History was made on May 25th 2005 in Istanbul, when Liverpool wiped out Milan's three goal advantage in the space of only six minutes.
It was the biggest turnaround in the finals of European club cups played on a single match basis. Such an upset had never been recorded in World Cup or European Championship finals either.
But, this season's Champions League final did not see the biggest comeback of all times on a soccer field.
At least one game stands head and shoulders above the rest and the game we are talking about is the 1985/86 Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals between West German Bayer of Uerdingen and East German Dynamo of Dresden.
Dresden were hot favourites ever since the draw paired them with lowly Bayer Uerdingen, which had upset Bayern Munich in the German Cup a year earlier. A team of numerous East German stars (Hans-Jürgen Dorner, Ulf Kirsten, Mathias Sammer, Reinhard Hafner, Ralf Minge, Torsten Gütschow and others) built a 2-0 lead in the first leg at home and then ran away with a solid 3-1 lead at half time, seemingly clinching the tie in the return game at Krefeld.
5-1 ahead on aggregate, Dynamo could afford to concede four goals and still progress to the semifinals, but what did anybody know of what was going to happen in the second half. Deep into the second half, to be precise. The 1-3 scoreline on the night still stood after 57 minutes and no-one alive could have imagined the shocking turn of events to come in the rest of the game.
It took a strange penalty to shatter Dynamo's composure. The Icelander Gudmundsson won that dubious penalty kick, which Wolfgang Funkel converted and inexplicably confused the visitors. When six minutes later Gudmundsson himself made it 3-3, Dynamo panicked as if they still didn't have a two goal cushion. Then the unlucky forward Minge deflected a shot into his own net, and the Easterners found themselves utterly disoriented amidst roars from the partisan crowd. Bayer attacked in waves and the reserve Klinger brought the temperature to boiling point with the fifth goal 12 minutes from time.
Dynamo were still ahead on the away-goals rule, but at the time it was clear they were not going to make it.
Schäfer was knocked down in the area and Wolfgang Funkel again scored from the spot, making it 6-3 only 23 minutes after the scoreboard had shown the humiliating 1-3. Before the final whistle, in the total confusion, Schäfer picked up the seventh goal, ending up on the shoulders of his mates and the fans who invaded the pitch.
And to think that no-ne in Bayer's dressing room dared to think of a comeback during half time.
"We said to each other, 'OK, we're out, but let us bid farewell to the Euro-Cup with dignity. No-one will ever be able to explain how this turnaround ocurred," said the coach Karl-Heinz Feldkamp after the game.
Dresden's coach Klaus Sammer, young Matthias's father, did not try to find an excuse in his son's early injury or in the dismal performance of reserve keeper Jens Ramme, who came on for also injured first choice keeper Jakubowski. After such a disaster no excuses could do. To complete Dresden's misery, their forward Frank Lippman left the hotel after the game and defected to the West, in order to play for Nürnberg and Waldhof.
First leg March 5, 1986, Dresden (GDR) - Dynamo-Stadion.
SG Dynamo Dresden (GDR) - FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen (FRG) 2-0 (0-0)
Dynamo Dresden: Jakubowski - Dörner - Buttner, Trautmannn, Doschner - Hafner, Stubner, Pilz - Kirsten, Sammer (69. Gütschow), Lippmann - Coach: Klaus Sammer.
Bayer Uerdingen: Vollack - Herget, Wohrlin, W. Funkel, F. Funkel, Damgen, Edvaldsson (53. Raschid), Klinger, Buttgereit (89. Brinkmann), Bommer, Schäfer. - Coach: K. H. Feldkamp
Scorers: 1-0 Frank Lippmann (50), 2-0 Hans-Uwe Pilz (62).
Referee: Joel Quiniou (FRA). Spectators: 36,000.
Second leg March 19, 1986, Krefeld (FRG) - Grotenburg-Stadion.
FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen - SG Dynamo Dresden 7-3 (1-3)
Bayer Uerdingen: Vollack - Herget, Damgen, W. Funkel, Buttgereit - Bommer, Feilzer, F. Funkel, Raschid (52. Klinger) - Gudmundsson (72. Loontiens), Schäfer. - Coach: K. H. Feldkamp
Dynamo Dresden: Jakubowski (46. Ramme) - Dorner - Trautmann, Doschner - Hafner, Minge, Stubner, Pilz - Kirsten, M. Sammer (28. Gütschow), Lippmann - Coach: Klaus Sammer.
