The Greatest Champions League Comebacks

Can José Mourinho emulate  Roberto di Matteo and mastermind another Chelsea comeback?

Can José Mourinho emulate Roberto di Matteo and mastermind another Chelsea Champions League comeback?


On Tuesday night, Borussia Dortmund will look to overturn a three-goal deficit when they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

When you consider that the 4-1 recorded by a full-strength Dortmund side when the teams met in last seasons semis was considered a surprise, and the defensive problems suffered by Jürgen Klopp’s side, even a home win is no guarantee.


Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid Second Leg Betting Odds:

Borussia Dortmund win – 3.05

Real Madrid win – 2.08

Draw – 3.60

(All odds provided by are accurate as of today and subject to change)


Dortmund have spent most of the season with a makeshift defence, replacing real centre-backs Hummels and Subotić with a loud grunting sound (Durm) and a player devised to mock English commentators (Papathatopoulos). With that in mind it seems unlikely that they will keep alive their hopes of back-to-back finals, but stranger things have happened.

Below are three of the most memorable second-leg comebacks in the Champions League, and Dortmund progressing this week could trump them all.



Deportivo La Coruña 4-0 AC Milan (Aggregate 5-4), 2004 quarter-finals

You might find this hard to believe when looking at their current squad of Fulham rejects, over-the-hill ‘hard men’ and Kévin Constant, but a decade ago Milan were good. Really good.

They had won the Champions League the previous year and would go on to make the final in 2005 and 2007, and while they stumbled through the group stage they still had Kaká, Andrey Shevchenko and Andrea Pirlo, all of whom had scored in the first leg after Walter Pandiani gave Depor a shock early lead.

The Spanish side were no slouches of course, making it through to the knockout stages after a scarcely believable 8-3 victory over Monaco and seeing off 2003 finalists Juventus in the last 16. But a three-goal deficit was too much, right?

Wrong. In fact it only took them 44 minutes to take an away-goals lead in the tie (note to ITV – that is what ‘getting half the job done’ means), before talisman Fran made sure with a late fourth. Ironically they then went on to lose in the semi-finals to Porto, who were joined in the final by the Monaco side who had shipped eight goals in Spain earlier in the season – José Mourinho no doubt thanked Depor manager Javier Irureta for giving his team an easy path to victory.



Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (AET, Aggregate 6-4), 2000 quarter-finals

It’s an oft-repeated myth that Chelsea came into being in 2003 when Roman Abramovich’s millions transformed them into title contenders. To make such an assumption would be to forget the 1999-2000 season, when the club splashed out around £20m on the likes of Gabriele Ambrosetti, Jes Høgh, Emerson Thome and Chris Sutton. And to think people said Alexey Smertin was a waste of money.

It was thanks to their existing players, however, that they made it through two group stages (yes folks, that wasn’t just a bad dream) and inflicted a first defeat of the competition on Barça, with two goals from Tore Andre Flo and one from Gianfranco Zola giving the Londoners every chance of making it through.

However you’ve heard the saying – the only things certain in life are death, taxes, and Barcelona beating Chelsea in the Champions League. Rivaldo and Luis Figo gave the hosts the upper hand at the Nou Camp, and while Flo pulled one back after an error from home goalkeeper Ruud Hesp, Dani’s 83rd minute header levelled the scores. There was still almost time for Barcelona to seal the deal within 90 minutes, but Rivaldo missed a late penalty.

The killer blow came in the 99th minute. Celestine Babayaro brought down a marauding Figo in the area, referee Anders Frisk (remember him, Chelsea fans?) sent the Nigerian off, and Rivaldo stepped up to score from the spot. Patrick Kluivert added a fifth five minutes later and that was that.



Chelsea 4-1 Napoli (AET, Aggregate 5-4), 2012 last 16

It took more than a decade, but finally Chelsea would have their chance to see what it was like to be on the other end of an epic European comeback. And the two legs could not have been more different, right down to the man in charge of the London club – the first-leg defeat in Italy was one of André Villas-Boas’ last, and return match was only the second outing of Roberto di Matteo#s tenure.

Needing a 2-0 win to progress, goals either side of half-time from Didier Drogba and John Terry put Chelsea within touching distance of the quarter-finals, but they knew from previous setbacks not to get too carried away. And indeed an impressive 20-yard strike from Gökhan Inler put the ball back in Napoli’s court.

But with 15 minutes left, Andrea Dossena handled in the box and Frank Lampard beat Morgan De Sanctis from the penalty spot. That took the game to extra-time, where an extended spell of Chelsea pressure ended with Branislav Ivanović smashing the ball into the roof of the net for the first of many crucial goals that the Serbian would score.

We all know what followed – an improbable run to the final and an even more improbable victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena after the German side could only muster one goal from their 35 shots. And if Chelsea fans believe in omens, the scoring in that first leg in Napoli was opened by Ezequiel Lavezzi, the same man who netted Paris Saint-Germain’s first in last week’s 3-1 first-leg victory. Can history repeat itself?


Betting Instinct Tip – Chelsea to make it through to this year’s semi-finals is 3.20 with Can they manage another famous comeback at Stamford Bridge?

GR88 will refund selected losing bets if a goal is scored in the 88th minute or later (in normal time) in any of the four quarter-final second legs this week. For full terms and conditions click here.


tvTOM VICTOR (editor)  is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of  sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.


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