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Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat

Jo Carter October 5, 2012
Europe's final-day fightback to retain the Ryder Cup was one of the great comebacks in sporting history © PA Photos

In honour of Europe's stunning come-from-behind victory against USA to retain the Ryder Cup, we pick out ten of the greatest comebacks in sport.

Liverpool v AC Milan, 2005 Champions League final
You'd have forgiven Liverpool fans for turning off the TV at half-time when their side trailed 3-0 to AC Milan during the 2005 Champions League final. But any that did will still be kicking themselves seven years later as Rafael Benitez's men staged an astonishing comeback, scoring three times in six minutes courtesy of goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso to claw themselves back into the match before a dramatic penalty shoot-out saw Jerzy Dudek save Andriy Shevchenko's decisive spot-kick.

Liverpool came from 3-0 down to win the Champions League on penalties © Getty Images

USA v Europe, 1999 Ryder Cup
If you haven't heard about the Battle of Brookline, we can only wonder where you were last week during the run-up to the Ryder Cup. In a nutshell, the Americans staged a dramatic final day comeback to win back the trophy. Trailing 10-6 heading into the final day singles matches, Team USA rallied to recapture the cup. However, it is perhaps the incident in the aftermath of the victory that is best remembered as the US team invaded the 17th green after a long putt from Justin Leonard - before Jose Maria Olazabal had the chance to hole his putt. Olazabal missed his shorter putt to keep Europe's hopes of victory alive, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Roger Federer v Alejandro Falla, 2010 Wimbledon
Six-time Wimbledon champion was on the verge of a shock first-round upset at the All England Club as he found himself two sets and a break down against world No. 60 Alejandro Falla. The defending champion looked to be heading for only his second reverse in eight years at Wimbledon as he came within three points of defeat, but produced an impressive fightback to claim a 5-7 4-6 6-4 7-6(1) 6-0 victory. It would scarcely have raised more surprise if Wimbledon had announced a whatever-goes dress code than if Federer had lost on the opening afternoon of Wimbledon.

Harold Abrahams, 1924 Olympic 100m final
Harold Abrahams, he of Chariots of Fire fame, will be recognised by the history books as the 1924 Olympic 100m champion, but what often gets forgotten is that Abrahams came nerve-wrackingly close to crashing out in the semi-finals. Seeing a rival move on the start line before the pistol was fired, Abrahams stayed put, only to realise there had been no false start. Having lost yards on his opponents, Abrahams chased down defending champion Charlie Paddock, the 'California Flash', to not only qualify but to win the race, equalling the world record of 10.6 seconds in the process. After defying the odds to qualify for the final, Abrahams went on to win - albeit in decidedly less dramatic circumstances.

Manchester United v Bayern Munich, 1999 Champions League final
If one single match could encapsulate Sir Alex Ferguson's two-and-a-half decades in charge of Manchester United, this would be it. United, who were chasing the Treble after winning the Premier League and FA Cup earlier that month, trailed for much of the game following Mario Basler's sixth-minute strike, only to score twice in the dying moments to snatch victory. With United missing midfield enforcers Paul Scholes and Roy Keane through suspension, it looked like it was all over until Teddy Sheringham, who came on as a 67th-minute substitute, netted the equaliser before setting up Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for a 93rd-minute winner.

Red Rum v Crisp, 1973 Grand National
Arguably the most famous horse in the history of racing, Red Rum cemented his place in the history books when he fought back from the point-of-no-return to defeat Crisp at Aintree. Despite starting the race as joint favourite, Ginger McCain's gelding looked to be down and out as he trailed by over 30 lengths at the final canal turn. But under jockey Brian Fletcher, Red Rum staged a dramatic comeback to pip a flagging Crisp for the first of three Grand National victories.

Ian Botham's 149no sparked one of the greatest comebacks in cricket history © Getty Images

England v Australia, 1981 Ashes
England were in disarray after being forced to follow on at Headingly, the hosts were faced with going 2-0 down in the Ashes series on home soil. Ian Botham, who had resigned as captain after the second Test at Lord's, produced the performance of his life to keep England's hopes of victory alive. Botham, who was later knighted, hit an unbeaten 149 to force Australia to bat again. Needing to make a measly 129 runs to win, the tourists were skittled by Bob Willis' 8 for 43 as England claimed an unlikely victory by 18 runs - before going on to win the series 3-1.

France v New Zealand, 1999 RWC semi-final
The All Blacks, the red-hot favourites to win the Webb Ellis Cup, looked to be firmly on course for a place in the Rugby World Cup final when they stormed to a 24-10 lead against heavy underdogs France, who had picked up the Five Nations wooden spoon earlier that year. Les Bleus' hopes of an upset looked to have faded when they trailed by 14 points after Jonah Lomu crossed for his second try shortly after the break. But Christophe Lamaison clearly hadn't read the script. The fly-half, who was only in the team following an injury to Thomas Castaignede, led a gutsy fightback as France stormed back, scoring 26 points in 13 minutes to snatch a 43-31 victory.

Nick Faldo v Greg Norman, 1996 Masters
British golf fans had all but written off Nick Faldo's hopes of victory at the 1996 Masters. Australian Greg Norman shot a course-record 63 to lead from the first round and by Saturday evening he had stretched his lead to six shots heading into the final round at Augusta. What happened next was one of the greatest meltdowns in sporting history. Norman found the bunker on his opening tee-shot and it never got much better as he saw Faldo stroll to victory by an astonishing five strokes to claim his third green jacket.

Dennis Taylor v Steve Davis, 1985 World Snooker Championship final
Steve Davis had one hand on the World Snooker Championship trophy when he strolled to an 8-0 lead against Dennis Taylor. The defending champion missed a green in the ninth frame, but little did he realise at the time just how costly that would prove to be as Taylor, famous for his upside-down glasses, won the frame to begin one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history. Millions tuned into the final session at The Crucible to see Taylor claw his way back to 17-17 before winning a tense deciding frame on a respotted black.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk