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The Greatest Football Comebacks: From Istanbul to the Madejski Stadium

September 08, 2015

- Grant Whittington

Football comebacks are far from unique, but some stand out more than others simply due to their scope and the sheer force of will required for them to be achieved. In order to celebrate the never-say-die spirit and unpredictability that underpins football, we decided to look at some of the greatest comebacks in football history and see if we could create a shortlist of the top three.

To make our task easier we focussed on the last 15 years, which eliminated the likes of Manchester United’s dramatic Champions League final victory of Bayern Munich in 1999. But what made the cut? Well, without further ado…

Tottenham 3 Manchester City 4, FA Cup 4th Round Replay 2004

One of the more unheralded comebacks, City’s stunning victory at White Hart Lane was utterly remarkable. It also came at a time when the Blues were unrecognisable from the modern day side, with Kevin Keegan’s team scarcely re-established as a Premier League force after fours in exile. They trailed 3-0 at half-time to an inspired Tottenham, while Joey Barton even managed to get himself dismissed for dissent as he left the pitch at half-time.

Undeterred, City forced their way back into the game with goals from Sylvain Distin and Paul Bosvelt, before Shaun Wright-Phillips chipped in a stunning equaliser. With the stage set for extra-time, Jonathan Macken soared above his marker to head home an injury time winner.

Liverpool 3 AC Milan 3, Champions League Final 2005

A year later, the Champions League offered its own version of the great escape with a truly memorable final in Istanbul. The imperious AC Milan dominated for 45 minutes, as goals from Paolo Maldini and two from Hernan Crespo (including one that was created by a sumptuous pass from Kaka) afforded them a 3-0 lead at the break. The game seemed done, but a half-time tactical switch and a bullet header by captain Steven Gerrard triggered a stunning spell of three goals in six minutes that earned the Reds parity. Thanks to the heroics of goal keeper Jerzy Dudek, Liverpool survived until extra-time when they ultimately prevailed in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.

Reading 5, Arsenal 7, Carling Cup 4th Round 2012

By far the craziest game on our list, Reading powered into a 4-0 lead against the Gunners at the Madejski Stadium, seemingly ending the contest less than half an hour in. Despite being a defensive shambles, however, the pace of Theo Walcott kept Arsenal competitive in the second half as they gradually hauled themselves to within striking distance at 4-3. Then Walcott scrambled home a dramatic equaliser in stoppage time, before Marouane Chamakh edged the Gunners ahead in extra-time. Despite Reading coming back once more, Walcott completed his hat-trick with 60 seconds to go before Chamakh raced clear and added a seventh. Reading boss Brian McDermott famously said that he wouldthrow away the DVD of the game, and few could blame him after such a loss.

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