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Liverpool FC: The Top 10 Comebacks in Reds History

Neri SteinFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2011

Liverpool FC: The Top 10 Comebacks in Reds History

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    For most football fans, their side going down by three goals in the first half is a sign to maybe find some busy work for the next 45 minutes. This just isn't their day. Just going down by one goal can break the hopes of many fans.  

    Liverpool fans don't quite have the same feelings. 

    Going behind in a game when a single goal is of the utmost importance is a death sentence for some teams, but for those with the right character, it's just a small stumbling block.

    To snatch a win after going behind you need plenty of character, determination and intelligence. The 1-1 draw at Arsenal this past Sunday is a perfect example. The Reds went down a goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time and still didn't back down and were clever enough to expose the Gunners weaknesses and snatch an equalizer at the death. 

    The Reds have shown numerous times throughout their history that they are never to be counted out. Sure, there a plenty of times when the comeback doesn't go far enough (this season's 3-2 loss at Manchester United after being down 2-0), and there are also times when the team doesn't look like mustering anything, let alone a comeback.

    Mounting a comeback has always been one of the hardest feats in football, but Liverpool FC has really mastered the art, especially in the biggest games.

    Here is my list of the top 10 comebacks in Reds history. Your heart will be racing by the end.   

Honorable Mentions

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    I'll start by giving an honorable mention to 4-4 thriller against Arsenal in 2009 when the Reds came from behind twice at Anfield. Yossi Benayoun scored the equalizer two minutes into injury time to cancel out Andrei Arshavin's four goals that night.

    It was a thrilling game, but the end result all but ended Liverpool's hopes of winning the Premier League title away from Manchester United that season.

    Another nod goes to the 4-1 win at Old Trafford March 14, 2009, when the Reds went down to a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty after 26 minutes.

    It was a great victory but not so much a great comeback since the Reds trailed for just five minutes (thanks to great speed and power from Fernando Torres) and then went on to really handle United the rest of the way. 

10. Manchester City 2-3 Liverpool

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    Liverpool traveled to the City of Manchester Stadium on Oct. 5, 2008, still undefeated on the year, and it didn't look like it was going to be a good day for the Reds come the halftime whistle.

    City was ahead 2-0 thanks to goals from Stephen Ireland and Javier Garrido. Those were also the first away goals the Reds had conceded so far that season. 

    Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez might've given one of his famous halftime team talks, or perhaps Jamie Carragher fired up the troops. Whatever happened in the locker room, it worked.

    Fernando Torres (remember when he could score and how easy he made it look?) tapped a goal in 10 minutes after the restart, in the process scoring the Reds 1,000th Premier League goal, and he headed in the equalizer from a corner in the 73rd minute. 

    Pablo Zabaleta was sent off not long after, and there was only going to be one winner. Dirk Kuyt, as usual, was in the right place at exactly the right time and tapped in the winner in the 90th minute.   

    The win kept Liverpool joint top of the table and was just one of the stellar comebacks during Benitez's reign at Anfield. Going 2-0 down away from home in the Premier League and coming back to win, against a team that cost as much as City no less, is not something many teams can do. 

9. Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    The game against Manchester United is huge regardless of any outside circumstances. This one was bigger than normal. 

    United had just won its 17th League title, and both teams had made a strong start to the 2008-09 season. The Reds also hadn't defeated the Red Devils in the League since 2004 and hadn't won at Anfield since 2001, and it didn't look like they were going to get that win on this day either.

    On Sept. 13, 2008, Carlos Tevez opened the scoring after just three minutes when Dimitar Berbatov easily got past the Liverpool defense and found Tevez all alone in the box. 

    That woke up the team and the crowd. 

    Liverpool pushed and received an absolute gift of a goal thanks to United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and defender Wes Brown. Van der Sar deflected Xabi Alonso's cross (which was aimed at no one) directly onto Brown, and it rebounded into the back of the net. 

    It was another United defender to score to Liverpool, but the Reds certainly didn't care. Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres were delighted on the bench, and everyone at Anfield urged their team to push on. 

    The game was of such importance that Jamie Carragher and Gerrard didn't bother exchanging the armband when the latter was introduced with just over 20 minutes to go. 

    Ryan Babel, when he was still covered in promise, came on for Albert Riera in the 71st minute and scored the winner six minutes later thanks to pure persistence from Javier Mascherano and good awareness from Dirk Kuyt. 

    Babel was the first Liverpool player to score against United in more than four years, and the win was the Reds 50th League victory over their great rivals. 

8. Portsmouth 2-3 Liverpool

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    The Reds were not at full strength on Feb. 7, 2009, when they traveled south to face Portsmouth having just played 120 minutes in a losing effort to Everton in the FA Cup a few days prior, and everyone was questioning Rafa Benitez's team selection.

