Champions League Best Ever... Comebacks as Liverpool and Manchester United feature

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Steven Gerrard kisses the Champions League trophy in 2005

The two sides entering the Metropolitano Stadium on June 1 can legitimately be pinned up against some of the great European sides witnessed during the competition’s rich history.

Ahead of this blockbuster encounter between Tottenham and Liverpool we’re running a series on Europe’s elite competition called the ‘Best Ever…’ and on this occasion we’re examining the greatest comebacks to have graced the tournament.

Trimming the list down to five is an enormously tricky task and any one of the five picked hold claim to top spot.

But here is our look at the five best European Cup/Champions League comebacks.

1. LIVERPOOL V AC MILAN 

Champions League Final, 2005

Jerzy Dudek saves miraculous save against Andriy Shevchenko

Jerzy Dudek saves miraculous save against Andriy Shevchenko

For 45 minutes in the 2005 final, AC Milan had completely outclassed Liverpool. Paolo Maldini’s opener and a classy brace from Hernan Crespo sent the Italian giants into the break with a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead.

What followed was the most iconic revival of the competition’s or Liverpool’s history as they scored three goals in six minutes. Steven Gerrard’s superb header in the 54th minute began the fight back.

The way he motioned to the Liverpool fans in the crowd suggested something special was playing out in Istanbul. Vladimir Smicer’s strike from distance two minutes later confirmed it.

Gerrard then won a penalty and though Xabi Alonso’s effort from the spot was initially saved by Dida, he made no mistake from the rebound to draw his side level.

The Reds clung on for the remaining 30 minutes of regulation time and a further half an hour of extra-time before Jerzy Dudek starred in the penalty shootout. The Pole denied Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko to win it for Liverpool.

2. MANCHESTER UNITED V BAYERN MUNICH

Champions League Final, 1999

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's iconic celebration

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s iconic celebration

This comeback is held in such high regard for sheer shock value more than anything else. It was only a one-goal deficit for Sir Alex Ferguson’s incredible 1998-99 Manchester United side to turn around.

But into injury-time in the Champions League final during which they were second-best to Bayern Munich, surely even this never-say-die group of competitors didn’t stand a chance?

David Beckham’s corner in the 91st minute was cleared only as far as Ryan Giggs’ on the edge of the box whose shot was turned into the net by substitute Teddy Sheringham to equalise.

Remarkably, Sheringham got on the end of another Beckham corner moments later, flicking it on to the back post where fellow substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stabbed it home to complete an incredible recovery with virtually the last kick of the game, winning the treble in the process.

3. BARCELONA V PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Round of 16, 2017 

Lionel Messi celebrates

Lionel Messi celebrates

A second-leg revival of this magnitude had never been completed before. After a humiliating 4-0 defeat away to Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona roared back with a 6-1 victory in the second leg of the last-16 tie, winning 6-5 on aggregate.

The amazing scenes at Camp Nou that night produced the iconic image of Lionel Messi towering above adoring fans with his fist raised to the skies in celebration.

The picture splashed front pages the following morning but Neymar was the hero who came to their rescue. Goals from Luis Suarez and Messi sandwiched an own goal by Layvin Kurzawa before Edinson Cavani’s strike seemed to extinguish hopes of a comeback.

With 87 minutes played though, Neymar’s quick-fire brace set up a grandstand finish before Sergi Roberto netted in the fifth minute of injury time to send the home fans into ecstasy.

4. ROMA V BARCELONA 

Quarter-finals, 2018 

Kostas Manolas wheels away after his winner

Kostas Manolas wheels away after his winner

Just a year on from their incredible comeback against PSG, Barcelona were given a taste of their own medicine. At the quarter-finals stage this time, the Catalans secured a 4-1 first-leg victory courtesy of own goals from Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas before Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez got on the scoresheet as well.

Edin Dzeko’s away goal though would prove to be all-important. The Bosnian sparked the comeback in the return leg at the Stadio Olimpico six minutes into proceedings and won the penalty early in the second half that De Rossi converted.

Then, the other own-goal-scorer from the first leg popped up to complete a phenomenal night for the Giallorossi. Manolas’ glancing header at the near post from a corner eight minutes from time put the hosts 3-0 up, levelling the tie at 4-4 on aggregate.

There were a couple of hearts-in-mouths moments at the death but the Italian outfit held on to progress on away goals.

5. DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA V AC MILAN 

Quarter-finals, 2004 

Depor celebrate

Depor celebrate

Deportivo were one of Spain’s top sides 15 years ago but their decline was just beginning and they were dismantled over the course of eight minutes in the first leg of the 2003/04 quarter-finals at the San Siro.

