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Down but not out: great Europa League comebacks

At 6-0 down, Rapid Wien might be beyond salvation as they approach their round of 32 second leg against Valencia, but past results suggest crazy comebacks are possible.

Great UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup comebacks ©Getty Images

Things look bleak for Rapid Wien after they lost the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie 6-0 to Valencia. No team has retrieved a margin of more than four goals in a UEFA club competition tie, but the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League have produced their share of dramatic turnarounds.

2013/14 quarter-finals
Basel 3-0 0-5 aet Valencia
Valentin Stocker's stoppage-time goal in the first leg appeared to have driven the final nail into Valencia's coffin but in a barnstorming atmosphere the Mestalla witnessed a famous recovery. Juan Antonio Pizzi's team took to the task with gusto, a couple of Paco Alcácer strikes and an Eduardo Vargas effort sending the tie to extra time.

Basel crumbled amid the fervour. Marcelo Díaz and Gastón Sauro were sent off before Alcácer completed his treble and Juan Bernat added a fifth. If there was a roof it would have been lifted clean off. "We knew it was important to score at least once in the first half, and luckily the second came just after the first," said Bernat. "It was a dream match."

1987/88 final
Espanyol 3-0 0-3 Bayer Leverkusen
(Leverkusen win 3-2 on penalties)
The presence of two first-time European finalists had suggested a tight affair, but Espanyol looked like running away with the two-legged showpiece when they won 3-0 in Spain. Still three to the good at half-time of the return match, Javier Clemente's men had one hand on the trophy, but Leverkusen had not read the script.

Milton Tita, Falko Götz and Cha Bum-kun scored in 25 frantic minutes to force extra time and ultimately spot kicks. Again Espanyol went in front, 2-0, but keeper Rüdiger Vollborn then made three successive stops to earn a remarkable triumph. "I'm completely overwhelmed," said Bayer coach Erich Ribbeck. "I think it was fate. Now we are in heaven."

1987/88 third round
Honvéd 5-2 1-5 Panathinaikos
Panathinaikos were on a high after eliminating Juventus to reach the third round but three weeks after their Turin heroics they were caught cold in Budapest. Honvéd cruised into a 5-0 lead inside 63 minutes, with Kálmán Kovács scoring four. Dimitris Saravakos grabbed two consolations – a fortnight later they proved crucial.

Some 75,000 supporters filled the Olympic Stadium in Athens hoping for a miracle and they were rewarded. Panathinaikos had wiped out the first-leg deficit by the 55th minute. József Fitos pulled one back to revive Honvéd, only for Kostas Mavridis and Kostas Batsinilas to seal the comeback and leave the crowd in raptures.

©Getty Images

1985/86 third round
Borussia Mönchengladbach 5-1 0-4 Real Madrid
(Madrid win on away goals)
Beaten in sub-zero temperatures a fortnight before, Madrid's second-leg assignment against Jupp Heynckes's Gladbach was made all the more challenging by the absence of suspended trio Hugo Sánchez, Rafael Gordillo and Chendo as well as the injured Manuel Sanchís. Jorge Valdano got them off to a fine start, though, scoring twice inside 18 minutes.

The Merengues' fightback had seemingly run out of steam with a quarter of an hour remaining but Santillana had other ideas, further reducing the arrears before scoring an 89th-minute clincher. "I have played in two World Cups and won titles with Madrid but tonight's comeback was immense," said Madrid forward Juanito. "This is the happiest night of my life." The Spanish outfit went on to beat Köln in the final.

©Bob Thomas/Getty Images

1984/85 second round
Queens Park Rangers 6-2 0-4 Partizan
(Partizan win on away goals)
Playing at Arsenal's Highbury home, QPR took seamlessly to the less familiar surroundings, winning 6-2 despite being 2-1 behind at one stage and down to ten men following Warren Neill's dismissal. Yet there was a chastening sequel in Belgrade for the west London outfit and manager Alan Mullery, who 16 years earlier had become the first England international to be sent off – against Yugoslavia.

Partizan midfielder Zvonko Živković set one up and slotted the decisive fourth away having returned from military service only three days before. "After a long period out of football I was in front of 50,000 fans," he said. "We all felt the emotion and believed that together we could go through. We created something amazing. That match was a defining moment in our careers."

René Vandereycken
René Vandereycken©Getty Images

1975/76 second round
Ipswich Town 3-0 0-4 Club Brugge
"It will be a miracle for us to score four times without Ipswich scoring," said Club Brugge defender Georges Leekens after the first leg. Well, miracles do happen. The Belgian heavyweights were level by half-time after strikes from Raoul Lambert, Daniël De Cubber and Ulrik Le Fèvre. Ernst Happel's troops were in the ascendancy but had to wait until two minutes from time to grab the winner.

Another future Belgium boss (like Leekens), René Vandereycken headed in Le Fèvre's cross to break Ipswich hearts and cap what Lambert called one of the most memorable encounters of his career. He said: "Our best match was the final at Anfield against Liverpool, but our home game against Ipswich was certainly the most spectacular."