The Football Faithful
·27 May 2023
The Football Faithful
·27 May 2023
As this season’s Premier League season reaches the final day this weekend, we’ve decided to look back at some of the most memorable moments from final fixtures of past seasons.
The final day has provided some unforgettable games and narratives throughout the years, with high drama when there’s much to play for on the last weekend.
Everton looked destined for the drop during the 1993/94 season and headed into the final day knowing even a win over Wimbledon was not enough to guarantee safety.
The Toffees had not been relegated since 1951, but a talented team had been badly managed and headed into the final fixtures of the season in a precarious position. Things went from bad to worse for the Blues, as Wimbledon raced into a two-goal lead inside 20 minutes.
Dean Holdsworth’s early penalty and a Gary Ablett own goal looked to have sealed Everton’s fate, with scores elsewhere meaning the Toffees needed a miracle.
Back came the Blues however, on one of the greatest afternoons of Everton’s Premier League history. Graham Stuart converted a nerveless spot-kick to pull one back before half-time, before a fine effort from Barry Horne and Stuarts’s second of the game late on turned the game around.
Sheffield United – who had led at Chelsea – lost 3-2 in west London and went down, with Everton coming back from the dead to secure top-flight status.
Blackburn were crowned champions for the first time in 81 years during the 1994/95 season, but not before a scare on the final weekend.
Rovers were two points ahead of defending champions Manchester United and looked on course for the title after Alan Shearer opened the scoring for Kenny Dalglish’s side at Liverpool, but the leaders were unable to hold onto their lead at Anfield.
John Barnes equalised for the Reds, before Jamie Redknapp’s stoppage-time free-kick stunned both sets of supporters into silence. Liverpool had appeared to inadvertently hand the Premier League title to their greatest rivals and in turn spoil the celebrations of club legend Dalglish, until news from Upton Park filtered in to Merseyside.
West Ham goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko had produced an inspired individual performance to earn his side a 1-1 draw with title-chasing Manchester United, a result which confirmed Blackburn as champions despite defeat.
Dalglish became just the third manager to lead two different clubs to top tier title success, after Herbert Chapman (Huddersfield Town and Arsenal) and Brian Clough (Derby County and Nottingham Forest).
Chelsea faced Liverpool on the final weekend of the 2002/03 season with both teams level on points in the race for Champions League football.
The clash was dubbed the ‘£20m match’ due to the prize money on offer and it was Chelsea who secured a place in Europe’s elite after a come-from-behind win at Stamford Bridge.
Sami Hyypia had headed Liverpool ahead after 11 minutes, but the lead lasted less than a minute as Marcel Desailly met Jesper Gronkjaer’s cross to level. Gronkjaer completed the comeback before half-time as the Danish winger skipped inside and curled past Jerzy Dudek’s despairing dive.
Gronkjaer’s goal earned Chelsea Champions League football, but it was worth much, much more than the £20m it had been dubbed. The west Londoners had been on the brink of financial ruin and the club’s place in the Champions League persuaded Roman Abramovich to purchase the club just weeks later and kickstart a Russian revolution that turned Chelsea into a footballing superpower.
Gronkjaer’s goal changed the face of Chelsea – and the Premier League – forever.
West Brom became the first team in Premier League history to survive having been bottom at Christmas in 2004/05, with a dramatic last day seeing the Baggies bottom of the table going into the final fixtures.
Bryan Robson’s team beat Portsmouth 2-0 at The Hawthorns to secure survival, but were made to wait for the results from elsewhere before pandemonium could ensure.
Geoff Horsfield opened the scoring with an excellent volley after coming off the bench, before loanee Kieran Richardson doubled the advantage.
Celebrations were relatively muted as West Brom waited to discover the results of their relegation rivals, but defeats for Norwich and Southampton and Crystal Palace’s draw at Charlton saw the Baggies climbed above all three teams to escape.
Tottenham travelled to face West Ham knowing Champions League football would be secured for the first time if the club matched the result of north London rivals Arsenal against Wigan.
Spurs were favourites to reach the top four, but an infamous lasagne saw their season end in disaster. Martin Jol’s side requested a postponement of the game after several players fell ill on the eve of the match, as sickness swept through the Spurs squad.
The request was declined and a depleted Spurs took on West Ham, but fell to a 2-1 defeat as goals from Carl Fletcher and Yossi Benayoun earned the Hammers a win.
