Ranking the Premier League's 10 greatest final-day moments
West Ham helping Blackburn clinch the title over Man Utd and Man City's late winner are just two of the games included in this Premier League countdown.
10) Sir Alex goes out with a bang | West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United | 2012/13
Final-day drama is often inspired by the destination of the title, Champions League qualification or, at the other end of the table, relegation.
Sometimes, though, it simply comes down to the game itself, and few have been more entertaining than the 5-5 draw – the first in Premier League history – between Manchester United and West Brom in 2012/13.
He probably would have preferred three points, being a serial winner and everything, but the result still represented a fitting final game in management for Sir Alex Ferguson, who built his reputation over 26 years at United on purposeful attacking, late drama and dramatic comebacks.
This game had the lot, with United leading 3-0 and 5-2 before inexplicably conceding three late on to draw the game.
The result meant little for either team, with the Red Devils having already secured the title and the Baggies safely nestled in mid-table, but the final score – and the post-match scenes of Ferguson being serenaded by United’s devoted away fans – puts this among the best final-day moments in Premier League history.
9) City seal their own fate | Manchester City v Liverpool | 1995/6
With the bottomless funds flowing around the brand-new Etihad campus and the club’s trophy cabinet growing significantly each year, it is easy to forget that Manchester City’s seasons used to hover somewhere between mediocre and plain old bad.
It was very much the latter on the final day of the 1995/96 season, as Maine Road descended into a pantomime of amateurism and botched calculations.
Drawing 2-2 with Liverpool with 10 minutes to go and knowing they needed to better either Southampton or Coventry’s result to avoid relegation, manager Alan Ball directed his players to waste time after being told Coventry were losing.
As it was, the Sky Blues were also drawing, and City unwittingly sealed their passage into Division One by successfully running down the clock.
One thing’s for sure, an error as comical or fatal as that would never be allowed to happen under Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano. Or anyone with a working mobile phone and internet signal, for that matter.
8) Wetherall to the rescue | Bradford v Liverpool | 1999/00
Sky Sports pundit Rodney Marsh famously declared he would shave his head if Bradford City survived the 1999/00 season, the club’s debut Premier League campaign and their first in the top-flight in 72 years.
Marsh claimed the Bantams were the worst side he had ever seen in the division, but he was forced to eat his words just months later as he lost his locks in the centre circle of Valley Parade following more final-day drama.
A bullet header from David Wetherall secured a 1-0 win over Liverpool, which saw Bradford survive with just 36 points – a then-record lowest points total. The result also did local rivals Leeds a favour by allowing them to clinch fourth place and a memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals.
The club had won just nine games all season and were five points from safety with four games to go, somehow finishing above Wimbledon and earning another campaign in the self-proclaimed best league in the world.
7) Survival Sunday | The five-way relegation battle | 2010/11
With only West Ham already relegated, the day had started with just one point separating the five teams in danger of going down with them.
Wigan got the win they needed at Stoke, while three-first half goals at Molineux meant Blackburn were soon in the clear.
When Craig Gardner slammed home an equaliser for Birmingham with 11 minutes to go at White Hart Lane, they were also safe – provided things stayed exactly as they were.
They didn’t, with a consolation goal for local rivals Wolves putting them back in the bottom three on goals scored before a Roman Pavlyuchenko winner sealed their fate
It was only in February that the Blues had beaten Arsenal in the League Cup final at Wembley, meaning they became the first team in Premier League history to win a trophy and get relegated in the same season.
Blackpool, who led briefly at Old Trafford before succumbing 4-2, joined them beneath the dotted line, and would find themselves all the way down in League Two within five years.
6) Tevez makes the difference | Manchester United v West Ham | 2006/07
Whether it’s dealing with their own fate or impacting on others’ (more on that later), West Ham are no strangers to drama at the last.
Never more so than the final day of 2006/07, when Carlos Tevez scored the winner at Old Trafford to secure the Hammers' Premier League status and relegate Sheffield United.
Having already wrapped up the title, Manchester United played a second-string side in preparation for an FA Cup final against Chelsea, but there were far more controversial factors at play.
West Ham had recently been fined by the Premier League for breaking third-party ownership rules when they signed Tevez, alongside Javier Mascherano, the previous summer.
But that didn’t stop the Argentine from scoring seven goals in Hammers’ last 10 games to help them to acquire 21 of their 41 points from the middle of March onwards.
The uproar that followed, which included a march on the House of Commons by a Blades delegation led by Sean Bean, saw this final day go down in infamy.
The two clubs would ultimately agree an out-of-court compensation settlement worth more than £18m.
As for Tevez, he proved to be one of the most-discussed imports in Premier League history, providing moments of brilliance and trouble at both Manchester United and City before eventually leaving England to join Juventus in 2013.
5) Miklosko's wonder show | West Ham v Man Utd/Liverpool v Blackburn | 1994/95
Yorke and Cole. Henry and Bergkamp. Sturridge and Suarez.
The Premier League has boasted many brilliant strike partnerships over the years, but few come close to Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, who fired 49 goals between them to fire Blackburn Rovers to their first and only title in 1994/95.
