It’s no secret that the football world is now Bundesliga crazy. We’ve all been brushing up on our German A-Z, from our Tyler Adams’ to our Dan-Axel Zagadou’s, and the whole of Europe is fully engrossed in fußball.
But on this day, 23 May 2020, all eyes should have been fixated on Wembley Stadium.
That’s right, today is FA Cup final day. No matter what critics and doubters say about our ageing and increasingly unpopular competition, the old girl is still as enchanting as ever.
And nothing quite beats that feeling of waking up on cup final day, knowing that you have a brilliant, intense and gripping day of football ahead of you. Anyone who’s lucky enough to have watched their beloved club step out on the Wembley turf for an FA Cup final knows this best of all.
So, since this wonderful occasion has become one of many pleasures to be whipped from beneath us, 90min has decided to take you on a trip down memory lane, as we look back at the greatest FA Cup final comebacks in history. Strap yourselves in boys and girls, there are some pretty bonkers rollercoasters ahead.
Blackpool 4-3 Bolton (1953)
The Stanley Matthews final. Football’s original hero, Stanley Matthews, gave possibly his most famous performance in the 1953 FA Cup final, as Blackpool faced off against Bolton Wanderers. But it was the great Nat Lofthouse who kicked off the scoring in this epic tie, putting Bolton ahead inside two minutes.
And the Trotters dominated the next hour of play, flying into a commanding 3-1 lead on 55 minutes. But just as Blackpool looked dead and buried, Matthews turned on the style. The tricky winger tormented Bolton down the right flank, beating his man and crossing time and time again, and finally Stan Mortensen was on hand to convert one of his many deliveries.
Mortensen then drew Blackpool level with 89 minutes on the clock, and the Seasiders completed an unthinkable turnaround in injury time, when William Perry tucked away another wicked Matthews cross.
The fact Mortensen bagged a hat-trick, but the game is still remembered as ‘the Matthews final’ tells you all you need to know.
Everton 3-2 Sheffield Wednesday (1966)
This is not the first Merseyside comeback that we’ll encounter in this list. But on this occasion, it was the Toffees who showed huge spirit to overturn a two-goal deficit on the biggest of stages. Everton got off to a bad start in this 1966 FA Cup final, when James McCalliog and David Ford scored to put Sheffield Wednesday into a match-winning position.
But the Toffees regrouped and bounced back, scoring twice in five second half minutes through Michael Trebilcock. And with 15 minutes to go, David Temple won the game for the Merseysiders, breaking free down the right and firing across the keeper into the bottom corner.
An FA Cup classic.
Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United (1979)
Not all comebacks end in glory and champagne. And Manchester United learnt this the hard way in their 1979 FA Cup final clash with Arsenal, coming from two goals down to level the match – only to throw it all away seconds later.
The Gunners were comfortably in control of the final from the beginning, going ahead on 12 minutes through Brian Talbot’s calm finish from a smart cut-back on the byline. A Frank Stapleton header doubled the advantage two minutes before half-time, and the Gunners looked to be coasting to victory.
And it seemed destined to be a routine win for the Gunners for the majority of the second half, too. But never write off the Red Devils. Two goals in the 86th and 88th minute drew Man Utd level, and Arsenal were on the ropes. But the Gunners went straight down the other end and snatched the trophy less than a minute later, with Alan Sunderland becoming the hero of the day. Delirium and gone, in the blink of an eye.
Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool (2001)
If anyone is unsure how Michael Owen won a Ballon d’Or, they need only to watch this pulsating FA Cup final between Arsenal and Liverpool in 2001. It’s a final which probably keeps Arsene Wenger awake at night even to this day, wondering just how the Gunners would conspire to lose this match.
Arsenal dominated the game from the outset, and Liverpool’s backline had their work cut out dealing with the likes of Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, and of course, Thierry Henry. The Reds were forced into plenty of last-ditch tackles, clearing the ball off the line on at least two occasions, as the Gunners began to force the issue.
Ljungberg finally broke the Reds’ resolve with just under 20 minutes left, and an exhausted Liverpool looked down and out for the count. But enter a young and sprightly Owen. The starlet had been prodding and probing throughout the match, and as minds and bodies started to tire around him, the pacy striker exploded into life.
With five minutes to go, Owen found space in the box following a spell of pinball from a free-kick, and the number 10 acrobatically rifled home an equaliser. And with Arsenal reeling at the thought of extra-time, the Liverpool star duly ripped that prospect away from the Gunners, chasing down a long ball, tearing beyond two defenders and then driving a wonderful strike into the bottom corner of the net.
Two moments of sheer brilliance from a superb footballer.
Arsenal 3-2 Hull (2014)
Well, they are the modern day FA Cup kings, aren’t they? And this time it was Arsenal who had to dig deep, as the north London club broke Hull City hearts, completing a dramatic comeback from 2-0 down in 2014.
The Tigers were in dreamland after only eight minutes, profiting from some shoddy marking on set-pieces to race into a 2-0 lead, thanks to strikes from defenders James Chester and Curtis Davies.
But despite their rocky start, the Gunners rallied, and Santi Cazorla halved the deficit with a stunning long range free-kick. Arsenal completed their comeback with 20 minutes to play, when Laurent Koscielny bundled home from close range, and the game went to extra-time.
And there was only going to be one winner as the minutes ticked by, and as a flagging Hull side dropped deeper and deeper, it was left to Aaron Ramsey to poke home the winner following a delicious Olivier Giroud back-heel. Mission impossible – complete.