There’s no doubt that we all love an underdog story. And few sporting events capture the hearts and imagination of the nation quite like the long-shot underdog who somehow, someway, delivers a knockout sporting victory even when the odds are stacked against them. Whether it’s a fledgling team trouncing a reigning champion, or an athlete upping their game in the last minute to knock off a seemingly unbeatable opponent, sporting comebacks can resonate with audience for weeks, months and even decades!
Here, we take a look at five of the greatest sporting comebacks that kept us on the edge of our seats every kick, shot and pass of the way.
5. Manchester United vs Bayern Munich; UEFA Champions League Final 1999
Described by Sir Alex Ferguson as one of the “greatest moments of [his] life”, this match was to become a sporting fairytale that would go down in history, with Manchester United once again proving that a never-say-die attitude can bag you a serious victory.
In a match that saw Roy Keane and Paul Scholes both suspended from the semi-final, many had written off the game before it had even started. But despite the 85 minute lead, Bayern Munich’s victory was not to be upheld, with spectacular time-added goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær in the final 3 minutes of the game, making the red devils the unlikely crowned kings of Europe.
4. Europe vs USA; Ryder Cup 2012
Since named ‘The miracle of Medinah’, with USA leading 10-6 after play on the previous Saturday- a win for the home team was anticipated. However, with Europe’s Martin Kaymer sinking a winning putt on the 17th hole of the penultimate pairing, Francesco Molinari’s triumph over Tiger Woods in the final group won Europe the Cup outright. The match was dedicated to the late, Seve Ballesteros, by the very emotional European captain- which was considered a fitting tribute and one of the most the greatest comebacks in Ryder Cup history.
3. England vs Australia; Ashes Series 1981 (3rd test)
After losing the first test at Trent Bridge and drawing the second, a win was not looking hopeful for England. During the third test at Headingly, England looked finished until Botham scored an exceptional 149 not out, granting England fans a glimmer of hope. When followed by Bob Willis’ figures of 8-43 to secure an eighteen-run victory, England beat the 500-1 odds that had previously flashed on the scoreboard to win the Ashes series 3-1. This game would later go down in sporting history as a “where were you when it happened” moment, demonstrating how uplifting great sporting triumphs, especially ones that defy reason and disbelief, can be.
2. New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons; Super Bowl 2017
The Patriots should have been too strong for the Falcons, having won four Super Bowls since 2002. However, at half time a massive comeback was required if they were to supersede the Falcons 28-3 lead. At this point the Patriots stood only a 0.5% chance of winning, however, they began to gain pace following five straight drives. The first ever Super Bowl overtime was called following the equalising touchdown with a nail-biting fifty-seven seconds left on the clock. Winning the coin toss, James White ran in the deciding touchdown to win the game for the Patriots.
1. Liverpool vs AC Milan; UEFA Champions League Final 2005
Having won the Champions League six times previously, AC Milan reinforced their status as favourites by scoring in the first minute and entering half time three nil up. Following a goal by Steven Gerrard, Liverpool accomplished what was thought to be the impossible by scoring from the long range and a penalty rebound, sending the game into extra time. Pressure was piling on AC Milan for the last penalty, with Liverpool winning 3-2. As Dudek dived saving the ball, Liverpool had beaten the odds to become Champions of Europe once again.