Comebacks in sport are all the rage this week. On Sunday evening, Tiger Woods sensationally won The Masters again in what many are deeming the best sporting comeback of all time and tonight Man United will attempt to write their own tale of redemption at the Nou Camp where they will need to overturn a one goal deficit. We looked at five other famous sporting comebacks.
Barcelona vs. PSG, 2017 (Champions League)
United have already staged a superb comeback this season, overcoming a 2-0 first leg deficit against PSG to qualify. However, what they achieved paled in comparison to Barcelona’s last 16 tie against the Parisians two seasons earlier.
Barcelona were overwhelmed in the first leg in Paris, as a brace from Angel Di Maria sealed a 4-0 victory for the French side which looked insurmoutable.
Even after a third minute opening in the return leg, it seemed a tall order. However, when Lionel Messi converted a penalty in the 50th minute to make it 3-0, Barcelona fans started to dream.
Then disaster struck. Edison Cavani scored for PSG in the 62nd minute leaving Barcelona a mountain to climb; due to the away goal rule they needed to score six to qualify.
As time ticked away, so did the Catalonians chances and with 88 minutes on the clock the score remained 3-1. However, the next seven minutes would prove to be among the most dramatic in Champions League history.
Neymar scored twice in three minutes to make the score 5-1 and suddenly Barca were a goal away from qualifying. Deep into injury time, the Brazilian crossed to Sergi Roberto who put the ball in the net, sealing the biggest comeback in Champions League history.
George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali, 1974 (Rumble In The Jungle)
Regarded by many to be the greatest sporting event of the 20th Century, the Rumble In The Jungle was a heavyweight boxing contest between Muhammad Ali and the undefeated World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The formidable Foreman was a huge puncher and had amassed a perfect record of 40-0 on his way to becoming champion, whereas Ali had just avenged a couple of recent defeats to Ken Norton and Joe Frazier, giving him a record of 45-2.
Foreman was perceived to be huge favourite owing to his intimidating power and, in the early stages of the fight, it was he who was largely the aggressor. Ali spent much of the fight against the ropes, covering his face to absorb Foreman’s assault and counter-attacking when he could.
As the fight progressed, Foreman noticeably tired, his energy sapped from the huge volume of punches he had thrown and, in the eighth round, Ali capitalised by throwing a five punch combination that left Foreman sprawled on the canvass. He tried to get up but the referee stopped the fight sealing a huge upset. Ali would later dub the tactic ‘rope-a-dope’.
Kim Clijsters, 2009- (US Open)
Belgian tennis play Kim Clijsters had won a US Open title and reached world number one before retiring in 2007, aged just 23, after a series of injuries.
After two inactive years she came out of retirement in 2009 and, in just her third tournament back, miraculously won the US Open for a second time, this time as an unranked player.
Clijsters followed up by winning the tournament for a third time in 2010. It was her third successive victory in the event, though the run was interrupted by three absent years between 2006-08.
Her success didn’t stop there and she added the Australian Open to her major haul in 2011, making her a four-time major champion and ensuring that she would be ranked among the greats of the modern womens’ game, before retiring permanently in 2012.
Niki Lauda, 1976- (Formula One)
The Austrian F1 driver achieved two incredible comebacks in his career, the events of which were retold in the Oscar-nominated film Rush in 2013.
Lauda had already won the F1 World Championship in 1975 and appeared set to win a second the following year, as he commanded a significant lead in the driver standings.
However, tragedy struck at the Nürburgring in 1976 during the German Grand Prix, a race that he had previously voiced his objections to due to safety concerns. On the second lap of the circuit, Lauda’s Ferrari swerved off the track and crashed into an embankment before bursting into flames.
The Austrian was trapped inside the car and suffered severe burns to his face and head before fellow drivers were able to pull him from the wreckage. Lauda lapsed into a coma, lost part of his ear and suffered severe lung damage due to smoke inhalation but only missed two races and made his return to the track at the Italian Grand Prix six weeks later.
He ultimately lost the title that year to James Hunt by a single point, after retiring from the final race of the season citing concerns over his ability to see in the terrible weather conditions. However, he won the title for a second time in 1977.
Lauda retired from the sport in 1979 before returning in 1982 and winning a third championship. His tale is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring in sports history.
Man United vs. Bayern Munich, 1999 (Champions League)
With an Ole Gunnar Solskjær-led Manchester United attempting to overcome a single goal Champions League deficit in the Nou Camp, it didn’t seem right to omit a near identical story that took place 20 years earlier.
United faced Bayern Munich in the Nou Camp in the final of the competition in 1999 and got off to a dreadful start after conceding in the sixth minute. Despite edging possession and goal attempts, as the match entered injury time they hadn’t been able to make a breakthrough.
Teddy Sheringham and Solskjær had begun the match on the bench but were both brought on in the closing stages and, sure enough, Sheringham got the final touch on a Ryan Giggs shot to finally bring the Red Devils level in the 91st minute.
As they entered the 95th and final minute, United continued to pile on the pressure and were awarded a corner. Up stepped David Beckham who delivered the ball onto the head of Teddy Sheringham. Sheringham nodded it down towards the outstretched leg of Solsjkaer who poked the ball into the roof of the net, sending United fans around the world berserk and breaking Bayern hearts.
20 years later, can Solskjær orchestrate another famous United comeback at the Nou Camp?