Football is a game filled with epic battles.
From individual players and managers in the dugout to two giants meeting face to face in the biggest games around, football is never short of a storyline.
But even then, some games go well beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and these VII are rightly held up as some of the most unbelievable, dramatic or historically significant in history.
VII – Hamburg 4-4 Juventus (13/09/2000)
Football loves a David and Goliath story.
Hamburger SV were no pushovers, but when Carlo Ancelotti’s Juventus travelled to the Volksparkstadion in September 2000, on paper there was only one clear winner.
The game started as many had expected, although right-back Igor Tudor was still an unlikely goalscorer for the Bianconeri as they took an early lead in their Champions League group stage match.
Anthony Yeboah briefly levelled the scoreline, but goals either side of half-time from Filippo Inzaghi put Juventus into a seemingly unreachable two-goal lead.
But then the unthinkable happened. Hamburg scored three goals within 17 second-half minutes – goalkeeper Hans Jörg Butt netted the equaliser too, going on to score 32 goals in his career – to snatch the advantage away from Juve.
It was already one of European football’s magical nights. But the action didn’t stop there. Even after Niko Kovač scored a seemingly late winner, ‘Pippo’ Inzaghi won his side a late penalty which the Italian dispatched perfectly.
VI – Man City 3-2 QPR (13/05/2012)
Even in this era, it’s difficult to remember when a Premier League title has been so closely decided.
For Manchester City, it was simple – win at home to Queens Park Rangers and the Premier League title would be theirs. Dropping points meant rivals United would have lifted the trophy instead.
It was nervy, but Pablo Zabaleta’s late first-half goal helped put fans at ease. That was, however, until Djibril Cissé scored an equaliser for the relegation-threatened visitors.
Even though Joey Barton was sent off, City didn’t have time to celebrate as Jamie Mackie completed the comeback for QPR with a header just moments later.
The clock had only just ticked into extra time when Edin Džeko pulled one back from a corner, but Manchester City still needed another goal
Time really was against them. But after Mario Balotelli was able to squeeze the ball into the penalty area, as the clock ticked onto 93:20, Sergio Agüero provided one of the greatest moments in Premier League history to clinch City’s first league title since the 1960s.
V – Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal (05/02/2011)
Sometimes, even when an epic battle ends in a stalemate, there are still winners and losers.
It was a tale of two halves at St James’ Park as Arsenal raced into a four-goal lead inside the opening 26 minutes against Newcastle United.
Even when Abou Diaby was sent off just after the break, there was little concern in the away end, and even less optimism among home supporters who had been storming out of St James’ Park in their droves.
Joey Barton’s goal on 68 minutes got little more than an ironic cheer from Newcastle fans, but Leon Best’s not long after really helped to galvanise everyone in the north-east.
The stage was very much set for Arsenal to implode. And that’s exactly what they did.
Barton scored his second penalty of the game with seven minutes left, then in the dying seconds of the match, the late Cheick Tioté fired in an equalising goal from nowhere, sending a left-footed volley past Wojciech Szczęsny to send Newcastle into pandemonium.
IV – Barcelona 6-1 PSG (08/03/2017)
In 2017, a four-goal deficit appeared to be unassailable. Even for Barcelona.
Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 match ensured they already had one foot in the next round, while just one goal in the reverse fixture would surely be enough to wipe out any doubt.
Luis Suárez’s early header wasn’t anything too major for Paris Saint-Germain to worry about. Even after Laywin Kurzawa turned the ball into his own net before half time, history would need to be made for the French side to throw their lead away.
Barcelona took another step closer through a Lionel Messi penalty, but it appeared to be all she wrote when Edinson Cavani fired the ball past Marc-André ter Stegen – a goal which meant Barça needed to score three more.
The hosts didn’t find the back of the net again until the 88th minute thanks to a brilliant free-kick from Neymar, while the Brazilian scored again in added time.
It really was the last chance saloon for Barcelona when Neymar picked the ball up some 45 yards away from goal, but his inch-perfect chip poetically found its way to the outstretched boot of Sergi Roberto, who turned the ball past Kevin Trapp to complete the greatest comeback in European football history.
III – Man Utd 2-1 Bayern Munich (26/05/1999)
Every epic battle needs a hero. Someone who stands out above everyone else to swing things in his side’s favour.
For Manchester United, that hero was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Sometimes the immortality of a comeback is determined by how big the margin overturned was, but for United, it was the prize on offer which cemented their place in European football’s history books.
Things don’t get much better than scoring an early goal in a Champions League final. That fortune was bestowed on Bayern Munich in 1999, when Mario Basler’s free-kick found its way past Peter Schmeichel.
The Bundesliga champions had only conceded 28 goals that season, so it was no surprise when Bayern Munich help onto the one-goal lead by the time the assistant’s board was raised to signal the second half added time.
With Schmeichel up in Bayern Munich’s penalty box with a last-minute corner, Teddy Sheringham reacted the quickest from a wayward shot to score the goal that looked destined to send the Champions League into extra time.
But it wasn’t to be. There was still time for one more chance. David Beckham’s corner was flicked on at the near post by Sheringham, and despite being off-target, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was positioned perfectly to turn the ball past Oliver Kahn.
The perfect end to a perfect season, for Manchester United’s treble winners.
II – Brazil 1-7 Germany (08/07/2014)
Not every epic battle is a close affair.
At the 2014 World Cup on home soil, Brazil were on the wrong end of one of the biggest scorelines in World Cup history.
Thomas Müller opened the scoring in the semi final after 11 minutes, and even though Joachim Löw’s didn’t score again until midway through the first half, Germany went on to score four goals in just six minutes to silence the Mineirão.
Toni Kroos had scored two of those goals, while Miroslav Klose and Sami Khedira’s strikes put Die Mannschaft into a 5-0 lead heading into half time.
The war-torn Brazil side were battered and had it been possible, the Seleção would have thrown in the white flag, but Germany were ruthless and relentless, scoring two more goals through substitute André Schürrle.
Oscar did help to save face somewhat with a late goal, but nothing could stop Brazil’s fairytale World Cup coming to an end in brutal heartache.
I – AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (25/05/2005)
When Liverpool went into the half-time break in Istanbul, they weren’t just doing battle with AC Milan.
Yes, the Reds needed a miracle after Paolo Maldini and a Hernán Crespo brace gave Milan one hand on the Champions League trophy. But, in hindsight at least, there were also battling Manchester United for who could stake a claim for the best comeback in European history.
And these days, that title belongs to Liverpool.
Steven Gerrard got the ball rolling with a brilliant header which left Dida with no chance and Milan’s goalkeeper was just as helpless to stop from Vladimir Smicer firing in another just two minutes later.
The Brazilian goalkeeper couldn’t stop the first two, but Dida had a big hand in Liverpool’s equaliser. Gerrard was brought down inside the penalty area by Genaro Gattuso, and after seeing the spot-kick saved, Xabi Alonso pounced to put the rebound into the back of the net.
The 2005 Champions League final went to penalties and Jerzy Dudek was Liverpool’s unlikely hero, with Serginho and Andrea Pirlo missing from 12 yards before Andriy Shevchenko’s effort was saved.
Truly, the ultimate battle.
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