    It was defensive to say the least, while David N'Gog was handed his first Premier League start, and the two teams played out a cagey first half. That wasn't the case for the second however.

    David Nugent got Portsmouth on the board in the 62nd minute, but seven minutes later, former Red Peter Crouch hit a poor pass back to his keeper, and Liverpool was awarded a rare indirect free kick inside Portsmouth's penalty box.

    Dead ball master Fabio Aurelio powered it through a defender's legs and into the back of the net after the faintest of touches from Xabi Alonso.

    At this point, both Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres had been introduced, but Portsmouth would take the lead once again. Hermann Hreidarsson nodded home from a free kick in the 77th minute to give his team what you would think would be the winner.

    At this point, three points were crucial to keep the pressure at the top on Manchester United, who had pulled away in January.

    Torres then fed the ball to Kuyt who scored from an almost impossible angle to draw level once again in the 84th minute. Torres then saved Liverpool's day, like he did the week before against Chelsea, when he nodded home Yossi Benayoun's cross one minute into stoppage time. 

    The three points kept the pressure on United, though all the comebacks that season went for not, as the Reds finished second by four points and United equaled Liverpool's record of 18 League titles. 

7. Liverpool 3-1 Everton, 1986 FA Cup Final

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    A comeback always makes for an exciting (or incredibly depressing depending on what side you're on) match, but a comeback in a final is like nothing else.

    Throw in the fact that it's against your biggest rivals and a team you've been battling against for the League and FA Cup for years, and it easily goes down as one of your biggest victories ever. 

    Liverpool had already pipped Everton to the League title just days before and now were hoping to do the double over their neighbors. This was also Liverpool's first appearance in the FA Cup Final in 12 years.

    Gary Lineker puts the Blues up midway through the first half, but Liverpool's greatest striker would ensure 1-0 wouldn't be the final score.

    Ian Rush scored 10 minutes after the restart and again late in the game to ice the win after a Craig Jonhston goal gave the Reds the lead in the 62nd minute. 

    It's the only time the Reds have done the Domestic Double by winning both the League and FA Cup, and beating Everton of all teams to both trophies makes it that much sweeter. 

6. Liverpool 3-1 Tottenham, 1982 League Cup Final

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    Back when it was called the Milk Cup Final, the Reds waited until just about the last minute to mount this particular comeback.

    The Reds had almost the entire game to come back after Steve Archibald had opened the scoring in the 11th minute, but they made sure to get their fans good and nervous before Ronnie Whelan equalized in the 87th minute.

    The game went into extra time, and that's where the Reds took control. Who else but Ian Rush would score the winner in the 111th minute, and he then added an insurance goal one minute before the end.

    This comeback is the equivalent of being on your last out and last strike in the bottom of the ninth inning and getting a run to knot the scores and winning in extra endings. That's baseball by the way. 

     

    Photo courtesy of forums.lfconline.com 

5. Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United, 1983 League Cup Final

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    One year later, Liverpool played out almost exactly the same script in the League Cup final. This time, they didn't leave it to quite as late, but the comeback was even bigger because of who it was against. 

    Coming back against Manchester United will always trump Tottenham.

    Norman Whiteside put the Red Devils ahead after just 12 minutes, but the Reds were not to be denied.

    Alan Kennedy popped up and scored the equalizer in the 75th minute to send the game into extra time. Ronnie Whelan then proved to be a hero once again by scoring the winner in the 98th minute.

    It was the Reds third-straight League Cup victory, and that season produced the Reds second-straight League and League Cup double. It was also legendary manager Bob Paisley's last major final in charge of the Reds.

     

    Photo courtesy of lfcpicturestore.tv  

4. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal, 2001 FA Cup Final

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    The Reds and the Gunners duked it out in the first FA Cup final to be played outside England and was the second trophy in Liverpool's unique treble-winning season.

    It was a cagey first half that ended 0-0 as neither side caused much noise, but Arsenal had the better of the slight chances. In games like this, the first goal is often crucial and deciding. 

    It was scored by Freddie Ljungberg in the 72nd minute, and an Arsenal onslaught ensued.

    Captain Sami Hyppia had defended for his life, and it looked like it would be all for not. The Reds made attacking substitutions a few minutes later by bringing on Patrik Berger and Robbie Fowler to join Gary McAllister who had come on in the 60th minute, all of whom would prove to be very important.

    Then Michael Owen stepped up.

    Owen latched onto a loose ball in the area in the 83rd minute to notch the scores and presumably send it to extra time. He had other ideas.

    Owen scored the winner five minutes later and the Reds held onto their lead and then won their third trophy of that season in the UEFA Cup Final a week later.

