Toppo’s Top Tens – Comebacks

What a weekend of Premier League football that was – the highlight being Newcastle United’s incredible comeback against Arsenal. 4-0 down at half-time, they somehow managed to salvage a draw in the second half and thanks to that result, Toppo’s Top Tens this week takes a look at some of the best ever comebacks.

Ones like Newcastle’s are few and far between in football and that’s why they’re so special. When the chips are well and truly down and all seems lost, sometimes being several goals down can galvanise teams to achieve what looked impossible. Comebacks are a joy for the neutral and the team doing them, whilst they leave their opponents in a state of disbelief.

You will struggle to find something more enthralling and dramatic than a good comeback.

10: Hearts v Hibernian, SPL 2003

A brilliant Edinburgh Derby from the new year in 2003 which had a barnstorming finish. Hibernian took the lead in the 11th minute and made it 2-0 six minutes later from a header by Tam McManus. Hearts centre-back Steve Pressley pulled a goal back from the penalty spot on the half-hour.

In the second-half striker Mark De Vries equalised before Hibernian went back in front through a Craig James strike. They made it 4-2 in injury time as Grant Brebner scored a rebound from Mixu Paatelainen’s saved spot-kick but more was to come. In the fourth minute of injury time substitute Craig Weir made it a nervy end before becoming an instant Tynecastle hero 42 seconds later, slamming home De Vries’ cross to make it 4-4. The Hearts goals are in the video below.

9: Manchester United v Bayern Munich, Champions League Final 1999

One of the most dramatic finals in history and one which lives long in the memory for all who witnessed it. United, in their first European Cup final in 31 years, fell behind early on to Mario Basler’s free kick and for 85 minutes tried in vain to equalise, whilst Bayern could’ve extended their lead, hitting the post and bar.

30 seconds into stoppage time Teddy Sheringham turned in a scuffed shot from Ryan Giggs after Bayern failed to clear a David Beckham corner, to keep United in the Champions League. That was dramatic enough, but a minute later Ole Gunnar Solskjaer poked home a Teddy Sheringham flick on from another swirling Beckham corner to complete a remarkable turnaround in less than two minutes. Amidst scenes of jubilation from United players and fans the trophy was on its way to Manchester.

8: Spain v Yugoslavia, European Championships 2000

With a quarter-final place up for grabs, Spain and Yugoslavia met with the winners progressing to the last 8 whilst the losers faced a group stage exit. What occured was one of the greatest games in Euro finals history.

Former Aston Villa man Savo Milosevic gave Yugoslavia the lead in the first half with a header before Alfonso equalised for the Spanish. In the second period Dejan Govedarika made it 2-1 to Yugoslavia with a high curling shot which was swiftly cancelled out by a strike from Pedro Munitis. On 62 minutes Yugoslav defender Slavisa Jokanovic was sent off after a foul on Munitis. However Slovadan Komljenovic restored ten-men Yugoslavia’s advantage in the 73rd minute, steering the ball into the net at the back post from a free-kick and that’s how it remained until injury time. The Spanish were on their way out before they won a penalty which was converted by midfielder Gaizka Mendieta. Then with one more attack and 95 minutes on the clock, Alfonso swept the ball home on the volley from 16 yards out to seal victory and a quarter-final berth for the Spanish. It was a heartbreaking defeat for Yugoslavia who were knocked out.

7: Cheltenham v Burton Albion, League Two 2010

A goal-fest from the Pirelli Stadium last season. The game ended up 6-5 and included a stunning fightback from a Cheltenham side who didn’t know when they were beaten.

Burton were 2-0 ahead at half-time thanks to two goals from Shaun Harrad but Justin Richards and Medy Elito restored parity early on in the second period. Burton were soon 4-2 ahead after an own goal from Cheltenham’s Michael Townsend and a strike from Brewers’ marksman Steve Kabba. Town’s Michael Pook made it 4-3 from a free kick in the 84th minute but a minute later, Kabba netted again to put Burton 5-3 up and seemingly on course for victory.

Pook got his second of the match in the 87th minute to make it 5-4 then unbelivably Richards got his brace to make it five apiece. With virtually the last kick of the game deep into stoppage time Pook completed his hat-trick and the most unlikely of victories with a shot from the edge of the penalty area. Within the space of 10 minutes Cheltenham had somehow turned a 5-3 defecit into a 6-5 win, leaving Burton shellshocked.

