Let's hear it for heroic comebacks



Chelsea manager Antonio Conte (right) and Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp

Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

Nearly 20 years ago I was in the crowd for my favourite Chelsea match; an FA Cup 4th round tie on a chilly Sunday in January, under the Stamford Bridge floodlights. Visitors Liverpool were 2-0 up at half-time and cruising.

Manager Ruud Gullit took Scott Minto off, and put on Mark Hughes. Four minutes later, he scored. Then Gianfranco Zola scored. Then Gianluca Vialli netted twice as Chelsea punctured a club guilty of a smug sense of entitlement.

The Blues went on to lift the trophy, helped by Robbie Di Matteo’s wondergoal after 42 seconds at Wembley.

Liverpool hate to admit it, but that was the turning point in both clubs’ fortunes. A quarter of a century has passed since the history-laden Scousers won the league, yet Chelsea have been Premier League victors four times in 11 years.

So 2-0 down to Liverpool at half-time held no fears on Friday night last week. But the brief comeback to 2-1 was where it ended... and with it Tony Conte’s honeymoon.

The lesson? If your opponents are wilting and you’re going to make a dramatic triple substitution, don’t wait until seven minutes from the end.

On Tuesday night, it looked like the same old story. Chelsea were 2-0 down in first-half stoppage time at Leicester in the League Cup. Then Gary Cahill clawed one back, Cesar Azpilicueta levelled, and in extra time – with the Foxes down to 10 men – forgotten hero Cesc Fabregas scored two late goals for (you’re getting ahead of me here) a glorious 4-2 comeback.

Such turnarounds are real rarities for Blues fans. In fact, the last time Chelsea came back to win after being two down was 14 years ago.

Next up, Arsenal at the Emirates. John Terry hopes to be back, and Fabregas has surely done enough to earn a start. Anyway, didn’t he used to have some connection with the Gooners?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.

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