Across the capital, Arsenal were celebrating as a Thierry Henry hat-trick secured a 4-2 win over Wigan. The final fixture played at Highbury proved to be a memorable one as the Gunners secured Champions League football at the expense of their bitter rivals.
“That night after dinner things started to take a turn for the worse,” Former Spurs midfielder Jermaine Jenas recalled to CBS.
“Michael Carrick was one of the worst by a mile, Michael Dawson wasn’t feeling great, Jermain Defoe was touch and go. You go through most of the team on that day and they were in a bad place.
“All we could hear after the game was singing and dancing and celebrating, that West Ham had stopped us from getting into the Champions League. You mix that in with the cubicles and people being sick, it was probably the worst dressing room moment I’ve ever been involved in.”
West Ham left it late to secure Premier League survival in 2006/07, as the club’s star signing rescued the Hammers in the season’s final weeks.
Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano had arrived at West Ham in a controversial deal wrapped in third-party ownership issues and, while the latter failed to make an impact, the former overcame a difficult start to become a cult hero.
West Ham stayed up ahead of Sheffield United on goal difference, but that was far from the end of the drama. The Hammers had been fined £5.5m after breaking rules over the legalities of the Tevez transfer, but crucially avoided a points deduction.
Suitably aggrieved, Sheffield United sought compensation and a bitter legal battle followed. The Hammers eventually reached an out-of-court settlement that saw £20m handed to their relegated rivals
The defining final-day moment and, for most, the iconic imagery of the Premier League era.
Manchester City’s first Premier League title was secured in thrilling fashion in 2011/12, as the Citizens came from behind to snatch the title on the final weekend.
Roberto Mancini’s men needed to beat Queens Park Rangers to be crowned champions, but the relegation-threatened R’s ripped up the script to lead 2-1 at the Etihad as the game entered stoppage-time.
Edin Dzeko’s header set up a grandstand finish, before Sergio Aguero scored the golden goal that sealed City’s success. The Argentine fired home in the final seconds of the season to send the Etihad into ecstasy, with Martin Tyler’s ‘Aguerooooooo!’ commentary the soundtrack to the stunning scenes.
Manchester United had done their part after winning at Sunderland, but Aguero’s magic moment ensured City’s first title in 44 years.
After 1,500 games in charge of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson might have thought he had seen it all.
His final fixture in charge threw up a unique classic however, as United shared 10 goals in a chaotic draw at West Brom. The Red Devils had already been crowned champions and raced into a three-goal lead in Fergie’s farewell, but goals from James Morrison and Romelu Lukaku brought the Baggies back into the game.
United restored their three-goal cushion as Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez made it 5-2 to the visitors, but three goals inside the final nine minutes earned West Brom a 5-5 draw and denied Fergie a final win.
Lukaku scored his second to reduce the arrears, before Youssouf Mulumbu made it 5-4 moments later. Lukaku – who came on as a substitute – completed his hat-trick after scrambling in West Brom’s fifth and a pulsating Premier League finale ended all square.
Liverpool said goodbye to Steven Gerrard on the final weekend of the 2014/15 season and did so in perhaps the worst way possible.
Gerrard’s farewell at Anfield had already been ruined with defeat to Crystal Palace, before Stoke stunned the Reds to run riot in the midfielder’s last game for the club.
Liverpool were utterly awful to find themselves 5-0 down at half-time, the first time the club had conceded five first-half goals in a Premier League fixture.
Gerrard managed to mark his 710th and final appearance with a goal, but it was little consolation as former Liverpool forward Peter Crouch headed in Stoke’s sixth. It was the first time since 1963 that Liverpool had conceded six goals in a league game.
Manchester City produced another captivating comeback on the final day to seal the Premier League title in 2021/22.
Pep Guardiola’s side needed to win to secure the title ahead of Liverpool, but found themselves two goals down at the Etihad as goals from Matty Cash and Philippe Coutinho put Aston Villa 2-0 ahead.
The narrative was set for Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard to help former club Liverpool win the title, having famously failed to win the Premier League trophy during his playing career at Anfield.
However, City showed the spirit of champions and came back to turn the game around. Three goals in five minutes completed a compelling comeback from the Citizens, with Ilkay Gundogan heading in the first to give his side hope.
Rodri’s fine finish then levelled the score, before Gundogan turned in a second from close range to spark wild celebrations from the home crowd.
View publisher imprint