Hope for Arsenal and Barça? Great comebacks

Bad news for Barcelona: no team have ever lost 4-0 away in Europe and gone through. Good news for Arsenal: 5-1 away has been overturned before. We look at the greatest two-legged comebacks.

Can Barcelona outdo what they managed against Chelsea 17 years ago?
Can Barcelona outdo what they managed against Chelsea 17 years ago? ©Getty Images

With Arsenal and Barcelona both facing four-goal first-leg defecits in their UEFA Champions League round of 16 ties, UEFA.com looks back at the greatest ever two-legged comebacks in Europe.

  • Recovering a four-goal deficit in UEFA club competition

La Chaux-de-Fonds 6-2 Leixões
Leixões 5-0 La Chaux-de-Fonds
1961/62 European Cup Winners' Cup first round
Leixões are best remembered for a 2-0 victory against near neighbours Porto in the 1961 Portuguese Cup final, with that result earning them a European Cup Winners' Cup place. On their continental debut, Filpo Núñez's men were crushed 6-2 at La Chaux-de-Fonds, yet the Swiss team buckled at the Campo de Santana. Osvaldo Silva made it 2-0 before the break, with Oliveirinha – twice a scorer in the first leg – hitting two more either side of a Vandinho effort. Os Bébés remain the only club to overhaul a four-goal European deficit without recourse to away goals.

Queens Park Rangers 6-2 Partizan
Partizan 4-0 Queens Park Rangers
1984/85 UEFA Cup second round
With Partizan trounced at Arsenal's Highbury home, where QPR played their European games due to their artificial pitch at Loftus Road, success looked to be a formality for Alan Mullery's team in Belgrade. Yet goals from Dragan Mance, Dragan Kaličanin, Miodrag Ješić and Zvonko Živković upended the tie. "We got battered on the night," recalled QPR midfielder Gary Waddock. "We thought we had a big enough lead to get through. We prepared properly, but the result shows what can happen if you get off to a bad start in the return leg in European football."

©Getty Images

Borussia Mönchengladbach 5-1 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 4-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach
1985/86 UEFA Cup third round
Madrid initially took a beating from a Gladbach side coached by future Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes, but Jorge Valdano struck twice inside the first 17 minutes of the second leg to put Luis Molowny's men in the hunt. Santillana added two more late on to complete a phenomenal comeback, and his team went on to beat Köln in the final. Forward Juanito said: "I've been a Spanish international, I've played at two World Cups, I've won trophies with Madrid, but this comeback tops the lot. It's the happiest day of my life."

  • Recovering from five goals down in UEFA club competition

Honvéd 5-2 Panathinaikos
Panathinaikos 5-1 Honvéd
1987/88 UEFA Cup third round
Panathinaikos retrieved a mere three-goal deficit in Greece but what makes this tie unique is that they actually trailed 5-0 at one point in the first match. No other team have been five behind at any stage of a tie and recovered to win on aggregate.

  • Biggest comebacks in UEFA Champions League knockout games

Chelsea 3-1 Barcelona
Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (aet)
1999/2000 quarter-finals
Like in Paris this season, Barcelona fell 3-0 down at Chelsea (within 38 minutes) but on this occasion it was Luís Figo who got the fourth goal of the contest for the visitors. Pre-Roman Abramovich, Chelsea were far from the European force they are now, and this first-leg triumph over Louis van Gaal's Barça marked an improbable success for Gianluca Vialli's men. They even came within seven minutes of winning the overall contest when Tore André Flo struck his third of the tie in Catalonia to bring the second-leg score back to 2-1, only for Dani García to notch Barça's third. Rivaldo's penalty and a Patrick Kluivert goal finished off the Londoners in extra time.

"It was the greatest night of my life," said Barcelona's Gabri García while team-mate Figo concluded: "We played a perfect game. We had a big setback but managed to turn things around." A disappointed Vialli offered a mournful summary: "We did what we didn't want to do: defend badly." Barcelona exited in the last four.

AC Milan 4-1 Deportivo La Coruña
Deportivo La Coruña 4-0 AC Milan
2003/04 quarter-finals

The record. Walter Pandiani put Deportivo in front at San Siro but that was long forgotten by full time, with Kaká netting twice as Milan shredded their opponents. Ahead of the Riazor return, Depor coach Javier Irureta was hanging on to little more than a dream. "This is of course a very complex, difficult and challenging task," he said. "But in football, miracles often happen, things you might not rationally expect."

Highlights: Deportivo come back from the dead
Highlights: Deportivo come back from the dead

Incredibly his charges were ahead on aggregate by half-time in north-west Spain, Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valerón and Alberto Luque making it 3-0 – before substitute Fran González added a fourth goal on 76 minutes. Irureta duly promised to take the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela, having prayed for success. "It is worth going to Santiago after this victory," he said. "I will do the walk to Santiago because a promise is a promise." Deportivo lost in the semi-finals

Real Madrid 4-2 Monaco
Monaco 3-1 Real Madrid

2003/04 quarter-finals

Whatever fairy dust had taken unfancied Monaco to the quarter-finals seemed to have blown away when the final whistle sounded at the Santiago Bernabéu on 24 March 2004. A four-goal post interval salvo from Madrid had sent the principality team into a tailspin, though Fernando Morientes's 83rd-minute strike for the visitors proved a lifeline. Coach Didier Deschamps was not about to admit defeat either, saying: "If I thought that, I'd be better off staying home."

