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The best Europa League comebacks by Premier League clubs

Liverpool and West Ham face huge tasks to reach the Europa League semi-finals this evening, when the Premier League sides take on Atalanta and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.

Liverpool suffered a home humbling to an impressive Atalanta outfit a week ago, as the Italians ran riot to become the first team to win at Anfield this season with a 3-0 success on Merseyside.

West Ham, meanwhile, lost 2-0 at a Bayer Leverkusen team crowned German champions at the weekend and who are unbeaten in 43 games across all competitions this season.

Each face mountains to climb to progress, though can take inspiration from some of the unlikeliest UEFA Cup and Europa League comebacks by English clubs.

Middlesbrough 4-3 Basel, UEFA Cup quarter-final, April 2006

Middlesbrough’s passage to the UEFA Cup final in 2006 is the stuff of legend in the North East, as Steve McClaren’s side embarked on an unlikely and dramatic run to the decider.

Boro faced off against Basel in the quarter-finals and their dream looked in danger after the Swiss side earned a 2-0 win in the first leg on home soil. Things got worse in the return when Eduardo’s 23rd-minute goal left Middlesbrough needing four goals to progress.

Mark Viduka pulled a goal back for the Premier League side before half-time and Boro were given another lift when Daniel Majstorovic was sent off for the visitors. Viduka struck his second to raise hope around the Riverside as the Australian rounded the goalkeeper and steered home.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, off the bench, made it 3-1 on the night with a spectacular strike, as the Dutchman thundered an effort into the top corner from distance to leave Boro one goal from progress.

Another substitute, Massimo Maccarone, turned in a 90th-minute goal to send Middlesbrough through, as the Italian reacted to Fábio Rochemback’s spilt shot to turn in from a narrow angle.

Cue euphoria.

Middlesbrough 4-3 Steaua Bucharest, UEFA Cup semi-final, April 2006

In the very next round, Middlesbrough completed another mission impossible. There was a sense of déjà vu as Boro found themselves needing FOUR goals to progress, with Steaua Bucharest building on a 1-0 first-leg win with two early goals at the Riverside.

Massimo Maccarone, the hero of the previous round, pulled a goal back before the break, drilling in a low finish just moments after his first-half introduction in place of the injured Gareth Southgate.

Mark Viduka scored the second to spark hope of another unlikely comeback, beating the goalkeeper to Stewart Downing’s cross to head home on 63 minutes. Chris Riggott then bundled in a third for Boro, setting up a final period that saw Steve McClaren’s side throw the kitchen sink at the visitors.

In the 89th minute, Steaua’s resistance was finally broken. Another delightful delivery from Downing was met by Maccarone at the back post, who repeated his quarter-final exploits with another dramatic winner on the dive.

Cult status confirmed.

Fulham 5-4 Juventus, Europa League Round of 16, March 2010

Fulham were handed a dream draw during the 2009/10 season as the West Londoners faced off against Juventus in the Europa League.

The Italian giants were rebuilding after the fallout from the Calciopoli scandal, though started the tie as one of the favourites for the competition and with names including David Trezeguet and Fabio Cannavaro in their ranks.

Juventus appeared too good for Fulham after a 3-1 win in Turin and Trezeguet’s second-minute goal at Craven Cottage appeared to end the tie as a contest. Roy Hodgson’s side were a plucky outfit, however, and Bobby Zamora levelled the score on the night just seven minutes later.

Cannavaro’s red card for a professional foul on Zoltan Gera swung the momentum in Fulham’s favour and the latter fired the Cottagers ahead before the break. A second from Gera, this time from the penalty spot, set the scene for a fantastic finish.

Clint Dempsey won it for Fulham late on, as the American midfielder lifted an audacious chip over veteran goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti. Afforded too much room on the edge of the area, Dempsey delightfully dinked a finish into the far corner to create chaos around Craven Cottage.

Jonathan Zebina was sent off late on for Juventus, as a bad night for the Bianconeri ended with nine men.

When Fulham did the impossible: Recalling their unforgettable comeback against Juventus

Liverpool 5-4 Dortmund, Europa League quarter-final, April 2016

Jurgen Klopp’s first season at Liverpool saw the German handed a date with Borussia Dortmund.

A 1-1 draw in Germany appeared to give Liverpool the advantage in the tie, though Klopp could only watch on in horror as his former side raced into a two-goal lead inside 10 minutes.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan opened the scoring before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang doubled Dortmund’s lead moments later.

Liverpool pulled a goal back through Divock Origi soon after the half-time restart, but Marco Reus restored the visitor’s advantage with a third away goal. Needing to win on the night, Philippe Coutinho restored hope for the Reds on 66 minutes with a crisp effort, before Mamadou Sakho stooped to nod in an equaliser.

Still heading out on away goals as the game entered stoppage time, Dejan Lovren’s 91st-minute header sent Liverpool through and completed the comeback in one of the great Europa League games.

Arsenal 4-3 Rennes, Europa League Round of 16, March 2019

Arsenal needed a second-leg turnaround to progress past French side Rennes in March 2019.

The Gunners had suffered a 3-1 in the first meeting, squandering an early advantage at Roazhon Park. Alex Iwobi fired Arsenal in front after three minutes but the game changed when Sokratis Papastathopoulo was sent off late in the first half.

Benjamin Bourigeaud equalised for Rennes almost immediately after the Greek defender’s dismissal, before a Nacho Monreal own goal and Ismaila Sarr’s header condemned the north Londoners to defeat.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the hero of the return as the forward scored twice in a 3-0 win at the Emirates, either side of an Ainsley Maitland-Niles effort. Arsenal progressed to the final under Unai Emery, before losing to Chelsea.

Read – The highest scorers in Europa League history

See more – Five of the best-ever Premier League comebacks

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