Football is incredibly unpredictable game- one team could be winning comfortably but nothing should be taken for granted until the final whistle. Throughout the history of world football, there have been numerous clashes where teams have looked in complete control of the situation, only to become the victim of an unimaginable comeback. One game like that could change completely the mindset of the players who represent their club or nation for the whole tournament. In this article, we walk down memory lane to one of the most dreamlike comebacks in football you’ve never heard of- Levski vs Royal Antwerp.
The date is 26 September 1989. Royal Antwerp hosted the UEFA Cup’s round of 32 clash which saw them facing Vitosha Sofia (the previous name of Levski). Everything had to be decided in this 2nd leg as the first fixture ended in a goalless draw. After 6 minutes of play, the deadlock was broken by Levski’s midfielder Georgi Slavchev after a serious mistake by Antwerp’s keeper. The scoreboard didn’t change a bit until an 82nd minute equaliser by Geilenkirchen, which still wasn’t enough for the Belgian side to progress through the next round. To make matters worse, Georgi Donkov and Petar Mihstarski netted 1 goal each to make the result 1:3 in the 89th minute which surely killed the mood in Antwerp’s squad… or did it? The Belgian commentator of the match- Michel Lecomte, was undoubtedly praying for something supernatural to happen:
“If a miracle happens, I will buy a bottle of champagne for all my colleagues!”
In other circumstances, every Royal Antwerp fan would have forgotten this promise but that wasn’t to be the case. 91st and 94th minute goals by Nico Claesen made the score 3:3, just 1 goal away from the unthinkable. 7 minutes into injury time, Quaranta converted a fine cross with a perfectly placed header to produce one of the most iconic comebacks in club's history. The supporters entered the pitch to congratulate their heroes and relieve this special moment with them. The quote from Michel Lecomte is written on the stand where he sat.
On the other hand, Levski wrote one of the most shameful pages in their history books. In the morning of 27 September, mass media around Western Europe were quick to outline the Bulgarian team’s disaster class. What's more, Levski received a nickname from the European newspapers which the rival fans still remember- ‘Euroidiots'. To top it off, a fan of ‘The Blues’ demanded a refund from the club because he broke his TV after the final whistle. This match unavoidably marked the most embarrassing performance from any Bulgarian club on the European stage.