After Walter Pandiani opened the scoring, a brace from Kaka and goals from Andriy Shevchenko and Andrea Pirlo secured a 4-1 win for the hosts.

The return leg in Spain though saw holders Milan stunned. Again, Pandiani opened the scoring before a header from Juan Carlos Valeron and a strike from Albert Luque dragged them level on aggregate heading into the break, set to progress on away goals.

Then, 14 minutes from time, substitute Gonzalez Fran’s deflected effort sealed the victory for the La Liga outfit as they progressed 5-4 on aggregate.

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Mohamed Salah hoping Liverpool can exorcise ghosts of last year's Champions League final

Press Association Sport 08:14 29/05/2019
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Liverpool ace Mohamed Salah is aiming to end the season with silverware.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah is looking to exorcise the ghosts of last year’s tearful Champions League final with victory in Madrid at the weekend.

The Egypt international left the pitch in Kiev barely able to hold back his emotions after a clash with Real Madrid‘s Sergio Ramos resulted in a shoulder injury.

His departure changed the dynamic of the game as the 44-goal forward had looked a threat to the defending champions.

While he has not been as prolific this campaign, scoring just 26 times, the Egyptian has still played a key part in a close-run title challenge and the run to a second-successive Champions League final.

“I am so happy that I have the chance to play another final. I hope I can play the full game this time,” he told beIN Sports.

“I am very excited for that. I hope we can right what happened last season, get a good result, and win the competition.”

Asked whether, in a dream scenario, he scored the goal which won the club their sixth European Cup Salah added: “Not just a dream. I hope it becomes a reality and I score in the final, then win the African Cup of Nations too.”

Unlike 12 months ago, Jurgen Klopp’s side head into the match against Premier League rivals Tottenham, playing their first final at this level, as favourites.

Salah and Liverpool will e favourites to lift the trophy.

Salah and Liverpool will be favourites to lift the trophy.

Salah believes that will not make as much difference as their experience will.

“I don’t think it will change much. All we have to do is stay focused on the game to win,” he said.

“Who’s favourite and who isn’t will not change what you have to do on the pitch.

“It could give us a bit of a boost, but it won’t be the main reason why a side wins a game.

“Of course this is our second final in a row. We lost the first, but everything feels better this time around and we have more experience than the last time.

“We are all looking forward and we had a good preparation period in Spain.

“We are now back in Liverpool, and we are feeling very motivated as players and coaching staff. I hope we can win it this time.”

Facing another Premier League side adds a different complexion to the match and Salah accepts a rival with whom they are so familiar adds another level.

“I think it will be tough. But at the end of the day, this is a final and no opponent would have been easy, even if it were Ajax, a team that beat Real Madrid and Juventus,” he added.

“But now we only think about Tottenham. It is harder because it is an English side, but any way we needed to win – whether it was against Ajax or Spurs.

“And that is the most important thing we want to do.”

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Champions League Best Ever... Individual Performances with Ronaldo's standing ovation at Old Trafford featuring

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Ronaldo celebrates scoring at Old Trafford in 2003

The two sides entering the Metropolitano Stadium on June 1 can legitimately be pinned up against some of the great European sides witnessed during the competition’s rich history.

Ahead of this blockbuster encounter between Tottenham and Liverpool we’re running a series on Europe’s elite competition called the ‘Best Ever…’ and on this occasion we’re examining the greatest individual performances to have graced the tournament.

Trimming the list down to five is an enormously tricky task and any one of the five picked hold claim to top spot.

But here is our look at the five best European Cup/Champions League individual performances.

1. Ronaldo | Manchester United v Real Madrid | 2003 Champions League semi-final second leg

Not many opposing players receive a standing ovation at Old Trafford, but a simply brilliant display from Ronaldo was deserving of it when Real Madrid knocked Manchester United out at the semi-finals stage.

Having suffered a 3-1 defeat in the first leg at the Bernabeu, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side desperately needed to score the opener but Ronaldo bagged it instead, spinning away from Rio Ferdinand and striking a bobbing ball first-time to beat Fabian Barthez at the near post.

The Brazilian’s movement proved a nightmare for United’s defence. He didn’t press from the front or track back but just loitered in dangerous positions instead, conserving his energy – crucial for a player whose knee injuries forced him to miss two years of football – before exploding with a sprint in behind at the opportune moment.

His goal-poaching instincts came to the fore for his second, reacting quickest when Roberto Carlos was played in, he was on hand to tap in his ball across goal.

