Ranking the 5 best Champions League second-leg comebacks
From the Nou Camp to the Stadio Olimpico, we relive the greatest ever turnarounds that Europe's top competition has had to offer.
5) Roma 3-0 Barcelona, April 2018
“Roma have risen from their ruins. Manolas, the Greek god in Rome. The unthinkable unfolds before our eyes.”
They are the immortal words of commentator Peter Drury after Roma gave Barcelona a taste of their own medicine.
Coming just a year after their legendary Remontada at home to PSG (more on that later), the Spanish side were on the receiving end here.
Barcelona travelled to Rome for the second leg of their Champions League quarter final with a 4-1 Nou Camp victory behind them and chasing the treble, having made it to the Copa del Rey final and gone a record-equalling 38 games unbeaten in La Liga.
But they fell apart at the Stadio Olimpico.
Edin Dzeko put the Giallorossi ahead after just six minutes, before a Daniele De Rossi penalty early in the second half made it nervy for the visitors.
Kostas Manolas then flicked an 82nd-minute header into the far side of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s goal from a corner to make it 4-4 on aggregate and put Roma through on away goals.
At the time, the Italian side became only the third side to ever overturn a first-leg deficit of three or more goals, which brings us neatly onto…
4) Deportivo 4-0 Milan, April 2004
Great comebacks reflect well on the winners but are generally inflicted on teams that are weak or vulnerable.
In this case, not so.
Overturning a 4-1 first-leg deficit was not just amazing because Deportivo had to score at least three goals, but because they had to score at least three goals against a great AC Milan side.
Carlo Ancelotti fielded Dida, Cafu, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo and several other stars at the Estadio Riazor in the Champions League quarter-final second leg in April 2004.
They were the defending European champions. They would go onto reach the final three times in five seasons between 2003 and 2007, winning twice, and won the Serie A title in this campaign.
But on this night, reputations meant nothing.
Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron and Albert Luque had done the damage for Deportivo before half-time, putting the hosts three up and level at 4-4 on aggregate, before substitute Juan sealed the deal in the second half.
That the Spaniards became the first of only two teams to knock Milan out over two legs between 2003-07 overshadowed that they had reached the Champions League semi-finals, their greatest ever European finish.
3) Tottenham 3-2 Ajax, May 2019
Whatever you look for in a game of football, this probably had it. It was an evening when logic took a running jump out of the window.
Tottenham arrived at the Johan Cruyff Arena a goal down and a difficult job was made harder as their hosts – who had knocked holders Real Madrid and Juventus out in the last-16 and quarter final respectively – went 2-0 up before half-time.
But what followed was one of the finest individual performances in living memory in an utterly breathless second half.
Lucas Moura’s two goals before the hour got Spurs back into it, but how neither side managed to win it before the 95th minute is hard to comprehend.
Efforts for both sides were scrambled off the line, hit the post or impressively tipped away by goalkeepers Hugo Lloris and Andre Onana.
That was until Lucas rounded off what will surely remain the best performance of his career. The Brazilian latched onto a neat pass from Dele Alli and slotted home with the final kick of the game, putting his side into their first ever Champions League final.
Cue pandemonium in the away end and dugout, but silence elsewhere.
A tearful Mauricio Pochettino fell to his knees after the final whistle, overcome with ecstasy, and who could blame him?
But, amazingly, this wasn’t even the best comeback of the season’s tournament.
2) Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona, May 2019
It says something about Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool that despite being 3-0 down to Barcelona after the first leg, nobody considered the tie to be over.
Klopp’s side had been unlucky at the Nou Camp, and Barca – more reliant on Lionel Messi than ever – were vulnerable.
When Divock Origi scored inside seven minutes of the second leg at Anfield, the visitors began to squirm and a comeback appeared almost inevitable.
So inevitable, in fact, that it is easy to not give Liverpool the credit they deserve for pulling it off, particularly when it took one of the competition’s finest moments of improvisation to complete the victory.
At 3-0 up with 11 minutes remaining, Trent Alexander-Arnold seemed to be preparing to take a conventional corner, before noticing that only Divock Origi was watching him inside the box. He fired a quick ball into Origi’s feet, and the Belgian swept in the winner.
The appreciation of the pass was soon matched by awe at Liverpool’s coaching staff, after it emerged that they had noticed Barcelona’s tendency to switch off ahead of set-pieces and told Alexander-Arnold to stay alert to this possibility.
A decade on from Pep Guardiola winning his first Champions League title with Barcelona, such attention to detail signalled that England had become the epicentre of European football again.
1) Barcelona 6-1 PSG, March 2017
No team had ever surrendered a four-goal first-leg lead in the Champions League, and that record looked certain to stand after 87 minutes of the last-16 tie between Barcelona and PSG in 2017.
The Parisians, inspired by Marco Verrati, had swept Barca away in the first leg, running in four goals and threatening more.
And any alarm bells that had been ringing at 3-0 down in the second leg at the Nou Camp were quietened by Edinson Cavani’s away goal in the 52nd minute. Avoid conceding three goals in 38 minutes and they were in the quarter-finals.
But Unai Emery’s reputation for coaching teams with a crippling mental fragility didn’t come from nowhere. When Barca still required three goals with just two minutes of normal time to play, Emery’s side were panicking.
Neymar – then of Barcelona, of course – scored his first of the night in the 88th minute, leaving injury time for the 2015 champions to score twice more.
The Brazilian dispatched a dubious penalty one minute into added time, before inflicting a scar on his future employers that still hasn’t faded. He chipped a 95th-minute cross over the PSG defence, whose legs were now deep in treacle, and onto the foot of Sergi Roberto, who prompted wild celebrations inside the stadium and in every neutral front room around Europe.
PSG still haven’t recovered, failing to progress beyond the last-16 in 2018 or 2019. They were shown up further when an average Barca team were thrashed by Juventus in the next round.
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