Best Champions League comebacks in history: Top 10 matches ranked

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In recent years, the Champions League has seen an explosion in against-the-odds comebacks.

Teams at the top level just don't seem to know when they're beaten anymore, as the likes of Liverpool, Barcelona, Roma and Tottenham have shown with coupon-busting turnarounds their fans will never forget.

Europe's premier cup competition has long been a tournament where the unimaginable can come true, but which Champions League comeback was the best?

  1. Fernando Morientes Ludovic Giuly Monaco Real Madrid 2004
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    Monaco 3-1 Real Madrid (agg 5-5, Monaco win on away goals)

    Real Madrid just didn’t see this one coming as they were dumped out of the 2003-04 competition.

    Monaco had been competitive enough in the first leg, bookending the scoring through Sebastien Squillaci and Fernando Morientes, but Madrid’s attacking power had seen them through and surely would again.

    Ivan Helguera, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and Ronaldo all scored at the Santiago Bernabeu, and more goals were expected in Monaco. When Raul curled in a beauty in the first half, it was 5-2 to Madrid, and the game looked over.

    Until, of course, it wasn’t. Ludovic Giuly volleyed home on the stroke of half-time before Morientes – on loan from Madrid – headed Monaco within one goal straight after the break.

    Madrid played like a team that thought it couldn’t be beaten, but they were second-best by some distance.

    The excellent Giuly brought them level on aggregate and ahead on away goals, while substitutes Shabani Nonda and Emmanuel Adebayor each hit the woodwork late on.

  2. Marcus Rashford Manchester United PSG 2019
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    PSG 1-3 Manchester United (agg 3-3, Man Utd win on away goals)

    Manchester United were badly beaten by Paris Saint-Germain at Old Trafford in the first leg of their last-16 tie in 2018-19.

    Though Neymar was missing for PSG, Kylian Mbappe ran the show and United were lucky to come away with a 2-0 defeat, made worse by Paul Pogba’s late red card.

    But while Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku didn’t always dazzle together, at times they were a fearsome pair.

    This was one of them, and it was Lukaku who gave United hope with a first-half double either side of a PSG goal from Juan Bernat.

    Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood were summoned from the bench, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer putting his faith in youth as the experience of Gianluigi Buffon, Thiago Silva and Dani Alves wilted.

    With 89 minutes played, fellow sub Diogo Dalot took a shot from range and Presnel Kimpembe deflected it behind for a corner – only for VAR to overrule the decision after an age of deliberation, and award the visitors a 94th-minute penalty.

    Rashford, still only 21, stepped up against an all-time goalkeeping great and smashed the spot-kick into the top-left corner. Neymar watched on, aghast. As far as United fans were concerned, the good times were back.

  3. Roberto Di Matteo Didier Drogba Chelsea Napoli 2012

    Chelsea 4-1 Napoli AET (agg 5-4)

    Chelsea were in chaos when they were beaten 3-1 by Napoli in 2012.

    Andre Villas-Boas, brought in as one of the best young coaching talents in the world, was floundering.

    Down and out in the Champions League, the Blues sacked him and appointed fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo, whose only previous managerial experience was at MK Dons and West Brom.

    Di Matteo transformed Chelsea, and flipped the tie on its head.

    The Blues’ senior trio of Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard scored to take the game to extra-time following Gokhan Inler’s goal, before Branislav Ivanovic fired home from Drogba’s cross to win it in extra time.

    Chelsea beat Benfica in the quarter-finals before their famous win over Barcelona in the semis, and they lifted the title against Bayern in Munich.

    Di Matteo was sacked by November, but few managers can claim to have such a huge impact in such a short amount of time.

  4. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United Bayern Munich 1999

    Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes to talk about the 1999 final and with good reason.

    In front of a crowd of 90,000 at Camp Nou, Mario Basler’s six-minute free-kick looked to have earned Bayern Munich their first title of the Champions League era, since their last win in 1976.

    Bayern led for 84 of the 90 minutes of normal time, before United pulled off one of the all-time great final victories.

    David Beckham’s corner wasn’t cleared, and Teddy Sheringham steered home from Ryan Giggs’ shot to deny the Germans victory.

    Almost immediately, United won another corner. Again Beckham delivered, Sheringham nodded it down and Solskjaer arrived to lift it into the net.

    There were just 101 seconds between the two goals. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had lifted the FA Cup just four days previous, and their treble remains unmatched in English football.

  5. Deportivo La Coruna AC Milan 2004
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    Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 AC Milan (agg 5-4)

    Playing against the European champions, Deportivo had already sprung one surprise as they went 1-0 up in the first leg in Milan back in 2004.

    The Italian giants promptly put things right with a 4-1 win, and began to ready themselves for the semi-finals. After all, no side had ever come from three goals down to win a Champions League knock-out tie.

    Clearly, nobody had told Deportivo. They were level before half-time.

    Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque scored as the Spaniards ran rings around AC Milan, with Fran winning it in the second with a deflected effort off Cafu.

    Rui Costa almost dug Milan out of their hole with a powerful strike from range late on, but Jose Molina pulled off a stunning save to preserve his side’s lead and seal their progress to the semis.

    Deportivo coach Javier Irureta had prayed for a miracle and got one. Honouring a promise, he later made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in thanks.

