Sunday, August 14, 2005

Nearly Comebacks

Soccerphile World Cup Blog

The Most Amazing Soccer Comebacks – Nearly

Ozren Podnar reports...

Celtic came within inches of the biggest European comeback of all time when they thrashed Artmedia Petrzalka of Slovakia in the Champions League third preliminary round.

The Bhoys defeated the Slovaks 4-0, a scoreline which has guaranteed progress to the winners on the night everytime but once in the history of European Cup competitions.

But, as it happens, Artmedia had beaten a dismal Gordon Strachan side 5-0 in the first leg, amazingly leaving Celtic without international football for the rest of the 2005/06 season.

The only other time a 4-0 win did not help a team qualify for the next round, before Celtic achieved that particular distinction, was in the second round of the 1979/80 Champions' Cup when Omonia of Nikosia shamed Ajax Amsterdam by the same 4-0 scoreline.

But, Ajax had travelled to Cyprus with a healthy 10-0 advantage from the first leg so they still made it to the quarterfinals of the competition.

Celtic's attempt to overturn a 5-0 loss was brave seeing that no-one hasever achieved such a feat. In fact, not even a defeat by 4-0 in the first leg has ever been overturned in UEFA's competitions.

The closest any club came to wiping out a straightforward 4-0 loss was FC Zürich in 1975/76 against Ujpesti Dozsa. In the return leg, the Swiss won 5-1 and went out on the away goals rule.

A Mission Impossible

The second closest battle after a 4-0 score line in the first leg was the one between Real Madrid and Partizan Belgrade in the very first European Champions' Cup in 1955/56. The Yugoslavs built a 3-0 lead in the return with three minutes to go, but Real held out in the final minutes on the frozen pitch in Belgrade.

Manchester United faced an uphill battle against FC Porto in 1977/78. Having lost 4-0 in Portugal, they refused to give up but could only win 5-2 at Old Trafford.

How frustrating it is to try to assail a huge deficit Porto learnt themselves a year later. The Portuguese had lost to unfancied AEK Athens in Greece by a shocking 6-1 and a 4-1 win two weeks later did little more than save face.

How hard it is to come back after a four-goal defeat is reflected in the fact that only three teams have made it in the 50-year history of the competition.

The first such heroes were Leixoes of Porto, who thumped Chaux-de-Fonds by 5-0, after losing 6-2 in Switzerland back then in the 1961/62 Cup Winners' Cup.

It took almost a quarter of the century before Partizan Belgrade made it again at the expense of Queens Park Rangers.

QPR took advantage of a then revolutionary artificial pitch to defeat Partizan by 6-2 at Loftus Road, but the Slavs upset the English team with a resounding 4-0 win in the second leg, turning the away goals rule in their favour.

The third and the last time anyone overcome a poker of goals happened just a year later, which makes it 20 years ago. Real Madrid did that at Santiago Bernabeu by beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-0, after losing 5-1 in the first leg in Düsseldorf.

The Biggest "Almost-comebacks" in European Cups

1955/56 1st leg Real Madrid 4-0 Partizan Belgrade

C1 2nd leg Partizan Belgrade 3-0 Real Madrid

1975/76 1st leg Ujpesti Dozsa 4-0 Zürich

C1 2nd leg Zürich 5-1 Ujpesti Dozsa

1977/78 1st leg Porto 4-0 Manchester Utd.

C2 2nd leg Manchester Utd. 5-2 Porto

1977/78 1st leg Carl Zeiss Jena 5-1 Altay Izmir

C3 2nd leg Altay Izmir 4-1 Carl Zeiss Jena

1979/80 1st leg Panionios Smyrna 4-0 Twente

C2 2nd leg Twente 3-1* Panionios Smyrna

1981/82 1st leg Valencia 5-1 Hajduk Split

C3 2nd leg Hajduk Split 4-1 Valencia

1982/83 1st leg Standard Liege 5-0 Raba ETO Györ

C1 2nd leg Raba ETO Györ 3-0 Standard Liege

1990/91 1st leg Brondby 5-0 Eintracht Frankfurt

C3 2nd leg Eintracht Frankfurt 4-1 Brondby

2001/02 1st leg Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Milan

C3 2nd leg Milan 3-1** Borussia Dortmund

2005/06 1st leg Artmedia 5-0 Celtic

C1 2nd leg Celtic 4-0 Artmedia

* 3-0 for Twente at one point

**3-0 for Milan at one point


C1 - Champions' Cup/Champions' League

C2 - Cup Winners' Cup

C3 - UEFA Cup

Ozren Podnar

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