Scorers: 0-1 Ralf Minge (1), 1-1 Wolfgang Funkel (13), 1-2 Frank Lippmann (36), 1-3 Rudolf 'Rudi' Bommer (42, og), 2-3 Wolfgang Funkel (58, pen), 3-3 Larus Gudmundsson (64), 4-3 Ralf Minge (67, og), 5-3 Dietmar Klinger (78), 6-3 Wolfgang Funkel (81, pen), 7-3 Wolfgang Schäfer (87).
Referee: Nemeth (HUN). Spectators: 20,000.
The absolute classic of European club cup football. Milan, a higher quality side, had 3-0 lead until the 54th minute, but irrational faith and inspiration led Liverpool to a feat that will never be forgotten. Such a beautiful game it was that Silvio Berlusconi himself refused to criticise of punish his squad. Dudek's saves from the spot were both controversial and illegal, but that does not take away from the significance of the phenomenal comeback Liverpool achieved in the 90 minutes.
The craziest game the Bundesliga has ever seen. Bochum were 3-0
up by the half-time whistle and 4-0 in 53th minute. In the next
20 minutes, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Gerd Muller took Bayern to
an unbelievable 5-4 lead.
Kaczor put Bochum level on 5-5 in the 80th minute and that seemed to be it, but with a minute to go Uli Höness scored his second and Bayern's sixth for their most amazing win ever.
UEFA Cup third round. Borussia had run riot in the first leg and Real, the holders, were nearly dead. But, as their hothead striker Juanito said, "90 minutes at Santiago Bernabeu last very long." Half the job was done by half time, but 95,000 people had to wait for the rest until very late. In the final 10 minutes, Jorge Valdano and Carlos Santillana took Real Madrid to a most unlikely win, which the fans consider the greatest in their proud European history.
World Cup quarterfinals. England, reigning champions, lead 2-0 but Alf Ramsey took off Bobby Charlton in order to "rest" him for the semifinals. And indeed Charlton was fully rested for the semifinals, only England was not there. The Germans typically fought on and Gerd Muller, "The Bomber", culminated their effort with a wonderful aerial volley.
Cup Winners' Cup first round. A first-class Barca (later that season league champions) with Schuster, Archibald, Carrasco and Marcos had defeated little Metz by 4-2 in France. Two weeks later, at Nou Camp, Barca extended the lead with another goal by Carrasco. Then the French flooded the pitch and the Yugoslav born Zvonko Kurbos scored three of Metz's four goals which stunned the soccer world.
Champions' League group stage. The comeback specialists (Werder) against the chronic loser (Anderlecht). The Belgians held on to 3-0 until the 66th minute and a win should have been a matter of routine, but the Germans for reasons unknown kept on coming forward. The Kiwi Rufer twice, Hobsch, Bratseth and Bode in the following 23 minutes explained the meaning of the phrase "German spirit". Werder also overturned Spartak Moscow's 1-4 with a 6-2 win in 1987, Dynamo Berlin's 0-3 with a 5-0 in 1988 and Lyon's 0-3 with a 4-0 in 1999. True "never-say-die" stuff.
Olympic Games second round in Helsinki. Yugoslavia were 5-1 up during the second half and 5-2 with 15 minutes to go, but it was not enough. After a series of corner kicks, Bobrov staged an amazing five-all draw. In the repeated game, however, Yugoslavia confirmed their superiority, winning by 3-1.
Cup Winners' Cup second round. The phenomenal Anderlecht was a superior side, but the Belgians also "loved" to be on the wrong end of comebacks. A minute before normal time the Argentinian Zuviria scored the third goal to level the tie, turning Camp Nou into a volcano. After a quiet extra-time, Barca won by a convincing 4-1 in the penalty shootout. Barca also came from 0-3 down against Ipswich in 1977 and Goteborg in 1986.
Champions League quarterfinals. The European champions Milan came to La Coruna leading 4-1 from the first leg against the same Deportivo who had been slaughtered 8-3 to Monaco four months before. The same Deportivo!? Or was it a different Milan from the one everybody knew? Never, never were Milan so impotent and never so thoroughly beaten than on that night at the Riazor.
