The Contagious Quality of the Sporting Comeback

Two consecutive days and two consecutive Champions League second-leg semi-final matches have born witness to two of the most extraordinary comebacks in footballing history.

First Liverpool overturned a first-leg deficit of three goals to beat Barcelona by four goals to nil at Anfield; then Tottenham, trailing by one goal to Ajax after the first-leg, and then two further goals after thirty-five minutes of the second-leg, mount a second-half revival, scoring three goals, the last deep into injury time, to win the tie on the away goals rule.

The outpouring of passion at the end of both matches was a culmination of the build-up of emotions upon which both comebacks were made possible.

What a difference one goal can make.  In both matches, you could see the growing belief and confidence of the trailing team upon scoring; the sudden doubts and fear of the team that were ahead.  This confidence is infectious.  As are those fears.

Part of the reason for a rise in the levels of confidence in a body comes from past experience; mentally, being able to draw on previous successes evokes positive thought patterns.  In this respect, Liverpool’s victory over Barcelona could have played a part in Spurs’ triumph over Ajax.  The Tottenham players had witnessed what Liverpool had achieved the day before; they began to believe that they could do the same.  In fact, the entire Champions League 2018-19 campaign has been characterised by similar tales of triumph over adversity, which is one of the reasons it has been such an exciting tournament: Tottenham’s quarter final against Manchester City; Ajax over-turning a deficit against Real Madrid in the Round of 16; Manchester United’s unlikely win against Paris Saint-Germain at the same knock-out stage.

There is a contagious quality to sporting comebacks.  Contagion liberally mixed with a natural flood of serotonin and testosterone, and long hours spent training on the practice pitch.

Liverpool or Tottenham?  Who is going to win the Final?  Well, based on the evidence, it will be whichever team is losing three-nil at half-time.

© Donnie Blake


Donnie Blake lets his emotions show.

Check out Donnie’s football novels Artie Yard and a Very English Pickle and Artie Yard and the Bogotá Bracelet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s