Greatest UEFA Champions League comebacks

Barcelona have produced the biggest comeback in UEFA Champions League history to beat Paris Saint-Germain; looks back over some other memorable turnarounds.

Chelsea 3-1 Barcelona
Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (aet)
1999/2000 quarter-finals
Barcelona have long had form for memorable UEFA Champions League comebacks. Pre-Roman Abramovich, Chelsea were not the European force they are now, and their first-leg triumph over Louis van Gaal's Barcelona marked an improbable success for Gianluca Vialli's men. They even came within seven minutes of winning the tie overall 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 Blues in extra time.

"It was the greatest night of my life," said Barcelona's Gabri García while team-mate Luís 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."

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

The previous record, before Barcelona's exploits against Paris Saint-Germain. Walter Pandiani put Deportivo in front at San Siro but that was long forgotten by full time, with Kaká scoring twice as Milan shredded their opponents. Ahead of the return fixture at the Riazor, Depor coach Javier Irureta was hanging onto 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 side 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."

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."

©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 London outfit 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 spiralling 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.

On fire: Messi puts Barcelona on comeback trail
On fire: Messi puts Barcelona on comeback trail©Getty Images

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

2012/13 round of 16

No side had ever recovered from a two-goal first-leg loss 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 net a clinching fourth in stoppage time. Vanquished coach Massimiliano Allegri conceded Barça had played "extraordinarily well", while Lionel Messi told "This is the Barça we and our fans want every game." 

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 FC Barcelona in the European Cup Winners' Cup. 

Demba Ba forces in Chelsea's decisive goal against Paris
Demba Ba forces in Chelsea's decisive goal against Paris©Getty Images

Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 2-0 Paris Saint-Germain
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, for some reason, we hadn't scored that second goal, we would still have been proud of the boys."

Bayern hit Porto for six
Bayern hit Porto for six

Porto 3-1 Bayern München
Bayern München 6-1 Porto
2014/15 quarter-finals
Porto had not reached the semi-finals since lifting the trophy in 2003/04 but two Ricardo Quaresma goals in the first ten minutes of the first leg looked to have set them on their way to ending that run. Thiago Alcántara halved the Bayern deficit before the half-hour, but Jackson Martínez's second-half strike gave the Portuguese side a two-goal cushion to take to Germany.

Bayern were level on aggregate before a quarter of the second leg in Munich had elapsed, Thiago and Jérôme Boateng heading them into a two-goal cushion on the night. Robert Lewandowski added two more either side of Thomas Müller's deflected effort and, though Jackson Martínez replied for Porto, Bayern cruised through with Xabi Alonso adding a late sixth.

Ronaldo downs Wolfsburg
Ronaldo downs Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg 2-0 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 3-0 Wolfsburg
2015/16 quarter-finals
Wolfsburg had never reached the last eight before but, against the side with more quarter-final appearances than any other, first-half goals from Ricardo Rodriguez and Maximilian Arnold had them well placed to reach the last four. Both coaches, however, knew that nothing was settled; " That's the great thing: you can have a bad night but the return is still to come," said Zinédine Zidane.

Wolfsburg's Dieter Hecking meanwhile, warned: "We know what's to come in Madrid", but his side were unable to prevent it, as two Cristiano Ronaldo goals in the space of 86 seconds had Madrid level by the 17th minute. The Portuguese star completed his hat-trick, and another memorable European Cup night for his team, with a 77th minute free-kick, saying after: "Goals are in my DNA. It was a perfect, magical night."