Everyone knew Hungary was the best side in the world. Everyone remembered how they beat Germany 8-3 in the group stage, when the Germans rested several regulars for a more important fixture against Turkey. Who could forget how they injured skipper Puskas, who returned half fit in the finals? Still, 2-0 in the first eight minutes should have been enough for Hungary. But, it wasn't because Helmuth Rahn was omnipotent in the finals, taking Germany to their first world title.
UEFA Cup second round. In London, it was a cat and mouse game. QPR pushed the Partizans into the box and kicked them into the net together with the ball. Six times. Only once before had a team come back from four goals down in Europe and that was in the early sixties. QPR was very vulnerable away from home and Partizan knew it. Mance, Kalicanin, Jesic and Zivkovic created a miracle before 55,000 fans who never stopped believing.
UEFA Cup third round. In the 1988/89 season an invincible Inter won their last championship with a record 26 wins in 34 rounds. This Inter thrashed Bayern 2-0 at their Olympische Stadium and hoped for an easy passage in the return game at San Siro. Everything went as planned, save for a seven minute spell late in the second half, in which the Bavarians scored three quick ones before Inter knew what was going on.
World Cup quarterfinals. The Koreans had kicked out the mighty Italy by a single goal and then built a 3-0 lead against the ambitious Portuguese. Dictator Kim Il Sung must have been delighted. But, Eusebio played superbly, scoring four times in 30 minutes to avoid another crazy upset. The Panther finished the tournament with 9 goals to his credit, winning the golden boot.
UEFA Cup final. At Barcelona's Sarriá stadium, 3-0 for the Catalans was a compliment for Bayer Leverkusen. In the return game, it was 0-0 after an hour and the trophy was virtually in the hands of Javier Clemente's side. Heaven know how the Germans pulled three goals back and reached the penalty stage. Amazingly, even there Espanyol took a 2-0 lead, but that was not enough either. Bayer scored three goals in the row from the spot and snatched the Cup that shouldn't have been theirs.
The World Cup quarterfinals in Switzerland saw more goals than any World Cup tie ever before. The hosts reached the threshold of a miracle leading by 3-0 midway through the first half and 4-2 at half-time. A far better team, in the second part Austria got serious and strolled on to the famous win in Lausanne.
European Cup quarterfinals. To wipe out a two goal disadvantage against Eusebio's Benfica could not have been simple, especially if you lost the first leg at home and had to do the job at Da Luz. But, a young, Cruyff-led Ajax hit back at Benfica with an identical 3-1. By then prevailing rules, an aggregate draw had to be decided by a playoff game, which Ajax won 3-0, eventually reaching their first finals.
Spanish Cup quarterfinals. Atletico arrived at Nou Camp with a poor 2-2 draw, but after 45 minutes they had an "unassailable" 3-0 lead. Fifteen minutes into the second half, they still led by 4-2, with four goals by Serb Milinko Pantic. Ronaldo, Figo and Pizzi three minutes before time created the magnificent turnaround, which thrilled the Catalans. The biggest game in Spanish Cup history was won by a Barca even more spectacular than the one that won the 2004-2005 Primera División.
UEFA Cup first round. The East German secret police sponsored team came to Belgrade in high spirits after a resounding 5-2 win in the first leg. Then their top-scorer Riediger made it 6-2 on aggregate before half time. Nothing special: the stopper-come-forward Zdravko Borovnica shocked Dynamo with two goals in the second half, Dusan Savic added one, and Milos Sestic nailed the decider in the 90th minute for Red Star's biggest comeback in Europe.
UEFA Cup third round. Anderlecht were a better team, and highly
fancied after a 3-0 win in Brussels. But, Madrid was about to witness
the rise of Quinta del Buitre, Vulture Squad, lead by Emilio "El
Buitre" (Vulture) Butragueno. The current Real Madrid vicepresident
shone on the night with three goals and the Royals jumped over Anderlecht
on the way to the trophy. For Real, comebacks were business as usual.
From 1-4 to 5-1 against Derby County in 1974, from 0-2 to 3-0 against Inter in 1985 and, also against Inter, from 1-3 to 5-1 a year later.