6: Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League 2001

In September 2001 Manchester United pulled off one hell of a comeback against Glenn Hoddle’s Tottenham at White Hart Lane. In a dream first half Spurs went into a 3-0 lead with goals from debutant Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege after playing some fine football in the first 45 minutes.

United must’ve got the famous Sir Alex Ferguson hairdryer treatment at half-time as they came storming back at their opponents. Andy Cole made it 3-1 with a minute gone of the second half, Laurent Blanc powerfully headed a second in the 58th minute and goal machine Ruud van Nistelrooy equalised in the 72nd minute. Incredible stuff but there was more to come as Juan Sebastian Veron put United 4-3 up four minutes later, then David Beckham completed the turnaround with a curling half-volley on 87 minutes. 5-3 it finished and this was what you could really call ‘a game of two halves.’

5: Peterborough United v Cardiff City, Championship 2010

Last season Peterborough and Cardiff played out arguably the league’s game of the season as eight goals were shared at London Road in an entertaining 4-4 draw.

Cardiff, gunning for Premier League promotion, displayed their credentials, going into a 4-0 lead with 36 minutes gone. Joe Ledley scored twice, Jay Bothroyd added a third and Peter Whittingham’s 25-yard free-kick made it 4. Peterborough, the league’s bottom team, looked dead and buried and a heavy defeat was on the cards for the Cambridgeshire side battling to avoid relegation.

However in the second half they turned the game on its head. Boss Mark Cooper introduced two substitutes to bolster his midfield and one of them, Josh Simpson pulled a goal back for Posh on 51 minutes. Charlie Lee’s header made the game interesting before George Boyd’s 89th minute top corner effort meant Peterborough needed one goal to equalise with just minutes to go. Incredibly they did it, Simpson’s close range effort making it 4-4. An unlikely, but brilliant comeback.

4. Newcastle United v Arsenal, Premier League 2011

The game which inspired this list and an absolute belter at that. At half-time the result looked a formality, but by the end it all looked very different.

Arsenal flew out of the blocks at St James’ Park, Theo Walcott putting them a goal up within a minute. Johan Djourou’s header made it 2-0 before a Robin van Persie brace made it 4-0 to the Gunners with just 26 minutes on the clock. Home fans were already leaving the ground as all hope seemed lost for the Magpies.

In the second half Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby took exception to a hard, but fair tackle from Joey Barton and grabbed him by the back of the neck, pushing him to the floor. Another push on Kevin Nolan saw the Frenchman recieve his marching orders and Arsenal were down to 10 men – even then it seemed as if they’d get the win rather comfortably.

Leon Best won Newcastle a penalty in the 68th minute which Joey Barton converted. Best then slotted home a second seven minutes later after Arsenal failed to cope with a ball into their penalty area. A soft penalty award gave Barton the chance to make it 4-3 in the 83rd minute which he did despite goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny’s best efforts – the impossible was well and truly on.

Newcastle peppered the Arsenal box with attacks and in the 87th minute it paid off. Joey Barton’s cross from out wide was headed away as far as midfielder Cheik Tiote, 25 yards out from goal. First-time, he unleashed a powerful left-footed volley which flew into the bottom corner of the net. The roof came off St James’ Park as the Newcastle fans went delirious after a truly unbelievable game of football. It was the first time a team had come back from 4 goals down in the Premier League and it is without doubt one of the greatest games ever in the league’s history. The comeback to end all comebacks as it’s been described!

I can’t find a video of the goals – but the commentary from local Newcastle station Real Radio is a treat…..

3. Mali v Angola, African Cup of Nations 2010

The opening match of the 2010 African Cup of Nations was incredible – simple as that. Hosts Angola were hoping to impress on home soil and they played their part in a thrilling encounter with Mali.

Striker Flavio put the Angolans 2-0 up in the first half, Gilberto made it 3-0 midway through the second half from the penalty spot before former Manchester United and Hull frontman Manucho looked to have secured a comfortable victory, as his penalty made the score 4-0 with 18 minutes remaining.

Suddenly Mali started playing and they pulled a goal back on 79 minutes as Keita prodded home after a scramble in the penalty area. Sevilla striker Fredi Kanoute scored a fantastic header to make it 4-2 on 88 minutes but it seemed too little too late.

However Angola were tiring and it was 4-3 three minutes into injury time as Keita netted his second with a great volley. After a breathless last few minutes there was one more sting in the tail on 94 minutes as the Angola goalkeeper could only parry a shot to Yattabare who pounced to make it 4-4 and complete a stunning fightback. Angola were 4-0 up with 16 minutes to go and blew it and their players slumped to their knees in disbelief.

2. Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup 4th Round Replay 2004

One of the great comebacks. 3-0 down at half-time and down to ten men, Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City looked to be out of the FA Cup before an amazing turnaround.

Spurs were 3-0 up at half time thanks to Ledley King’s superb curling effort into the top corner, Robbie Keane’s left-footed finish and a great free-kick from Christian Ziege. City were then down to ten men after Joey Barton was sent off for a second bookable offence and all hope looked lost.

However Sylvain Distin’s header made it 3-1 early in the second half and Paul Bosvelt’s 68th minute strike made it 3-2 after a wicked deflection off a Spurs defender. There was a glimmer of hope for the Citizens and in the 80th minute they equalised, winger Shaun Wright-Phillips racing onto a through ball and clipping a composed finish over Kasey Keller. Tottenham were stunned but City kept going and in the 90th minute, a deep cross from the left by Michael Tarnet was headed across goal into far corner by Jon Macken to put City 4-3 up and send them into the 5th round to the delight of the players, staff and travelling supporters. What a turnaround from the ten men.

1: Liverpool v AC Milan, Champions League Final 2005

Have you ever seen anything like this? For sheer drama and excitement this match had it all. One of the greatest finals of modern times and possibly the greatest ever in Europe’s premier club competition. Liverpool made the showpiece in Istanbul against the odds, with Gerrard’s last minute winner against Olympiakos securing passage out of the group stages and two-legged wins over Juventus and Chelsea on the way. AC Milan were one of the best teams in Europe boasting fine attacking talent and were hotly tipped to add another European crown to their collection.

After 45 minutes of the final it looked as if they would do just that. 3-0 ahead after carving Liverpool open on several occasions with incisive attacking football. Paolo Maldini gave Milan the lead in the first minute, volleying in a free kick. Hernan Crespo then scored in the 39th and 44th minutes to put the Italians into a dominant position going into the break. It would take a miracle for Liverpool to get anything from the game, or so everyone thought.

In the second half The Reds came back at Milan and in the 54th minute had a lifeline, captain Steven Gerrard heading past Dida from John Arne Riise’s left-wing cross. Two minutes later the dream was on as Vladimir Smicer’s powerful 25-yard drive crept into the far corner of the net and suddenly the dream was back on. Three minutes later it became feasible once again as Gerrard was brought down in the box by Gattuso – penalty. Xabi Alonso’s effort was saved by Dida but Alonso reacted first to tuck home the rebound and within seven minutes the score went from 3-0 to 3-3.

The game ebbed and flowed before heading into extra time, where Milan began to dominate again. Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek pulled off a stunning double save with three minutes to go as he saved Andriy Shevchenko’s header then somehow blocked his close range follow up and the Merseysiders had another reprieve.

The already dramatic game went to a penalty shootout and Dudek revived memories of Liverpool’s triumph in 1984 when he imitated Bruce Grobelaar’s crazy legs routine in goal, and it worked. Serginho and Pirlo missed Milan’s first two, Didi Hamann and Djibril Cisse scored for Liverpool. Riise missed Liverpool’s third, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Kaka scored for Milan and after Smicer netted his spot-kick, it came down to Shevchenko. The Milan striker stepped forward hesitantly and his weak effort was saved by Dudek and Liverpool were European Champions in the most incredible of circumstances.

No one gave them a hope at half-time, but Rafa Benitez’s men pulled off a brilliant comeback and secured their fifth European Cup.

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4 Responses to Toppo’s Top Tens – Comebacks

  1. Ben says:

    I remember watching that Liverpool v AC Milan final in a sports bar in Amsterdam. Amazing atmosphere.

  2. Damian says:

    Celtic 2-1 Dundee United in the Scottish Cup from about 95ish was another belter. Penalty rebound off the post and turned in to give the Arabs the lead, Celtic equalised through Pierre van Hooijdonk from a free kick deeeeeeep in injury time. Replay, nuff sed? No, Andy Thom wins the ball from the ensuing kickoff and claims the win. Always remember this as a MADNESS game. Was part of the Celtic mid-90s run of late goals

  3. Andrew says:

    Great article – dramatic as Spain v Yugoslavia in Euro 2000 was though, the defeat didn’t knock Yugoslavia out, they edged through ahead of Norway and lost to Holland in the quarter-finals.

  4. Kay says:

    How can you include the City vs Spurs and United vs Spurs comebacks, but not the Wolves vs Leicester one from the 03/04 season? Ridiculous.

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