would definitely thank their luck.
2. Arsenal vs Tottenham 4-4 (2008)
This was a goal fest with Spurs going ahead in 13 minutes with a David Bentley goal. Arsenal replied with three. Bent put Spurs closer but was soon cancelled out by Robin Van Persie. So 88 minutes gone Spurs were trailing 2-4. An incredible night at the Emirates saw Aaron Lennon score in the 95th minute to give Spurs a draw after Lennon scored in the 89th minute, when few would have thought it possible, as Spurs came from two goals down to earn a 4-4 draw against their bitter rivals Arsenal. Harry Redknapp’s second game in charge of Spurs, ended up being one of the greatest Premier League games of all time.
3. Tottenham vs Manchester United 3-5 (2001)
The Reds made the trip to White Hart Lane in September 2001, level on points with Arsenal and Leeds at the top of the Premier League. Notoriously slow starters, Spurs had won just two of their first seven and were lying tenth. Despite this, Spurs cruised into a 3-0 first half lead, with goals from Richards, Ferdinand and Christian Ziege, and looked on course to upset the United applecart. Sir Alex Ferguson’s half-time dressing room rants are so famous, that they have come to be known as the “hairdryer treatment” where he would stand nose-to-nose and just shout and bawl, and the recipient would end up with his hair behind his head. This match was a great example. Andy Cole, Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastian Veron and David Beckham scored as United completed a remarkable comeback
4. Austria vs Switzerland 7-5 (1954)
Switzerland, the tournament hosts, took a notable lead early on. In four minutes, the Swiss scored three goals: Forward Robert Ballaman opened the score at the 16th minute, followed quickly by two goals by Josef Hügi. Austria then became the first team in World Cup history to recover from a 3–0 deficit, scoring 5 goals in the remainder of the first half; Theodor Wagner initiated the Austrian response at the 25th minute; forward Robert Körner drew the score to 2–3 one minute later, and another minute later Wagner equalized to 3–3. Austria had tied the score in three minutes. In 11 minutes, between the 16th and the 27th minutes, six goals were scored, three by each team. At the 32nd minute, Ernst Ocwirk gave Austria the lead; Robert Körner added his second, making the score 5–3. Ballaman scored again for Switzerland at the 39th minute. The first half thus ended 5–4 in favour of Austria, being the highest scoring half in World Cup history, even after inside left Alfred Körner had missed a penalty kick in the 42nd minute.
Nine minutes into the second half, Wagner put Austria up 6–4 with his third goal, recording the seventh hat-trick of the 1954 World Cup (See List of World Cup hat-tricks). Hügi would then emulate the feat, scoring his third at the 58th minute. Switzerland was not able to equalize, and Erich Probst made it 7–5 to end the scoring at the 76th minute. According to FIFA, the extreme heat adversely affected Switzerland after they led the match 3–0 at one point. Other sources add that at first, Switzerland had been able to take advantage of the temperature, when Austrian goalkeeper Kurt Schmied suffered from hyperthermia early in the match, quickly allowing the first three Swiss goals, before being assisted by the Austrian masseur while in play.
5. Portugal vs. North Korea 5-3 (1966)
In their very first World Cup, the Koreans saw off the mighty Italy by a single goal and then in the Quarter Finals they built a 3-0 lead before half time against the ambitious Portuguese. Dictator Kim Il Sung must have been delighted. But, Eusebio played superbly, scoring four times in 30 minutes on either side of half time to avoid another crazy upset. The Panther finished the tournament with 9 goals to his credit, winning the golden boot.
6. Germany vs England 3-2 (1970)
England was 2–0 up in the game, but Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler managed to draw the scores level at 2–2 in the second half. In extra-time, Geoff Hurst had a goal mysteriously ruled out and then Gerd Müller scored another goal in extra time to win 3–2. England had been weakened by losing their goalkeeper Gordon Banks to illness, and also substituted Bobby Charlton, one of their leading players, while the Germans were in the midst of their comeback. As McIlvanney put it when reflecting on the loss five days later, “Sir Alf Ramsey’s team are out because the best goalkeeper most people have ever seen turned sick, and one who is only slightly less gifted was overwhelmed by the suddenness of his promotion. In sport, disaster often feeds upon itself but this was a sickeningly gluttonous example.”
