Wednesday, July 24, 2024

UEFA Champions League: Three of the Greatest Comebacks in the History of the Competition

With the format of the Champions League set to radically change ahead of the 2024-24 campaign, many football fans will undoubtedly mourn the loss of the group stage. However, the majority of drama tends to be produced in the knock-out rounds with countless memorable and unforgettable matches having been played out over the last couple of decades.

With many of the European giants making it through to the last 16 of the competition, the knock-out stages are viewed worldwide by a global audience. There is ample coverage of the UEFA Champions League and many online bookmakers also promote their best betting offers to coincide with the bigger contests.

Although some knock-out ties go perfectly to plan with the bigger boys easing through to the next stage, the competition has also witnessed plenty of shocks during the latter rounds. We’ve picked out three of the most memorable comebacks in the recent history of the UEFA Champions League.

Chelsea vs Napoli – 2012

It’s fair to suggest that the 2011-12 campaign did not go according to plan for Chelsea. The Blues had lost 10 of their 38 Premier League matches and picked up just two victories between mid-December and mid-February. However, they found solace in the Champions League and their performances were far better when taking on Europe’s elite clubs.

The Blues’ home form carried them through the group stage and they were disappointing on the road once again in Naples on February 21st. Having been defeated 3-1 at Stadio San Paolo, Chelsea faced an uphill task in the second leg in West London.

With Andre Villas-Boas having been sacked at the beginning of March, Roberto Di Matteo took temporary charge and he turned to stalwarts such as Didier Drogba and John Terry in order to try and rescue the club’s ailing campaign. Branislav Ivanovic turned out to be the hero as he fired in an extra-time strike to send the club into the quarter-finals.

Caretaker boss Di Matteo subsequently guided the club to unexpected Champions League glory a couple of months later via a penalty shootout. He was rewarded with the permanent gig in June 2012 yet he stayed in the role for just five months with Chelsea having struggled in the group stage of the competition throughout September and October.

Ajax vs Spurs – 2019

Having witnessed Liverpool complete a remarkable comeback against Barcelona just 24 hours earlier, Spurs decided to follow suit in Amsterdam. Having succumbed to a single Donny van de Beek goal in North London, the Lilywhites needed to conjure up some inspiration in order to give themselves a fighting chance of reaching the Champions League final.

Without their talisman Harry Kane, Spurs’ quest appeared to be doomed, especially when Hakim Ziyech gave Ajax a comfortable 3-0 aggregate lead.

Nevertheless, Lucas Moura’s strike gave the visitors a glimmer of hope and injected some confidence into the beleaguered Premier League outfit. The Brazilian added a second to unsettle the home fans and then he made history by completing his hat-trick in injury-time.

It was a suitable dramatic conclusion which prompted tears from Mauricio Pochettino and sent the traveling Spurs supporters into pandemonium. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to follow up this performance and were defeated 2-0 by the Reds in the Champions League final at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano.

Barcelona vs PSG – 2017
When it comes to unlikely Champions League comebacks, this is the match which ultimately springs to mind. European heavyweights and UCL mainstays Barcelona found themselves staring down the barrel of an early exit having conceded four times at the Parc des Princes. Angel di Maria’s double and an Edison Cavani strike put PSG in the driving seat, however, they hadn’t accounted for the wounded Catalonians, who were determined to extend their stay in the competition.

Barca didn’t waste any time at the Nou Camp with Luis Suarez taking just three minutes to find the back of the net. An own goal and a Lionel Messi penalty helped to turn the tide before a Neymar brace hauled the La Liga side back into the contest. Although Edison Cavani’s wonder-strike had complicated matters, it was Sergi Roberto’s 95th minute goal which completed the miraculous comeback and prompted mass celebrations in Catalonia.

Sadly, Barca weren’t able to build upon their magnificent turnaround and they crashed out of the competition to Juventus a month later and somehow failed to register in either leg.