Arsenal

Charlton 7-6 Huddersfield – Best comeback ever?

Henry scores twice as Arsenal stay unbeaten against all odds

Yesterday, Everton gave Manchester United a taste of their own medicine with an astonishing injury time comeback from 1-3 down to 3-3. It may be a long while until the Premier League sees the likes of it again, but here are some memories to tide us over…

Nigeria 3-2 Spain
13th June 1998

African teams were still emerging as borderline contenders in a perpetually South America and Europe dominated international scene. Yet against all odds, a cultured Spain team fell in unlikely circumstances to Nigeria. It all started so well for the Spanish, who looked set for an easy victory once Fernando Hierro had sent a low daisycutter of a free kick into the net past Peter Rufai. But they were stunned just four minutes later when a poorly defended near post corner was headed into the roof of the net by Mutiu Adepoju.

There was a perceived atonement just after half time when Raul volleyed home from close range, but Nigeria held out to keep the deficit at just one. Their efforts were rewarded with a second equaliser on 72 minutes, with Garba Lawal and Rasheed Yakini exchanging passes, with Lawal finding the net from close range, via an Andoni Zubizaretta deflection. The winner came when a long throw in was only cleared as far as the lurking Sunday Oliseh, who unleashed a ferocious shot from 30 yards to give Nigeria the points. Nigeria went on to finish top, while Spain were eliminated.

Manchester United 2-1 Sheffield Weds
10th April 1993

This was not just the day that ‘Old Trafford Injury Time’ was born, but also the day Sir Alex Ferguson had been waiting for – establishment at the summit of the Premier League. He duly celebrated the success with some half baked dad-dancing on the edge of the pitch, but Manchester United were made to work for their first Premier League title. This match was pivotal in the outcome of the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season; five days earlier, United had disposed of title contenders Norwich who were by now out of the running despite being top at Christmas. After a goalless first half, replacement referee John Hilditch gave a penalty to the visitors, which was duly dispatched by John Sheridan.

With seven minutes of added time announced, United had the perfect opportunity to take something. Steve Bruce popped up out of nowhere to send a header looping over Chris Woods into the net for 1-1. The last kick of the game was a repeat performance, with Gary Pallister’s cross deflected into the path of Bruce who headed past Woods again. Seconds later the whistle blew, and as news filtered through from Villa Park that Aston Villa had drawn 0-0 with Coventry, United were spurred onto a five game winning streak which brought the title to Old Trafford.

West Ham 3-4 Wimbledon
9th September 1998

This was a London derby after the hearts of every neutral and cockney alike, it was non stop, high octane stuff with an unprecedented outcome. After just 25 minutes, West Ham were coasting at 3-0. John Hartson reacted to an Ian Wright knockdown from Trevor Sinclair’s cross and buried the ball past Neil Sullivan, before an effort by Hartson fell to Wright who made no mistake. Australian winger Stan Lazaridis then crossed expertly for Wright to plant a header into the corner to secure three easy points. Not if Wimbledon had anything to do with it…

Just three minutes after West Ham’s third, Alan Kimble proved his delivery credentials by inch perfectly finding Marcus Gayle, who headed past Shaka Hislop to set about some claret nerves. After half time, Javier Margas played a sloppy defensive ball, and Jason Euell pounced for 3-2. The equaliser came in the 77th minute, after Hislop fumbled a corner, allowing Gayle to score again. With both sides looking for the winner, the point disappeared when Wimbledon went on a counter attack and Euell’s pass found Efan Ekoku, who headed down and in, sending the 17 Wimbledon fans in the away end into raptures.

Wolves 4-3 Leicester
25th October 2003

Perhaps slightly more impressive is Wolves’ win over Leicester, during which Wolves were trailing 3-0 at half time. After 15 minutes, the master of headers Les Ferdinand had used his bonce to put Leicester ahead from Muzzy Izzet’s corner, before immediately converting another Izzet corner from close range. Ferdinand then found Ricardo Scimeca to put the result seemingly beyond doubt.

