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Past wonders give first-leg losers hope

Published: Friday 8 April 2011, 12.02CET
First-leg defeats have left Chelsea FC, FC Internazionale Milano, FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Tottenham Hotspur FC on the ropes, but as discovers, nothing is impossible.
by Jim Wirth
from London
Published: Friday 8 April 2011, 12.02CET

Past wonders give first-leg losers hope

First-leg defeats have left Chelsea FC, FC Internazionale Milano, FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Tottenham Hotspur FC on the ropes, but as discovers, nothing is impossible.

First-leg losses leave Chelsea FC, FC Internazionale Milano, FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Tottenham Hotspur FC on the ropes in their UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, but while things seem grim, there is still hope as this look through the history books shows.

Chelsea FC 0-1 Manchester United FC
Wayne Rooney's solitary goal at Stamford Bridge means Carlo Ancelotti's side need a statistically improbable away victory to go through. Only two teams have recovered from a first-leg home defeat to win a tie in the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League.

Under Louis van Gaal, holders AFC Ajax fell 1-0 at home to Panathinaikos FC in the 1995/96 semi-finals, yet two goals from Jari Litmanen and a third for Nordin Wooter helped them reach the final with a 3-0 second-leg success. Van Gaal said of his weary outfit: "If you charge the batteries enough, you cannot tell they are weak."

Inter emulated that feat in this season's round of 16, bouncing back from a 1-0 home loss to FC Bayern München to triumph 3-2 in Germany and make the quarter-finals.

FC Internazionale Milano 2-5 FC Schalke 04
The situation appears desperate for the holders as no club has come back from such a heavy home defeat to win a UEFA Champions League tie. However, RC Deportivo La Coruña did manage to overhaul a three-goal deficit against AC Milan in the 2003/04 quarter-finals, winning 4-0 at the Riazor after a 4-1 San Siro setback.

Deportivo coach Javier Irureta had vowed to follow the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela "on his knees" if his side won. He kept his promise – albeit on foot – that summer.

FC Dinamo Bucureşti, meanwhile, proved that even three-goal home arrears can be rectified. In the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League play-offs, they were handed a 3-0 forfeit defeat after their game against FC Slovan Liberec in Bucharest was abandoned on 87 minutes due to crowd trouble with the hosts 2-0 down. Amazingly, Dario Bonetti's team won the away leg by the same margin – and then the tie 9-8 on penalties.

FC Barcelona 5-1 FC Shakhtar Donetsk
Shakhtar captain Darijo Srna said Josep Guardiola's ensemble were "the best side in football history", and sure-fire UEFA Champions League winners in waiting, after Wednesday's defeat at Camp Nou, yet the Pitmen would not be the first side to survive a four-goal mauling.

Leixões SC lost 6-2 at FC La Chaux-de-Fonds in the 1961/62 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup preliminary round but took the tie with a 5-0 home success in Portugal. FK Partizan also went down 6-2 at Queens Park Rangers FC in their 1984/85 UEFA Cup second round first leg, before prevailing on away goals with a 4-0 victory in Belgrade.

Real Madrid CF, meanwhile, fell 5-1 to a VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach outfit led by their future coach Jupp Heynckes in the 1985/86 UEFA Cup third round. Nonetheless, they won 4-0 at home to progress and proceeded to lift the trophy under Luis Molowny, beating 1. FC Köln in the two-legged final.

Real Madrid CF 4-0 Tottenham Hotspur FC
If Leixões, Partizan and Madrid all redeemed themselves after four-goal first-leg drubbings, Tottenham have also been 4-0 down and gone on to edge a tie – in their first, and only previous, season in Europe's top competition.

In their opening 1961/62 European Champion Clubs' Cup preliminary round match at Górnik Zabrze, Bill Nicholson's men were four down just after the break, but rallied with two strikes in the last 20 minutes. They made amends in style with an 8-1 victory at White Hart Lane.

"We were a very good side and we knew it," remembered Nicholson. "What we did not know was how to play in Europe." He added: "We had to learn how to eradicate other teams' strengths. Górnik did it to perfection and, but for our ability to play outstanding football, we would have been out."

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