A further goal down with seconds to go until half-time in the rematch, Deschamps might have been tempted to think again, but Ludovic Giuly levelled. Then Morientes – on loan from Madrid – headed a second and Giuly made it 3-1. The eventual away-goals victory might still have evaporated had Raúl González not fired a late chance over the bar. Morientes, meanwhile, was not sure whether to celebrate. "I'm very happy about Monaco's win," he said, "but I have friends in Madrid who must be having a difficult time." Monaco were losing finalists.

©Getty Images

Napoli 3-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 4-1 Napoli (aet)

2011/12 round of 16
A change of manager provoked a startling fightback by Chelsea. André Villas-Boas's last European game with the Londoners ended in defeat in Naples; Juan Mata had given his team the initiative, but Ezequiel Lavezzi struck twice either side of an Edinson Cavani effort to leave the English club heading towards the exit. "There's a big possibility that, with this away goal, we can turn the tie around," Villas-Boas ventured afterwards.

The Portuguese, however, had been replaced by Roberto Di Matteo by the second leg, when goals from Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard helped move the contest into extra time. Branislav Ivanović finally completed the Lazarus act after 105 minutes. "I've had some great nights but this will probably go down in club history," said Di Matteo, little knowing an even greater triumph in adversity would follow. Chelsea beat Bayern in the final.

©Getty Images

AC Milan 2-0 Barcelona
Barcelona 4-0 AC Milan

2012/13 round of 16

An omen for Barcelona? No side had ever recovered two-goal first-leg arrears without the benefit of an away goal yet Barcelona made light of such unfavourable statistics amid a cacophony of enthusiastic support at the Camp Nou. Lionel Messi's sublime first-half double wiped out Milan's lead and David Villa's goal early in the second period put the Blaugrana in control of the tie.

The home side still required some luck – at 1-0, M'Baye Niang hit the post – and they were not safe until Jordi Alba raced through to notch a clinching fourth in stoppage time. Vanquished coach Massimiliano Allegri conceded Barça had played "extraordinarily well", while Lionel Messi told UEFA.com: "This is the Barça we and our fans want every game." Barcelona exited in the last four.

1999: The comeback of all comebacks
1999: The comeback of all comebacks

Olympiacos 2-0 Manchester United
Manchester United 3-0 Olympiacos
2013/14 round of 16
The spirit of Sir Alex Ferguson lives on at Old Trafford! The great Scot's departure the previous summer signalled the end of an era for the red half of Manchester but the old never-say-die attitude was alive and well here. Alejandro Domínguez's nimble flick and a fine Joel Campbell strike left Olympiacos within touching distance of a UEFA Champions League quarter-final place for the first time in 15 years but those dreams were left in tatters.

Robin van Persie did the damage. The Dutchman opened the scoring from the penalty spot, added a second on the cusp of half-time and then completed the turnaround with a free-kick soon after the restart – his first UEFA Champions League hat-trick. The result was dripping in history: it was 30 years to the week since United had last overcome such a deficit in Europe – against Barcelona in the European Cup Winners' Cup. United exited in the quarter-finals.

Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 2-0 Paris Saint-Germain
2013/14 quarter-finals
Chelsea again! This time it was a José Mourinho-led team forced to play catch-up after a second-half David Luiz own goal followed by Javier Pastore's 93rd-minute coup de grace consigned them to a 3-1 setback in the French capital. As it transpired, though, Eden Hazard's earlier strike, from the penalty spot, would prove pivotal to the Londoners' revival.

Six days later André Schürrle came off the bench to make a 32nd-minute breakthrough in favour of the hosts. It was Schürrle's fellow substitute Demba Ba who sparked wild celebrations three minutes from full time by scooping home a direct Chelsea side's second to send them through on away goals. "We risked everything tonight," said Mourinho. "If we hadn't scored that second goal, we would still have been proud of the boys." Chelsea exited in the last four.

How Bayern did it
How Bayern did it

FC Porto 3-1 Bayern München
Bayern München 6-1 FC Porto
2014/15 quarter-finals
Porto's hard-earned first-leg lead did not last long in Munich. By half-time Bayern were 5-0 up including two goals from Robert Lewandowski. Jackson Martínez did pull one back but Xabi Alonso had the last word with a free-kick.

"Even after the game in Porto I had the feeling that we could make it," Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said. "You always make up the difference in your head. I always try to analyse our opponents. It was not such a big surprise how they played in Porto. They have a very good team, but today they were not able to reach their level." Bayern lost in the semi-finals.

Wolfsburg 2-0 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 3-0 Wolfsburg
2015/16 quarter-finals
Ricardo Rodriguez and Maximilian Arnold had given knockout debutants Wolfsburg a cushion against the then ten-time champions but it was all undone thanks to one man. Cristiano Ronaldo, for it was he, scored just past the quarter-hour and 90 second later had wiped out the deficit. And Ronaldo had his hat-trick with a free-kick 13 minutes from time.

"At the Bernabéu comebacks are always on people's lips," Ronaldo said. "Real Madrid have had many a comeback in their history and we managed one tonight too, so the side is very happy. The supporters were amazing and we must thank them and say well done to them too. It was a perfect, magical night." Madrid won their 11th title.

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