A Hassan Kachoul free kick found Colin Cameron, who drilled the ball into the corner to give the Molineux faithful (who remained) some hope. That hope was then redoubled when a penalty was awarded on the hour mark and successfully converted by Cameron. Eight minutes later, Gavin Rae headed home to level matters, before Henri Camara belted home a Dennis Irwin delivery just five minutes from time.

Tottenham 3-5 Man Utd
29th September 2001

Manchester United may have turned a 0-2 deficit into a 5-2 win over Tottenham at Old Trafford in April last year, but in Tottenham’s own backyard, they produced an equally scintillating comeback nine years ago. New signing Dean Richards got Tottenham off the mark after heading Christian Ziege’s cross into the corner of Fabien Barthez’ net, and soon after Gustavo Poyet’s pass found Les Ferdinand, who shot past Barthez to put Tottenham in control. Poyet again delivered with aplomb, this time low for Ziege to score with a diving header for 3-0.

Tottenham failed to weather the usual post half-time rant storm and United pulled a goal back less than a minute into the second half, with Neville crossed for Cole to produce a carbon copy of Ziege’s goal. As bad as United had been in the first half, Spurs were much worse, when Laurent Blanc was left unmarked to head David Beckham’s immaculate corner into the net. Mikael Silvestre then continued the trend of cross-field ball goals, finding the head of Ruud van Nistelrooy to make it 3-3. Juan Sebastian Veron then powered a shot into the corner of Neil Sullivan’s net, before Beckham scored with a searing half volley to cap United’s best second half performance to date in the Premier League.

West Ham 3-4 Tottenham
4th March 2007

This one had the neutrals slavering at the bit, it had all the drama anyone could wish for. West Ham were in a dire run of form and rooted firmly at the bottom of the table. Following an indifferent start, Tottenham were by now safe and challenging for a UEFA Cup spot. West Ham were defensively poor all afternoon, but when Mark Noble and Carlos Tevez scored either side of some impressive saves by Robert Green, West Ham appeared to have everything under control. After half time though, the lead evaporated as ex-Hammer Jermain Defoe converted a penalty before Teemu Tainio levelled the game with an impressive volley.

After a tit for tat exchange of chances in which Tottenham had looked the more threatening, Bobby Zamora headed in to grab what many believed to be the winner. But barely three minutes later, Berbatov’s free kick was deflected into the net for a cruel equaliser. Cruelty then became sadism, as Paul Stalteri was first to a charged down Defoe shot, slotting in with mere seconds left on the clock. The full time whistle brought jeers and tears to the West Ham faithful, convinced of their relegation and completely adrift at the bottom – but for one diminutive, buck toothed Argentinian who didn’t know the meaning of the word…

Arsenal 5-3 Middlesbrough
22nd August 2004

In the early days of 2004-05, Arsenal smashed all records as their unbeaten run reached 49 games. It was not all a bed of roses however, and after 53 minutes of their ‘routine’ home match against Middlesbrough, they looked destined to fail at just 41 games. When Thierry Henry chipped Mark Schwarzer on 25 minutes, Arsenal (who had dominated the game completely) looked set for another easy victory. Joseph Desiree-Job then produced an equaliser against the run of play after a neat one-two with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

After the interval, Hasselbaink was allowed all the time and space in the world to shoot past Jens Lehmann to put Middlesbrough ahead. The score then became an unbelievable 3-1 with left-back Franck Quedrue sending a 30 yard scorcher past the now bemused Lehmann. This was the signal Arsenal needed, and Bergkamp would equalise immediately following some slack defending and a cool finish. Ten minutes later, a devastating double blow put Arsenal 4-3 up with Robert Pires sending the ball in after Henry’s shot was drifting wide, followed straightaway by Bergkamp’s neat ball to Reyes who had no trouble in scoring. Although Middlesbrough would not genuinely threaten yet another Arsenal win, Henry scored again in stoppage time to maintain Arsenal’s ‘unbeatable’ tag.

