A look at the greatest comebacks in sporting history

By Sports Desk May 19, 2023

Sheffield Wednesday’s miraculous comeback in the Sky Bet League One play-off semi-final against Peterborough, where they overturned a 4-0 first-leg deficit, was a reminder that anything can happen in sport.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the best comebacks in sport.

Botham’s Ashes

England’s plight against Australia in the second Ashes Test in 1981 was so bad they had checked out of their hotel early ahead of an anticipated defeat. Enter Ian Botham. With his side 41 for four when following on, Botham played one of the great Test innings, smashing 149 to make Australia bat again and set an albeit modest target of 130. Enter Bob Willis. The fast bowler produced the spell of his lifetime, decimating the Australian batting order in taking eight wickets for 43 runs to seal a famous 18-run victory. Instead of being 2-0 down in the series, England went on to win 3-1.

Miracle of Medinah

It seemed impossible that the Ryder Cup would be returning home with Europe going into the final day of the bi-annual tournament in 2012. The United States had dominated the opening two days on their home soil of Medinah in Chicago, opening up a 10-4 lead in the race to 14.5 ahead of Sunday’s singles. But Spanish captain Jose Maria Olazabal channelled the spirit of his mentor Seve Ballesteros and Europe produced a sea of blue on the leaderboard, with Martin Kaymer sealing the most unlikely of victories when he rolled home a 10-foot putt to claim a 14.5-13.5 victory.

Fury’s unlikely resurrection

When Tyson Fury was on the end of a vicious left hook from Deontay Wilder in the 12th round of their WBC heavyweight clash in Las Vegas it looked like goodnight for the British fighter. Laying prone on the canvas he appeared out cold until midway through the referee’s count, when he came back to life, shot up and was somehow able to carry on. Fury thought he had earlier done enough to be awarded a points victory, but the judges controversially scored it a draw. However Fury dominated the two subsequent rematches and still retains the WBC belt.

Miracle of Instanbul

https://twitter.com/ChampionsLeague/status/113220969099215667
Liverpool’s first European Cup final in 21 years and first in the Champions League era looked like it was going to be a damp squib as AC Milan raced into a 3-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo (2). But Steven Gerrard inspired the monumental second-half comeback, with Liverpool scoring three times in seven minutes as Vladimir Smicer and Xavi Alonso also bagged. Goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was the hero in the penalty shoot-out, saving from Andrea Pirlo and Andrei Shevchenko to claim a miraculous victory for Rafael Benitez’s side.

Brady’s Brunch

Even Tom Brady must have questioned whether his New England Patriots side had any chance of winning the 2017 Superbowl when they trailed the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 in the third quarter. But the NFL great cemented his position as the best quarterback of all time by inspiring his side to a miraculous 34-28 victory in overtime. It was the first Supervowl to be decided in an additional period and was also the largest comeback in the showpiece match.

Brecel back from the brink

Luca Brecel beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in this year’s World Snooker Championship quarter-final but the Belgian’s run looked like coming to an end in the semis against Si Jiahui when the Chinese debutant powered into a 14-5 lead in the race to 17. What happened next was the greatest comeback in Crucible history as Brecel won 11 successive frames, eventually claiming a remarkable 17-15 victory. He ensured that his fortnight in Sheffield ended in glory, beating Mark Selby in the final to win a first world title.

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    Erik Ten Hag insisted he was not embarrassed but admitted Manchester United “got away with it” after edging past Championship Coventry on penalties in their FA Cup semi-final.

    The Premier League outfit were given an almighty scare at Wembley on Sunday as the second-tier side fought back from 3-0 down and then had a late extra-time winner disallowed for a marginal offside.

    A thrilling contest ended 3-3 after 120 minutes and it was United who ultimately prevailed, 4-2 on spot-kicks, to set up a repeat of last year’s final against rivals Manchester City.

    It was another highly unconvincing performance by United – which may have increased the pressure on under-fire manager Ten Hag – but the Dutchman tried to highlight the positives.

    Ten Hag said: “I can’t say that word (embarrassment) because, at the end of the day, it’s about the achievement.

    “I see the mistakes we make – we can’t look away from it – but it’s not an embarrassment. It’s a huge achievement.

    “Even the big team from United, a decade ago, only achieved the final three times. We now have two times in two years. So that’s a good performance.

    “I see we can play in very high levels but in the same match we can also go very low. That’s not explainable. It has to do with managing the game.

    “I have to teach my players, clearly. We have to do better in such occasions.

    “On several occasions we’ve let the result slip away but today we got away with it.”

    United had looked to be cruising past an apparently inferior opponent as they opened up a handsome lead with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

    Yet the Sky Blues, who are eighth in the Championship, pulled one back through Ellis Simms on 71 minutes and then threw caution to the wind.

    Callum O’Hare pulled another back with a deflected strike and Haji Wright sent the game into extra time with a stoppage-time penalty after handball by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

    Both sides hit the bar in extra time before Victor Torp thought he had snatched a dramatic winner in the closing minutes, only for VAR to rule Wright fractionally offside in the build-up.

    Despite the heartbreaking manner of the loss, Sky Blues manager Mark Robins insisted there was no feeling of injustice.

    The former United striker said: “If it’s the right call, it’s the right call. I think he was a toenail offside, which is disappointing. Had he cut his toenail, we wouldn’t be talking about penalties.

    “This FA Cup run will be spoken about, certainly in Coventry City circles, for a long, long time.

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    “We performed like Manchester United for that last half-hour and that’s what I’m most proud of.

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    Liverpool regained their winning touch in the Premier League after last week’s 1-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace as they enjoyed three points with goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ryan Gravenberch and Diogo Jota.

    Timothy Castagne had equalised for the Cottagers with his first goal for the club in the first half but it was not enough as Klopp’s men showed their class after the break.

    “The second half was a complete performance, if you want,” Klopp said.

    “It was our best performance so far that we’ve had against Fulham. I thought the next step was to win today, the boys did that and it was really good. We created much more chances, we could’ve scored more often.

    “I’m really happy with the performance and hopefully nobody got hurt and we will see because we have to recover quickly as we’re playing on Wednesday.

    “We’re in the situation we are at the moment because of the character of these boys. Nobody expected us to be here and we are and that’s because of the boys.”

    Alexander-Arnold’s 32nd-minute free-kick was the pick of the goals after his stunning strike gave the Reds the lead.

    Klopp believes “nobody plays like” the full-back after he returned from a knee injury at Anfield last week.

    https://twitter.com/premierleague/status/1782083567528333595

    When asked how important it is to have Alexander-Arnold back in the side, Klopp added: “It’s super important.

    “Nobody is like Trent so that’s how it is. The way we play with him can be different so it’s super helpful and I’m really happy about that.

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    “They deserve to win the Scudetto but we need to do everything we can to ensure it doesn’t happen tomorrow. We have worked hard in the last few days, we are totally focused on best preparing for the game”.

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