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Biggest Liverpool European comebacks: Largest deficit overcome in second leg and final

Liverpool’s relationship with inspiring European comebacks has created an air of invincibility around the club over the years, producing some iconic moments in European Cup/Champions League history.

After securing their sixth title in 2019, the Reds became the joint-third most successful side the competition has seen, level with Bayern Munich.

Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Rafael Benitez and Jurgen Klopp have all lifted the famous trophy as Liverpool boss with the latter two relying on some of the biggest ever fightbacks to secure glory.

As Klopp’s charges head to Real Madrid this week, they will need to overcome a three-goal first-leg deficit, and the former Borussia Dortmund coach will be hoping for another famous night.

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Biggest Liverpool European comebacks

Despite their regular role in major European finals in the 1970s and 1980s, Liverpool’s knack of incredible comebacks is a modern phenomenon, with the Champions League kicking off a defining era.

2005: The miracle of Istanbul

The 2005 final in Istanbul was the defining moment of Bentiez’s tenure, as the Spaniard masterminded a gritty run to the final up against Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan.

The first 45 minutes of the final followed the expected script, as Hernan Crespo and Kaka inspired the Serie A giants into a 3-0 halftime lead.

However, the second-half rally was a key chapter in Liverpool folklore as Steven Gerrard led the revival to send the match to a penalty shootout, and the unlikely hero of Jerzy Dudek secured a first title for the club since the competition became the Champions League in 1992.

That triggered a string of second-leg fightbacks from Liverpool in the following years. Benitez’s side bounced back from a 1-0 semifinal first-leg loss to Chelsea in 2007 to win the return fixture 1-0, and progress to the final on penalties.

2016: Dortmund and Villarreal vanquished

Klopp’s arrival in 2015 developed a renewed sense of his side not surrendering in defeat. Their march to the 2016 Europa League final included beating Villarreal 3-0 in the semifinal second leg after a 1-0 loss in the first game, all after the second leg of their quarterfinal with Dortmund saw them recover from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to progress.

But, as Klopp steered Liverpool back into the Champions League reckoning, his side produced their biggest ever European comeback against Barcelona in 2019.

2019: Messi misery at Anfield

Only Ajax in 1967 had secured a bigger winning margin over Liverpool in a European Cup knockout game than Barcelona’s 3-0 Camp Nou first-leg semifinal victory, inspired by Lionel Messi.

However, despite the odds being stacked against them, Liverpool ruthlessly exposed Barcelona’s complacency at Anfield, as Divock Origi sealed a famous 4-0 win. They would go on to defeat Premier League rivals Tottenham in the final in Madrid.

A repeat of such a turnaround against Real Madrid could go down as even better than the famous night against Barcelona.

Liverpool Champions League record

Liverpool benefitted from the extension of Premier League places in the Champions League from 2000 onwards with Gerard Houllier, Bentiez, Brendan Rodgers and Klopp all leading them in the competition.

Liverpool Champions League record
Season Stage Reached Knocked out by Manager
2001/02 Quarterfinal Bayer Leverkusen Gerard Houllier
2002/03 Group Stage Valencia, Basel Gerard Houllier
2004/05 Winners N/A Rafa Benitez
2005/06 Round of 16 Benfica Rafa Benitez
2006/07 Runners Up AC Milan Rafa Benitez
2007/08 Semifinal Chelsea Rafa Benitez
2008/09 Quarterfinal Chelsea Rafa Benitez
2009/10 Group Stage Fiorentina, Lyon Rafa Benitez
2014/15 Group Stage Real Madrid, Basel Brendan Rodgers
2017/18 Runners Up Real Madrid Jurgen Klopp
2018/19 Winners N/A Jurgen Klopp
2019/20 Round of 16 Atletico Madrid Jurgen Klopp
2020/21 Quarterfinal Real Madrid Jurgen Klopp
2021/22 Runners Up Real Madrid Jurgen Klopp


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