With this season’s Champions League nearing its conclusion, English heavyweights Manchester City and Liverpool hold the advantage after their first-leg semifinal matches. 

For Manchester City, the road to the final is trickier, at least on paper. Its first leg against recently crowned La Liga champion Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium was a goal fest with the score being 4-3 in City’s favour. The second leg will be at the Santiago Bernabeu and City manager Pep Guardiola knows that there won’t be any room for complacency.

Liverpool’s chances of qualifying for the final seem to be more certain given how dominant it was against Villarreal at Anfield in the first leg. Carrying a 2-0 lead into the second leg, Jurgen Klopp’s team will be confident but won’t make the mistake of taking the Yellow Submarines lightly. Unai Emery’s Villarreal, which earned the spotlight by knocking out heavyweights Juventus and Bayern Munich, will eye another giant-killing act.

Madrid and Villarreal will start the second leg with a disadvantage but history proves this competition is built for thrill and surprises. Teams have etched their names in Champions League folklore by not giving up and crawling their way back in the second leg to win the tie. 

Here are five instances where teams overturned a first-leg deficit to win the semifinal and qualify for the final of the Champions League. 

Liverpool vs Barcelona, 2018-19

A brace by Lionel Messi and a Luis Suarez goal gave Barcelona a 3-0 lead against Liverpool at the end of the first leg at Camp Nou. With such a convincing performance by Barca and no away goals scored by Liverpool, the Blaugranas qualifying for the final seemed a formality. 

However, what unfolded at Anfield was a remarkable night of European football.

Liverpool, which was at its very best that night, steamrollered Ernesto Valverde's Barcelona as Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum scored a brace each to lead Liverpool to a 4-0 win, and take the tie 4-3 on aggregate.

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Origi celebrates scoring the winner against Barcelona in 2019. Photo: AP

 

Origi's second goal, which was assisted by Trent Alexander-Arnold via a corner, has cemented its place as one of football's special moments due to how it panned out. A quick corner taken by the fullback took Barca by surprise and before the players could realise it, Origi sllotted it easily past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.

 

The brilliant comeback did not go in vain as Liverpool went on to win its sixth European title after beating Tottenham Hotspur in the final. 

Aggregate score: Liverpool 4-3 Barcelona

Tottenham Hotspur vs Ajax, 2018-19

The 2018-19 season saw brilliant comebacks in both semifinal ties. Barcelona’s comeback was a sign of domination, but Tottenham's comeback against Ajax was a sign of grit, determination and a never-say-die attitude. 

Ajax won 1-0 against Tottenham in the first leg with Donny van de Beek scoring the only goal of the match. 

Coming into the second leg, Ajax had a precious away goal, which gave the team a psychological advantage. When Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech scored first-half goals, all signs pointed towards an exit for Tottenham, as it was trailing 3-0 on aggregate at the break. However, a certain Brazilian had other ideas.

 

The second half displayed one of the competition’s most inspiring comebacks. Lucas Moura scored two quick goals early in the second half but the London side was still trailing 3-2 on aggregate. With Ajax holding on to its lead till the fifth minute of added time, it seemed destined to qualify for the finals, but Moura was not done. The Brazilian winger broke the hearts of Ajax fans when he scored his third goal in the 96th minute to send Spurs into the final on away goals.

Tottenham lost to Liverpool in the final. 

Aggregate Score:  Tottenham Hotspur 3-3 Ajax (Tottenham qualified on away goals)

Ajax vs Panathinaikos, 1995-96

Panathinaikos shocked the world when it beat Ajax 1-0 at the Amsterdam Arena courtesy a late goal by Krzysztof Warzycha. 

Given how superior Ajax looked on paper, it was the favourite to qualify for the final. 

The anticipated scenario panned out and Ajax thrashed its opponents 3-0 in the second leg to qualify for the final. Jari Litmanen scored a brace and Nordin Wooter scored the third goal. 

In the final, Ajax lost to Juventus on penalties. 

Aggregate score: Ajax 3-1 Panathinaikos

Juventus vs Real Madrid, 2002-2003

Real Madrid is the most successful team in Europe with 13 titles (Champions League and European Cup). However, there have been times when it has had its own share of disappointments. 

In the semifinals of the 2002-03 season, Real was 2-0 up against Juventus after the first leg, courtesy goals by Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos.

With both teams having world-class players, a close contest was expected in the second leg at the Stadio delle Alpi, Juventus’ former home stadium. Juventus players played some of their best football and goals from David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved led the Bianconeri to a 3-1 win. Zinedine Zidane scored Madrid’s only goal in the match.

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David Trezeguet (L) scores for Juventus against Real Madrid. Photo: REUTERS

 

Juventus went on to lose the final to AC Milan on penalties. It was the competition’s first all-Italian final. 

Aggregate score: Juventus 4-3 Real Madrid   

AC Milan vs Manchester United, 2006-2007

The 2006-07 Champions League semifinal first leg between Manchester United and AC Milan was a goal fest. While Manchester United scored three goals, courtesy a brace by Wayne Rooney and a goal by Cristiano Ronaldo, Milan replied with two goals, both by Kaka at Old Trafford. With Rooney grabbing the winner in the 91st-minute of the first leg, Alex Ferguson’s United went to the San Siro with a slender advantage.

 

In the second leg, it was a case of men vs boys as Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan thumped United 3-0 to overturn the first-leg deficit. Kaka, Clarence Seedorf and Alberto Gilardino found the net as Milan coasted to the final. 

In a replay of 2004-05 final, Milan beat Liverpool to lift its seventh European title.

Aggregate score: AC Milan 5-3 Manchester United