The prolific duo helped Rovers join a select group of just six clubs to have won the Premier League, but things could – and possibly should – have been so different for Kenny Dalglish’s side.
Liverpool opened the door for Manchester United by beating Rovers 2-1 on the final day, but the defending champions couldn’t take advantage after being held to a 1-1 draw at West Ham, with goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko producing an inspired performance that should leave Rovers fans eternally grateful.
The significance of their success cannot be underestimated, with Blackburn – bankrolled by local businessman and lifelong fan Jack Walker – managing to break the supremacy of a United side that won two titles either side of their triumph.
It would take 20 years before another club, Leicester City, would challenge the status quo in the same way.
4) Lasagne-gate | West Ham v Tottenham Hotspur | 2005/06
Lasagne. Delicious layers of beef (or vegetable) ragu, bechamel sauce, cheese and pasta baked to perfection, ideally with a serving of garlic bread on the side. Who doesn’t love it?
Spurs fans, that’s who, with the final day of the 2005/06 season changing the way many looked at the dish forever.
After enjoying a glorious season under Martin Jol, who had a team of lovely footballers such as Michael Carrick, Ledley King and Robbie Keane, Spurs were on the cusp of achieving Champions League football with a first-ever top-four finish. Even better, it was going to be at the expense of rivals Arsenal. All they had to do was match the Gunners’ result on the final day.
Their trip to West Ham was never going to be easy, but Spurs' hopes were not helped when most of their players became violently ill the night before the game after eating a suspect tray of lasagne included in the Canary Wharf hotel buffet.
Jol’s patched-up side lost the game 2-1, while Arsenal beat Wigan 4-2 to clinch their place in Europe's elite competition and, not for the first time, gain bragging rights over their neighbours with a later-than-normal St Totteringham’s Day.
Spurs have since eclipsed the Gunners under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino, although some supporters could maybe argue that that power shift would have come sooner were it not for their fateful choice of pre-match meal.
3) The Greatest Escape | West Bromwich Albion v Portsmouth | 2004/05
Sometimes, preserving top-flight status for another season can feel as good as winning a trophy.
Just ask Bryan Robson – with two Premier League titles and three FA Cups to his name – who ranked this day in 2005 as the best of all his career achievements.
All three relegations spots were still yet to be filled when the final round of fixtures kicked off on 16 May.
Norwich were favourites to stay up before getting battered 6-0 at Fulham, while Southampton threw away a lead to lose 2-1 at home to Manchester United.
West Brom led Portsmouth 2-0, thanks to a goals from journeyman Geoff Horsfield a minute after coming off the bench and loanee Kieran Richardson (remember him?), but it wasn’t until Charlton equalised late on against Crystal Palace that greatest escape in the competition's history could be confirmed.
The Boing Boing Baggies, who had spent the previous three seasons swapping places between the Championship and Premier League, became the first team to survive having been bottom at Christmas. They remain the only team to stay up having been bottom of the as-it-stands table during the last day.
The pitch invasion that followed the win, complete with Richardson being lofted by supporters like a budget Bobby Moore, is one of the Premier League's most enduring moments, topped off by the Pompey fans in the away end simultaneously celebrating Southampton’s demise in a wonderful show of pettiness.
2) The £1billion goal | Chelsea v Liverpool | 2002/03
Now this is quite a lofty position for a moment based on subtext rather than any immediate drama, but there can be no doubting it’s importance in changing the landscape of English and European football.
Chelsea met Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in ‘the £20m match’, with the riches of the Champions League awaiting the winner.
The Blues were facing financial ruin at the time, and qualification for Europe’s premier competition was integral to their future in the division.
It was Jesper Gronkjaer’s 26th-minute curler that sealed a 2-1 win, convincing Roman Abramovich to complete a £140m takeover just weeks later.
The rest, as they say, is history, with the Russian tycoon going on to splurge over £1bn on the club, ultimately leading them to both Premier League and Champions League glory.
1) AGUERO-OOOOO | Manchester City v QPR | 2011/12
“If they win the title from here, I don’t think it will ever be topped,” declared Martin Tyler as Manchester City trailed QPR 2-1 with just four minutes remaining in the 2011/12 season.
Just over 120 seconds later, Tyler was screaming “AGUEROOOOO” down the mic in what is officially the most iconic moment in Premier League history.
Having won their previous five matches to put the title in their hands – including a seismic 1-0 victory over rivals Manchester United – City looked to have messed up what was an ideal final game against lowly QPR.
That was before Edin Dzeko’s stoppage-time leveller and Sergio Aguero’s famous strike handed City the title in the most dramatic circumstances imaginable, decided by goal difference for the very first time with just seconds of the season to go.
“I swear you will never see anything like this ever again. So watch it, drink it in,” Tyler roared; his voice cracking, the Etihad shaking. Few could have put it better.
The moment was made even sweeter by the scenes at the Stadium of Light, where United’s cautious celebrations were cut short after a 1-0 win over Sunderland. City had their first Premier League title, and were noisy neighbours no more.
While it is foolish to rule anything out in football, this is a final day that, as Tyler insisted, will never be topped.
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