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Champions League: Where does Real Madrid win rank among the greatest comebacks?

Football does not exactly repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.

Wednesday’s dramatic finish to the Champions League semi-final second leg at the Bernabeu saw Real Madrid snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, while for Bayern Munich fans, and even some of their players, there was a definite sense of de ja vu.

Where does the Joselu game rank among the other unlikely comebacks in the competition’s storied history?

Read our other football news stories here:
Real Madrid 2-1 Bayern Munich (4-3 agg): Joselu the hero in semi-final classic
Italiano hails ‘extraordinary’ Fiorentina for returning to Conference League final
Bellingham lauds relentless Madrid after stunning Champions League turnaround

Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich – Champions League Final 1999

There’s nowhere else to start when it comes to analysing incredible finishes than the Camp Nou on a balmy May night in 1999.

Mario Basler gave Munich the lead after just six minutes and the Germans held that advantage for the remainder of the 90 minutes.

There are plenty of parallels in what came next. German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld opted to substitute star man Lothar Matthaus and Basler himself in the final 10 minutes, much as Thomas Tuchel did with Harry Kane and Jamal Musiala in Madrid.

The rest is history – two goals in quick succession by substitutes to turn the tie around in the dying seconds.

First Teddy Sheringham swept home in the first minute of injury time and then Sheringham flicked on for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to stab home the winner two minutes later, leaving Bayern players dropping to the turf in anguish.

Mauricio Pochettino

Ajax 2-3 Tottenham (agg 3-3 – Tottenham win on away goals) – Champions League semi-final 2019

Think it’s hard overturning a one-goal deficit? Try doing it with a 3-0 deficit and only 35 minutes to play.

Tottenham had lost the first leg 1-0 in London and Matthijs de Ligt (more on him later) and Hakim Ziyech put the hosts 2-0 up before half-time in the second leg in Amsterdam.

With Harry Kane watching from the stands – this time due to injury rather than substitution – Lucas Moura wrote himself into Spurs folklore with two goals in four minutes to give the visitors hope.

In the days before the away goals rule was abolished, Tottenham needed just one goal to reach their first ever Champions League Final however more than five minutes into stoppage time the game looked up, until Moura popped up to slot home a flick from Dele Alli and break Ajax hearts.

De Ligt was the man he pipped to the ball in the box and he fell to the turf in disbelief in scenes reminiscent of the Bayern players 20 years before.

De Ligt may not need reminding the Joselu game came five years to the day after the Moura Miracle.

Mohamed Salah

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (agg 4-3)– Champions League semi-final 2019

Just 24 hours earlier it had been another English team booking their place in the final – ironically in Madrid – in dramatic fashion.

Liverpool had lost the first leg of their semi-final 3-0 in the Camp Nou and were without star men Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino in the return at Anfield.

Divock Origi began his ascent to cult hero status by putting the Reds ahead early on but it was two goals in three minutes before the hour from sub Georginio Wijnaldum which really blew the tie open.

A spontaneous corner-kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold led to Origi’s second 11 minutes from time which knocked the stuffing out of the visitors.


Roma 3-0 Barcelona (agg 4-4 – Roma win on away goals) – Champions League quarter-final 2018

Barca ran-out 4-1 winners in the first leg with Daniele de Rossi and Kostas Manolas own goals contributing to the visitors downfall in Camp Nou.

Edin Dzeko did pull one back late on in Spain and that proved pivotal as the Bosnian also opened the scoring in the Stadio Olimpico after just six minutes to give the Romans belief.

Just before the hour de Rossi converted from the spot to bring the hosts back within one goal and eight minutes from time it arrived, courtesy of a towering header from Manolas.

The celebrations were wild, Peter Drury’s line about Roma rising from their ruins became immortal and the Italians were in the last four of the competition for the first time in 34 years.


Barcelona 6-1 PSG (agg 6-5) – Champions League round of 16 2017

Barcelona are not always on the end of these things.

PSG were irresistible in Paris and registered a thumping 4-0 win, a sure-fire changing of the guard among Europe’s elite, right?

Wrong. Luis Suarez needed only three minutes to pull one back at the Camp Nou and a Layvin Kurwaza own goal made it 2-0 at the interval – still two adrift, of course.

A penalty from Lionel Messi reduced the arrears but Edinson Cavani’s reply for the visitors looked likely to spoil the party after 62 minutes.

It meant the hosts needed three goals in under half-an-hour to go through, and with 88 minutes on the clock they still needed those three goals.

Enter Neymar, who fired in a free-kick to spark some hope and then converted a penalty a minute into added time to level the tie at 5-5, with PSG’s away goal still the difference.

With seconds of added time remaining Neymar dinked a pass through for Sergi Roberto to net Barcelona’s sixth goal of the night and write their name into history as the only side to have overturned a four-goal deficit in the competition.

The magnitude of the comeback was so great that the match was immediately given the name La Remontada (The Comeback).


Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 AC Milan (agg 5-4) Champions League quarter-final 2004

Remember them?

Walter Pandiani put the Spaniards ahead at San Siro in the first leg but Milan roared back to win 4-1 and seemingly had one foot in the semi-final.

In the return Pandiani again struck first after just five minutes but this time Deportivo pressed on, scoring twice more before half-time through Juan Carlos Valderon and Albert Luque.

They had the advantage on away goals but made sure of their progress, and place in history, with a late fourth goal from veteran sub Gonzalez Fran.

It was not to be Carlo Ancelotti’s last experience of being on the end of a turnaround.

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti

AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (AET – Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties) – Champions League Final 2005

Did you really think we’d forgotten Istanbul, Liverpool fans?

Milan raced into a 3-0 half-time lead thanks to Paolo Maldini’s strike in the opening seconds and two in five minutes before the break from Hernan Crespo.

Andriy Shevchenko was denied a fourth by Jerzy Dudek after the restart but then Steven Gerrard took over.

The Reds skipped headed home a John Arne Riise cross on 53 minutes and within a minute it was 3-2 when Dida failed to keep out Vladimir Smicer’s long-range effort.

Gerrard was fouled in the box on the hour as he looked destined to score but Xavi Alonso smashed in the rebound after Dida saved his initial spot-kick to restore parity.

The momentum fizzled out and hopes of Liverpool winning in normal time disappeared as Shevchenko was denied by Djimi Traore’s goalline clearance and then in extra-time by Dudek’s miraculous double save.

Dudek was also the hero in the shootout, blocking the Ukrainian’s effort to spark wild scenes of celebration.

Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.

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