3. Liverpool 3-1 Olympiacos

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    On Dec. 8, 2004, the Reds needed to beat Olympiacos by two clear goals to advance to the knockout stages of the Champions League that season. They made life even harder for themselves by conceding a first-half goal to the Greek team.

    The second half was one of the most thrilling 45 minutes in Liverpool's illustrious history. 

    Florent Sinama-Pongolle got one of the goals just two minutes after the restart to send the Reds on their way. By as the second half wore on, the Reds were still not scoring, and the Champions League was slipping away.

    On one side, it looked like it wouldn't be the Reds night, but on the other hand, you knew that if the Reds got one, they'd get two. They were just running out of time. 

    Neil Mellor came on in the 78th minute and made an immediate impact by scoring the second goal two minutes later. Olympiacos was clearly shaking, and the Anfield crowd was praying for anything to ripple the back of the net at the Kop end. 

    They didn't care who it came off of or how ugly it looked. They just wanted a goal.

    Steven Gerrard delivered. 

    The ball came to him, and he pounded an absolute screamer into the back of the net from 30 yards out, and the crowd went absolutely wild.

    Liverpool has played plenty of spectacular games and finals in its history, but this one comeback might've just made the Kop rock harder than it ever has before. 

2. Liverpool 3-3 West Ham, 2006 FA Cup Final

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    Liverpool were a year removed from another famous comeback in a final, but could lightning really strike twice? 

    West Ham went ahead 2-0 in the first half after a Jamie Carragher own goal and Pepe Reina's failure to hold onto Matthew Ethrington's shot. The Hammers were seemingly in the clear before the half-hour mark despite only two shots on target. 

    But it wouldn't take the Reds long to get back in it. Captain Steven Gerrard found Djibril Cisse with a perfectly placed ball, and he volleyed it right past West Ham keeper Shaka Hislop. 

    Liverpool then started the second half brightly, despite Harry Kewell limping off shortly after the restart, and Gerrard fired a shot into the back of the net in the 54th minute.

    The Reds weren't level for long as Paul Konchesky put the Hammers back in front in the 63rd minute on a cross that evaded all the players and went straight into the back of the net.

    Liverpool looked tired and wasted opportunities, but Captain Fantastic was not to be denied. Gerrard and his teammates were suffering from cramps, so when the ball came to him at 30 yards out (sound familiar?), he decided he was just going to hit it. 

    Hit it he did, and it flew spectacularly into the back of the net to send Liverpool fans crazy and the final into extra time. The scores stayed knotted at three, and the Reds went on to win on penalties.

    The pressure is never higher than in the FA Cup Final and your team is down 2-0 inside 30 minutes, and the Reds responded exceptionally.

    Well, there's one occasion where the pressure may be a bit higher.   

1. Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan

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    May 25, 2005. The all-time most unbelievable, improbable comeback victory in world football. And probably the worst night of your life if you're an AC Milan fan.

    Usually when you go up 3-0  before halftime, you're on the fast track to an easy win. Unless of course you're playing against Liverpool FC. 

    The Reds had a nightmare start to the Champions League final in Istanbul as Paolo Maldini scored off Andrea Pirlo's free kick inside the first minute. The Reds not only conceded a free kick one minute into the game, but they compounded it with a goal.

    The Reds didn't cave as they came close to scoring themselves just a few minutes later through John Arne Riise and Steven Gerrard. Milan came close to extending their lead as well.

    In the 39th minuted, Hernan Crespo doubled Milan's advantage and then made the comeback even more unlike'y by adding a third goal just before halftime.

    To be down 3-0 at halftime is an incredibly tall order, but the Reds fans were firmly behind their team. 

    Rafa Benitez says he didn't really give a rousing speech in the locker room, but something must've happened in there because the Reds that came out for the second half were a team possessed.

    Xabi Alonso had a shot go just wide soon after the restart, and Liverpool finally scored in the 54th minute when Gerrard (who else) headed in Riise's cross. The Reds had one goal back, but it was still a tall order.

    Then, two minutes later, first-half substitute Vladimir Smicer scored to make the score 3-2 with over 30 minutes left to play. Mission impossible no longer. 

    The Reds were awarded a penalty three minutes, and though Milan keeper Dida saved Alonso's spot kick, Alonso scored on the rebound to even the score. From 3-0 down after 45 minutes, the Reds had leveled the scored in just 15 second-half minutes.

    Both teams held strong for the rest of the game and extra time to send the game to penalties. Jerzey Dudek saved Milan's first two penalties while the Reds scored three of their four. Dudek then saved Milan's fifth penalty off of Andriy Schevchenko to ensure Liverpool won its fifth European Cup and its first since 1984.

    The Reds have made some pretty incredible comebacks in just about every stage of every competition, but nothing has come close to that night in Istanbul.

    At least till now.  

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