When it comes to football, nothing beats a good old fashioned pulsating comeback does it? And the Premier League has delivered many stirring comebacks for us to marvel at in its 26 years of existence to date.
The best league in the world? In all honesty, it surely has to be. It may not be able to boast the presence of superstars such as Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar at this moment in time but the league itself has proven consistently over time that on any given day, even the smallest teams in the league can prove a match for the big boys at the business end of the table.
You only have to look at the other big league’s around Europe to see that the Premier League is consistently the most competitive league around. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich rarely drop points and despite Manchester City’s domination so far this season, the Premier League has grown notorious in the past for throwing up surprise results.
Here we take a look at five of the best and most captivating comebacks in the 26-year history of the English Premier League:
Liverpool 3 Manchester United 3 (1994)
Probably one of the first and still most thrilling comebacks in the history of the Premier League. After dominating the late 1970s and the 1980s Liverpool were by 1994 having to play second fiddle to their fierce rivals from up the road. Going into this contest United sat firmly atop of the Premier League standings while Liverpool were languishing down in eighth place.
And the gap between the reigning champions and their Merseyside rivals had never looked so great as in the first 27 minutes when a Steve Bruce header, a sublime Ryan Giggs chip and an exquisite free kick from Denis Irwin put the visitors 3-0 up at a shocked Anfield.
Enter Nigel Clough, Liverpool’s new £2 million signing from Nottingham Forest. With the only noise inside Liverpool’s famous old stadium coming from the ecstatic United fans in the Anfield Road end of the ground, the Kop came alive when Clough rammed home a shot from fully 25 yards which left the post reverberating probably to this day. Game on!
And moments later with the ground still rocking, Clough, son of the legendary Brian, reduced the deficit to just one before half-time following a bit of pinball in the United defence. Game most definitely on!
In the second half, Giggs brought the best out of Liverpool’s veteran goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar before Jamie Redknapp stretched United number one Peter Schmeichel to his limits. And with just 11 minutes remaining on the clock, Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock rose highest to crash Stig Inge Bjornebye’s pinpoint cross home with a thumping header that left the Liverpool centre back dazed momentarily and the Kopites ecstatic. Comeback complete. And what a comeback it was.
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Manchester United 5 (2001)
What can you say about this classic that hasn’t already been said? Spurs three goals to the good at half time. Final score, 5-3 to Manchester United. It sounds like a game that Spurs legend and former manager Ossie Ardiles should’ve been in charge of. Great at scoring goals, not so great at defending them.
The year was 2001 and Tottenham supporters were in dreamland by half-time, new £8 million signing Dean Richards having put them one up on his debut followed by goals from Les Ferdinand and German international Christian Ziege.
United boss Alex Ferguson introduced Mikael Silvestre and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the break and whatever was said during that 15 minute interval certainly did the trick big time as the Red Devils came out a different team upon the match’s resumption.
Just one minute into the second period, Andy Cole headed home to cut the deficit before French veteran Laurent Blanc again rose highest to further reduce the arrears. Spurs, who had looked so composed and impressive in the first 45, were by now looking all over the place as United were starting to sense blood.
Ruud van Nistelrooy completed the comeback with another headed goal but they were a long way from finished. Juan Sebastien Veron swept United one ahead in front of a stunned White Hart Lane crowd before David Beckham capped a wonderful afternoon’s football and an incredible fight back with a delightful curler from the edge of the area, a trademark finish from the England skipper to secure all three points. The stuff of champions.
Arsenal 4 Tottenham Hotspur 4 (2008)
Picture the scene. Arsenal are 4-2 up at Emirates Stadium against their biggest rivals Tottenham with just one minute of normal time remaining on the clock. Game over for sure you’d think!
Tell that to Harry Redknapp’s class of 2008. Two days before Halloween, Arsenal welcomed their age old rivals across town and despite falling behind to a first half wonder strike from former Gunner David Bentley, with just over an hour played, Arsene Wenger’s men found themselves 3-1 ahead courtesy of goals from Mikael Silvestre, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Darren Bent pulled Spurs back to within a goal on 67 minutes but barely a minute later Robin van Persie restored Arsenal’s two-goal cushion to the delight of a packed Emirates. As full time approached and with just one minute of normal time remaining it appeared as though the Gunners would be going home happy.