Leeds 4-3 Liverpool
4th November 2000

Leeds United were fresh off a League Cup humiliation at the hands of Tranmere, but experienced contrasting emotions against the reds of Merseyside, as the then Champions League participants produced an unthinkable comeback. Liverpool were on a four game winning run, and it looked to be getting on for five when headers from Sami Hypia and Christian Ziege exposed lax defending from Leeds. A fortunate deflection to Mark Viduka halved the deficit, and the rotund Australian striker scored just minutes after the break for 2-2.

Liverpool restored their advantage soon after with Vladimir Smicer finding the net after a neat interchange of passes in midfield. Not to be outdone, Viduka then produced a one man show which left Smicer sprawling, and the subsequent shot beating Sander Westerveld. The winner came two minutes later, when Viduka just about escaped the offside trap to lob the ball over Westerveld for a truly memorable day in happier times at Elland Road.

Uerdingen 7-3 Dynamo Dresden
19th March 1986

WHO? I hear you ask? Well it’s true that nobody could be blamed for never having heard of these two ex-titans, but it was in the 1985-86 Cup Winners Cup quarter final that the greatest two-legged comeback ever occurred. Billed as a clash of East vs West Germany, it lived up to all expectations other than the expectation that heavy favourites Dresden would be coasting through after winning the first leg 2-0.

By half time, Dresden were 3-1 up (5-1 on aggregate) and all but through to the next round – even the Uerdingen head coach had reportedly conceded defeat. The team however, weren’t listening to the half time talk which might have gone along the lines of “don’t concede too many, keep your heads up” and made an unspoken pact to produce the 45 minutes of a lifetime.

Firstly, a dubious penalty was awarded, which Wolfgang Funkel converted successfully. Gudmundsson then made it 3-3 on the night, before the fantastically named Ralf Minge scored an own goal which made him look every inch like one of his namesakes. Klinger then made it 5-3, before another penalty was awarded and again converted by Funkel. In just 23 short minutes, a five goal burst had turned the tables, and the whistle was in the referee’s mouth for full time just as Schafer’s shot hit the net for 7-3, and the most unlikely of progresses to the next round – where they were duly eliminated by Athletico Madrid.

Charlton 7-6 Huddersfield
21st December 1957

Unquestionably, the greatest comeback ever seen inside a 90 minute game. Although nothing that ever happened in football really mattered until 1992, this match is rightly a part of folklore. No one could have predicted that a humble second division game between mid-tablers would turn into an epic, with fans perhaps more inclined to be partaking in some Christmas shopping.

At the time, Liverpool’s legendary manager Bill Shankly was plying his trade for Huddersfield, all the while mentoring a young Denis Law, who sat out this game with a thigh injury. At half time, Huddersfield were leading 2-0, and Shankly was typically quick to praise his team’s performance, reportedly saying “Charlton? They’re not fit to be on the same park!” Meanwhile, in the home dressing room, despairing Charlton were down to ten men with Derek Ufton forced off due to a dislocated shoulder.

Surely things couldn’t get any worse, but get worse they did. Despite winger Johnny Summers pulling a goal back, ruthless Huddersfield reduced Charlton to mere onlookers as a three goal burst in 17 minutes put the game seemingly out of reach. An immediate response was on the cards, as Buck Ryan scored, and within minutes Summers had his second, completing his hat trick ten minutes later.

At 5-4 even Shankly was beginning to worry, but his worry became inner tumult as Summers hit a double blast to make it 6-5 Charlton. A John Hewie own goal then provided Huddersfield with an unlikely equaliser, before long suffering Huddersfield goalkeeper Sandy Kennon slipped in the mud during what appeared to be a routine save. Deep into stoppage time, Buck Ryan found the net for the winner.

Can you think of any others? Answers below please

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