It was no surprise to see United defenders panicking when O Fenomeno received possession in midfield, facing goal. He used Luis Figo’s run as a decoy, feinting left before checking onto his right, bamboozling Wes Brown and thumping a swerving effort from distance to beat Barthez.

It capped a thrilling hat-trick perfectly and the home support rose in unison to acknowledge it when Ronaldo was substituted 23 minutes from time.

2. Ferenc Puskas | Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt | 1960 European Cup final

Only three players have ever scored a hat-trick in a European Cup final. To be one of them and not have the match ball sitting in your trophy cabinet is incredibly harsh but that’s precisely the fate that befell Alfredo Di Stefano in 1960.

The Real Madrid legend’s treble was incredibly bettered by Ferenc Puskas who bagged four against Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park.

The Hungarian scored a left-footed belter from a tight angle for his first, converted a controversial penalty for his second and buried a rare header for his third. He rounded off his quadruple with the pick of the lot. Turning on a sixpence inside the area, he smashed his effort into the top corner with his left.

He even had time to set up Di Stefano for his own hat-trick goal. It was a sensational display against a formidable Frankfurt side, despite what the 7-3 scoreline suggests – the German outfit scored 12 goals past Scottish champions Rangers in the semi-finals.

Puskas remains the only player to score two hat-tricks in European Cup finals, repeating the feat in the 1962 5-3 defeat to Benfica.

3. Roy Keane | Juventus v Manchester United | 1999 Champions League semi-final second leg

BeFunky-collage - 2019-05-21T180722.332

Every time Roy Keane is reminded of his heroics in Turin, he almost seems offended. Was he supposed to just give up? Did he give any less in other games? Compliment that display in his presence at your own peril.

Still, the Irishman’s tenacity and unrelenting character was the architect of many United comebacks and the one that beat Juventus 3-1 away to book a spot in the final was the pick of the bunch.

After 11 minutes in Italy, United trailed 3-1 on aggregate courtesy of Filippo Inzaghi’s early brace. Keane’s glancing header from David Beckham’s corner pulled one back for the Reds but his greatest contribution was still to come.

Ten minutes after scoring, he was booked for a foul on Zinedine Zidane which meant he would miss the final if United progressed but he fought tooth and nail to get his side there anyway.

Keane competed fiercely and bossed a midfield that was also occupied by Zidane, Edgar Davids and Didier Deschamps in opposition. Dwight Yorke equalised in the 34th minute before Andy Cole’s winner six minutes from time sent United through 4-3 on aggregate.

United’s skipper didn’t participate in the glorious night at Camp Nou but his contribution in Turin remains one of the pivotal moments in the team’s iconic treble-winning season.

4. Gareth Bale | Inter Milan v Tottenham | 2010 Champions League group stage 

BeFunky-collage - 2019-05-21T180845.666

Gareth Bale was already on his way to being a star at Tottenham but this performance sparked his meteoric rise on a global level, making the likes of Real Madrid sit up and take notice.

Within 10 minutes at the San Siro, Spurs were two goals behind and a man down as Heurelho Gomes was sent off in the process of conceding a penalty. But it got even worse when Dejan Stankovic and Samuel Eto’o made it 4-0 at the break.

Then, Bale received the ball on the halfway line, burst past Maicon and Javier Zanetti and into the box before drilling his shot into the far corner to score one of the great Champions League solo goals. He showed great pace again in the 90th minute before an identical finish and then completed his hat-trick in injury time, hitting that bottom corner again with a first-time strike.

Spurs lost the group game 4-3 but Maicon was one of the best right-backs at the time and the sight of Bale flying at him must still wake him up in a cold sweat.

5. John Aston | Manchester United v Benfica | 1968 European Cup final

The history books remember the names of George Best, Bobby Charlton and Eusebio. Tales are told of Brian Kidd’s wild goal celebration, Alex Stepney’s crucial save and an injured Dennis Law watching from a hospital bed.

But John Aston’s Man of the Match display in the 1968 European Cup final was the quintessential unsung hero performance.

Having come through the ranks alongside Best, his style was in stark contrast to the Irishman’s genius and flair. His hard-working, orthodox wing-play complemented his team-mate on the opposite flank and terrorised Benfica in the final at Wembley.

During the 4-1 victory after extra time, his relentless runs down the left flank and pinpoint crossing – one of which led to Kidd’s goal – made all the difference. He didn’t get on the score sheet but in dominating the game on his side, aggressively attacking right-back Adolfo for 120 minutes with lung-bursting runs, he pressed down on one point of the back-line until cracks appeared all across it.

After the final whistle Benfica coach Otto Gloria said: “I laid plans for coping with Best and Charlton and the other stars, but nobody warned me about this boy Aston.”

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