  6. Kostas Manolas Roma Barcelona 2018
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    Roma 3-0 Barcelona (agg 4-1)

    Roma had been taken apart 4-1 in Barcelona in the first leg of their 2017-18 quarter-final, scoring two own goals to help the Catalans on their way, but Edin Dzeko’s crucial away goal afforded them the slightest glimmer of hope.

    While he didn’t get the winning goal, the big Bosnian was instrumental in one of Rome’s greatest nights.

    He bundled the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen early on, before winning a penalty for Daniele de Rossi to slam home and halve the deficit after the break.

    The Stadio Olimpico rocked and Barca folded. Kostas Manolas, scorer of the second own goal at Camp Nou, met Cengiz Under’s near-post corner and flicked it perfectly inside the back stick to put Roma ahead on away goals.

    One last chance came to Lionel Messi. He shimmied his way through a crowded penalty area but couldn’t bring the ball down, stabbing it into the arms of Roma keeper Alisson – who promptly decided he enjoyed impossible comebacks against Barcelona, and would like to try another.

  7. Ajax Tottenham 2019
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    Ajax 2-3 Tottenham (agg 3-3, Tottenham win on away goals)

    This was a semi-final comeback in 2019 that really did seem to come from nowhere. Tottenham were second-best in the first leg and most of the second, 3-0 down at half-time and without Harry Kane.

    Ajax had already beaten Real Madrid and Juventus and looked on course for a mouth-watering final with Liverpool, but the introduction of Fernando Llorente at half-time changed the game as Spurs' other forwards pivoted around him.

    Dele Alli released Lucas Moura to side-foot home 10 minutes into the second half, and the Brazilian kept his composure to find space in a crowded penalty area and grab a second just moments later.

    Hakim Ziyech fired against the base of the post with 12 minutes to play before Ajax academy graduate Jan Vertonghen headed off the bar at the other end.

    Erik ten Hag’s vibrant young side were feeling the pressure of Ajax’s long and proud history in Europe, and eventually they buckled.

    Five minutes and one second into stoppage time, Moussa Sissoko lumped the ball forwards, Llorente brought it down, Alli poked it through and Lucas found the bottom corner.

    Mauricio Pochettino celebrated like a man who had guided his club to the greatest night in their history, and rightly so.

  8. Divock Origi Liverpool Barcelona 2019

    Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (agg 4-3)

    Lionel Messi knew the job wasn’t done. With Barca 3-0 up at home in stoppage time, he collapsed to the turf in dismay when Ousmane Dembele lifted a weak finish into the arms of Alisson with the goal at his mercy.

    This Barcelona team had a soft core, and its best player knew it. Even after a dominating personal performance and one of the most iconic free-kicks ever scored, Messi must surely have had a nagging doubt in his mind as he took to the Anfield turf for the second leg of the 2018-19 semi-final.

    Divock Origi, Liverpool’s enigmatic man for the biggest moments, scored early to see Jurgen Klopp’s side leading at the break, but two more goals were needed.

    “We score, Liverpool need FIVE - and we're going to get at least one... agreed?” was the rallying call from Barca’s official Twitter account.

    They were wrong. The sight of Georginio Wijnaldum trotting off the bench would become the stuff of legend for Liverpool fans as he levelled the scores with two goals in three minutes.

    Barca were crumbling, Messi shackled, his team-mates wilting around him, and then Liverpool won a corner. Trent Alexander-Arnold, with a flash of genius, took it quickly, and Origi lifted it into the roof of the net.

    Pandemonium.

  9. Barcelona PSG 2017
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    Barcelona 6-1 PSG (agg 6-5)

    In 2017, Barcelona were on the verge of missing out on the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in a decade after a humbling 4-0 defeat in Paris.

    It was a result that apparently signalled a changing of the guard – the nouveau riche putting one of the world’s grand old clubs to the sword, and signalling their intent on the European throne.

    A comeback from 4-0 down had never been seen in the competition in 213 attempts, but Luis Suarez’ scrappy early opener got Camp Nou believing.

    A comical Layvin Kurzawa own goal and Lionel Messi penalty either side of the break brought Barca right back into it, before Edinson Cavani thumped in a stunning away goal to leave the hosts needing three more.

    Cavani and Angel Di Maria missed golden chances to end the contest, and were made to pay. Suarez and Messi had already stepped up, but truly this was Neymar’s night.

    A stunning free-kick in the 88th minute, a penalty in the 91st, and a gorgeous floated pass from deep for Sergi Roberto to win it in the 95th. The historic ‘MSN’ meant Barca were never out of a game.

  10. Liverpool Champions League 2005
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    AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (Liverpool win 3-2 on pens)

    Some people dispute the Miracle of Istanbul’s place at number one. There have been comebacks from larger deficits, comebacks with the game won before a penalty shoot-out.

    But this game is the comeback against which all other comebacks are measured.

    The Turkish city was first settled some 2600 years ago, and is now home to more than 15 million people – but say the word ‘Istanbul’ to any football fan, and the first things they’ll think of are Xabi Alonso bundling home on the rebound, and Jerzy Dudek’s wobbly legs in the 2005 Champions League final.

    AC Milan’s team that day reads like a roll-call of mid-2000s legends, and Paolo Maldini’s first-minute goal looked to set the tone. An exquisite double from Hernan Crespo killed the game off before half-time.

    You already know the rest. Gerrard, Smicer, Alonso, all the way through to Shevchenko and Dudek.

    A result that reignited the Reds’ love affair with Europe and ensured no Liverpool fan would ever accept that a game was lost before full-time again.