However, a lovely left-footed curler from Jermaine Jenas gave the travelling fans hope before an audacious long range half volley from Luka Modric came back off the bar right into the path of the grateful Aaron Lennon who duly supplied the finishing touch to bring the game level in injury time and send the Spurs fans into scenes of wild celebration. A Halloween trick or treat? For the Arsenal supporters, it must’ve felt like the former, but for fans of the Lilywhites it was definitely a Halloween treat at the home of their fierce rivals.
Arsenal 4 Newcastle United 4 (2011)
If ever a team should win a match, it’s this one. Going into the game, Arsenal were hot on the tails of league leaders Manchester United, trailing their great rivals by just four points with 25 matches played each.
And within 10 minutes of kick off Arsene Wenger’s men seemed destined to narrow that gap further as goals from Theo Walcott, Johan Djourou and Robin van Persie silenced the normally vocal Geordies at St James’ Park. Van Persie increased the Gunners’ advantage to four goals before half-time to effectively kill off the game. Or did it?
With 22 minutes remaining and after Abou Diaby’s needless red card early in the second half for pushing Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan, Arsenal crumbled.
Two penalties from Barton sandwiched a close range effort from Leon Best to put the Toon Army back in full voice and three minutes from full time Cheik Tiote’s long range thunderbolt sent the passionate Geordies into ecstasy to complete a remarkable comeback and put a firm dent in Arsenal’s title aspirations.
Manchester City 3 Queens Park Rangers 2 (2012)
The greatest comeback in history? Well supporters of Liverpool Football Club may choose to disagree given their fairytale victory on penalties over AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final in Istanbul. But in Premier League history, has there ever been a more dramatic climax to a league season?
Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City team entered their final league match of the season against relegation candidates Queens Park Rangers safe in the knowledge that a win would guarantee them a first league title triumph in 44 long years and almost as importantly a title win on goal difference over fierce rivals United. A win and an end to their pain was a certainty surely. Well….!
Up in the North East Wayne Rooney put United one up against Sunderland to get the nerves jittering amongst the Etihad faithful. But before half-time Pablo Zabaleta calmed the anxieties amongst the City fans as his goal put the Sky Blues one ahead at half-time. Surely the long wait for only a fourth top division title was now only 45 minutes away.
But step forward the ‘Lord of Frodsham’ himself, former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse. Just after the break, QPR’s eccentric French forward equalised to put Sir Alex Ferguson’s United back in the box seat and two points clear in the race for the title.
Joey Barton, the former City midfielder, then saw red for QPR following a petulant altercation with City’s former United star Carlos Tevez to give City hope but when Jamie Mackie sensationally put 10-Man QPR 2-1 ahead with 24 minutes left on the clock, the title looked to be slipping from City’s grasp.
Mancini’s men toiled in vain to get back in the game as they laid siege to the Rangers goal and with just a few minutes of injury time remaining, the title appeared gone. Edin Dzeko headed home to level up the scores, but a draw wouldn’t be enough and Dzeko’s goal was surely nothing more than scant consolation for the devastated Etihad faithful?
Step forward Mario ‘Why Always Me’ Balotelli. With the game teetering towards its conclusion deep into injury time, the enigmatic Italian picked up the ball on the edge of the Rangers area from Sergio Aguero and slid a delightful pass back into the path of the prolific Argentine. In almost slow motion the player nicknamed ‘Kun’ because of his resemblance to a Japanese cartoon character presided to evade one desperate challenge before slamming the ball into the net to send Mancini and the whole of the Etihad into scenes of utter delirium. The goal in the process prompted Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler into one of the most memorable lines in football history: “Aguerrrrrooooo! I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again, so watch it, drink it in!”
The best ever comeback? Well maybe not in terms of the deficit faced but to win the league title for the first time in nearly half a century in such dramatic style, it would come pretty high on most football supporters’ list of greatest ever Premier League moments, United supporters aside obviously.
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Chris graduated from the University of Brighton in 2007 with a degree in Sports Journalism and is a sports fanatic, spending pretty much all of his money following the Welsh national football team all over Europe (and yes spending five weeks on tour with Wales in France at Euro 2016). He has written for numerous websites and has two fully published football biographies to his name. Chris also enjoys rugby union, cycling and politics and enjoys a regular (okay daily!) punt on football.