7. Deportivo La Coruna vs AC Milan 4-0 (2004)
This is a different genre of comebacks – probably one more difficult to achieve than the comebacks in a single-leg match up. AC Milan had won the first leg 4-1. On Apr 7 2004, Deportivo sent Champions League holders AC Milan crashing out after overturning a three-goal first leg deficit. Milan saw their lead wiped out by three goals inside the first 43 minutes. Deportivo were showing remarkable control and composure, and added a deserved fourth with 15 minutes to go. Veteran substitute Fran took advantage of a mistake by Gennaro Gattuso to beat Dida with the aid of a deflection.
8. Real Madrid – Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-5 and 4-0 (1985)
Gladbach ran riot in their UEFA Cup third round tie against Real Madrid in 1985, winning the first leg 5-1 at home. However, Madrid – who were the current holders of the trophy – were not going to leave the competition that easily. The Spaniards thrashed their German counterparts 4-0 at the Bernabeu in front of 95,000 adoring fans, thanks to braces from Jorge Valdano and Carlos Santillana, with the latter netting the winner as late as the 88th minute.
9. Hungary vs Germany 2-3 (1954)
World Cup 1954 Final is known in football history as the ‘Miracle of Bern’. The mighty Magyars had thrashed Germany in the group stages and had been unbeaten for the previous three years. They were definitely the team to beat. They led with two quick goals by Ferenc Puskas and Zoltan Czibor at 6 minutes and 8 minutes. Germany spared no time to pull two goals back and restore parity. Max Morlock and Helmut Rahn put Germany back on even terms on 10 minutes and 18 minutes. And then, in the 84th minute, the unbelievable happened. Helmut Rahn scored again, the goal which saw the Germans see Hungary off and made way for the Germans to the coveted trophy.
10. Liverpool vs AC Milan 3-3, Liverpool went on win 3-2 on penalties (2005)
But the most difficult comebacks would be one achieved in a high voltage final match. UEFA Champions league final, 2005 was the classic game of two halves. Milan drew first blood within 50 seconds when Paolo Maldini volleyed it in off a set piece move. Crespo added two more before half time and Milan were sitting pretty on a 3-0 lead. Gerrard threw Liverpool a lifeline with a header from John Arne Riise’s cross after 53 minutes, and when Dida fumbled in Smicer’s tame 25-yard shot a minute later, they were alive again. And Liverpool’s recovery was complete on the hour when Gennaro Gattuso pulled down Gerrard in the area as he was poised to equalise.
Dida saved Alonso’s spot-kick, but the Spanish midfield man followed up to score the rebound with Milan’s defenders looking on in stunned disbelief. Liverpool had pulled the game back 3-3. After penalty shootout, Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties, notable misses from Pirlo, Riise, Shevchenko. Incredibly all 11 goals were scored in the same half of the pitch.
11. Manchester United vs Bayern Munich 2-1 (1999)
If UEFA Champions league final 2005 was the game of two halves, 1999 final was the game of added time. Six minutes into the match, Ronny Johnsen clumsily fouled Bayern striker Carsten Jancker just outside the area, and Mario Basler duly swept home a low free kick around the United wall to hand his team the lead. Sir Alex Ferguson threw in two late second half subs, Sheringham came on for Blomqvist at 66 minutes and Solskjaer came on for Cole at 80 minutes. United won a corner just as the fourth official indicated three minutes of injury time, and in a last-ditch attempt at an equaliser, Peter Schmeichel ventured up to Bayern’s penalty area. Beckham flighted the corner in just over Schmeichel’s head, Dwight Yorke put the ball back towards the crowded area, and after Thorsten Fink failed to clear sufficiently, the ball arrived at the feet of Ryan Giggs on the edge of the area. His right-footed snap-shot was weak and poorly struck, but it went straight to Sheringham, who swiped at the shot with his right foot, and nestled the ball in the bottom corner of the net. The goal was timed at 90:36. It looked as if, having been behind for most of the match, United had forced extra time.
Less than 30 seconds after the subsequent kick-off, United forced another corner, but Schmeichel stayed in his penalty area this time. Beckham again swung the corner in, which was headed downwards by Sheringham. Solskjær shot out a foot and poked the ball into the roof of the Bayern goal for United to take an astonishing lead. The goal was timed at 92:17. Solskjær celebrated by sliding on his knees, mimicking Basler’s earlier celebration, before quickly being mobbed by the United players, substitutes and coaching staff. Schmeichel, in his own penalty area, famously cart wheeled with glee. Bayern could not believe they were robbed off their dream in 3 minutes of added time.
Anweshan Ghosh supports Manchester United and unsurprisingly loves injury time winners. He follows the EPL and the I-League. He is a consultant by profession but can happily give up his day job to be a water boy at the Theatre of Dreams. Apart from football he is also passionate about cars and movies.