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The night Deportivo La Coruna stunned AC Milan with a classic Champions League comeback

AC Milans player Brazilian Kaka celebra 74582ec904bee428d41ecd077aea0ebb
AC Milans player Brazilian Kaka celebra 74582ec904bee428d41ecd077aea0ebb

Liverpool against Milan, Barcelona against Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool against Barcelona, Tottenham against Ajax – the list could go on.

When it comes to comebacks, no one does it quite like the UEFA Champions League.

Europe's elite club competition has produced some of the most spine-tingling, hair-raising and eyeball-popping moments in football history. And on 7 April 2004, Deportivo La Coruna used the famous stage to produce their own moment of pure euphoria and disbelief against the Rossoneri.

By the mid-noughties, the Galicians had established themselves as a European force, having qualified for the Champions League in five consecutive campaigns from 2000 to 2004. They won their first and only La Liga title in the 1999/00 campaign and finished runners up twice in the next three seasons, also securing a Copa del Rey trophy in 2002.

Their best performance in Europe was in the 2003/04 season when they reached the Champions League semi-final, courtesy of one of the great European comebacks.

The quarter-final tie between Deportivo and Milan started as most thought it would. A typically majestic Kaka brace, a powerful Andriy Shevchenko solo goal and a trademark Andrea Pirlo free kick (all within eight second-half minutes) emphatically overturned Walter Pandiani's 11th-minute strike to give the Italian giants a seemingly irreversible 4-1 first-leg win at the San Siro.

It was another starring role for Kaka as AC Milan won the first leg 4-1 | MIGUEL RIOPA/Getty Images

But the Spanish underdogs never lost faith, and only came back stronger for the second leg at the Estadio Riazor. Pandiani put them ahead on five minutes, giving Dida no chance with a lovely swivel on the edge of the area before finding the bottom corner.

Juan Carlos Valeron then pulled another goal back on 35 minutes, taking advantage of unusually sloppy goalkeeping from Dida to head in from a few yards out. And it was three before the half-time whistle when Albert Luque stole in and rifled the ball into the roof of the net, to put his side ahead on the aggregate scoreline with the away goal.

With the semi-final now theirs to lose, the Galician side didn't stop pressing and eventually sealed the sensational comeback in the 73rd minute when substitute Fran put the ball into Dida's net on the half-volley to make it 4-0 and, in doing so, put Estadio Riazor into absolute pandemonium and utter shock.

A Deportivo Coruna supporter gestures af

It was disbelief for the Deportivo supporters | MIGUEL RIOPA/Getty Images

The truly astonishing comeback would book Deportivo's place in Champions League history, as well as the 2003/04 edition of the competition's semi-finals. They would eventually lose the next round 1-0 on aggregate to Porto who, led by Jose Mourinho, went on to lift the trophy.

While Los Blanquiazules have failed to replicate such magic since and have practically vanished into mediocrity since their thrilling Champions League escapades, they will always be remembered for one of the greatest comebacks in the competition.

And, while it may be a very, very long way back up to their previous heights, Deportivo are capable of rising from the ashes – stranger things have happened.

Original Article

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