The best 100 Premier League matches: Thrill providers, city dividers and title deciders

50. Birmingham 3-0 Aston Villa, 16/09/2002

It had been 15 years since the second city's two foremost football clubs had done battle in a league match, so Villa’s trip to St Andrew’s during Birmingham’s debut Premier League season was, to say the least, eagerly anticipated. Curiously, West Midlands Police had no issue with the match being shifted to a Monday night rather than a less pub-friendly Sunday noon kick off, and this perhaps added to a particularly rowdy atmosphere.

Both sides had made a slow start to the season, but Blues flew out of the traps, and found the opener through Clinton Morrison. But Villa’s greater top level experience began to tell, and by the second half they had taken control of the game, but couldn’t find a goal. So instead, they gifted one to Birmingham, with keeper Peter Enckelman allowing Olof Mellburg’s throw to roll under his foot and into the net.

Ignoring the fact the goal shouldn’t have stood, as nobody touched the ball betwixt throw and net-bulge, Brum fans went doolally, one baseball cap wearing oik taking to the pitch to get in the Finn’s face with a gesture popular among angry motorists. Geoff Horsfield scored a third, but with minimal comedic value. JM

49. Arsenal 3-1 Man United, 25/11/2001

Two comical Fabien Barthez errors gave Arsenal the points at Highbury, as the Gunners moved clear of their fierce rivals on the way to capturing the 2001/02 league title. Against the run of play, Paul Scholes had fired past Stuart Taylor to give United the lead. But after Freddie Ljungberg had equalised with a superb chip, Barthez seemed to lose his cool, with two late howlers from the Frenchman handing the Gunners a huge victory.

First, a scuffed clearance went straight to the feet of compatriot Thierry Henry, allowing the striker to put the hosts ahead. Then, just five minutes later, Barthez's nightmare continued when he failed to deal with Patrick Vieira’s through pass, leaving Henry with the easy task of rolling the ball into the empty net. JG 

48. Arsenal 4-2 Liverpool, 09/04/2004

A Thierry Henry hat-trick, including a wonder goal labelled his ‘most important’ in an Arsenal shirt by the man himself, saw the Gunners emerge victorious in this pulsating clash that proved to be a key moment in Arsenal's unbeaten season. The result saw Wenger’s men move seven points clear at the top of the Premiership table, but in a week where they were dumped out of both the FA Cup and Champions League, it could have all been so different.

Strikes from Sami Hyypia and Michael Owen had put Liverpool 2-1 up at the break, but after Robert Pires’ equaliser early in the second half, Henry struck back with a double to complete his hat-trick, the second a mazy dribble from the half-way line, taking the ball past several defenders and finishing neatly past Jerzy Dudek.

"Thierry Henry's second goal was amazing, but I think the whole team was amazing,” Arsene Wenger said after the game. JG

47. Tottenham 6-4 Reading, 29/12/2007

Brilliant Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov bagged four goals for Spurs as they played out a topsy-turvy game with Reading. The moody marksman opened the scoring early on, before the Royals stunned White Hart Lane with goals from Kalifa Cisse and Ivar Ingimarsson either side of half time.

Reading then proceeded to miss a string of great chances before Berbatov smashed home the equaliser. Dave Kitson nodded his side back in front before Berbatov scored again with a neat volley on the turn. Not to be outdone, Kitson dinked the ball over Paul Robinson when through on goal, to put Reading 4-3 up. But Steed Malbranque struck back for Spurs, with Jermaine Defoe putting them ahead by turning in the rebound after Marcus Hahnemann had saved Robbie Keane’s penalty. Berbatov then lashed home his fourth to seal the game and rub salt in Reading’s wounds. “If you were impartial it would have been a magnificent game to watch,” said Royals boss Steve Coppell. He wasn’t wrong (again - see No.41). RS 

46. Arsenal 1-2 Hull, 27/09/2008

High-flying Premier League new boys Hull continued to climb the division with this fine win at Arsenal, which took them up to sixth place after half a dozen games. The Gunners took the lead with a Paul McShane own goal, bundled against the player by Cesc Fabregas, but Giovanni’s wonderful long-distance strike just after the hour mark put Phil Brown’s team back on terms – and within four minutes Daniel Cousin headed home an inswinging Andy Dawson corner. William Gallas hit the bar in a late Arsenal onslaught, which saw Boaz Myhill make a few splendid saves, including one from Fabregas.

Arsene Wenger said it was "a shocking defeat". Arsenal couldn’t even blame the loss on fatigue: they had made 11 changes from the young Carling Cup side that had beaten Sheffield United 6-0 in midweek. RS

45. Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal, 29/10/2011

In a season of enthralling high-scoring encounters between the uppermost sides, two teams trying to keep pace with the two Manchester clubs seemed to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of a crucial three points.

Goals from warhorses Frank Lampard and John Terry gave the hosts a 2-1 half-time lead against struggling Arsenal, but goals from Theo Walcott and Andre Santos put them in front for the first time. Juan Mata evened things up again with just 10 minutes left, but two late goals from Robin van Persie completed his hat-trick and a famous win for the Gunners. PH

44. Everton 3-4 Man United, 07/02/2004

The David Moyes era at Goodison Park has been epitomised by hard work and this performance was full of it, although ultimately with no reward. Newly signed striker Louis Saha was in a purple patch since arriving at United; he netted twice and Ruud van Nistelrooy once to give the away side a three-goal half-time lead. Insurmountable you would think, but in half an hour the Toffees were level thanks to David Unsworth, a John O’Shea own goal and Kevin Kilbane.

With the momentum well and truly swung in the Toffees’ favour, you would think there could now be only one. Wrong again. Van Nistelrooy flicked a header past Nigel Martyn with a minute left to win it for United. PH

43. Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal, 25/04/2004

Given the 2003/04 Premier League campaign was such a procession for Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, the venue of their inevitable coronation could have been insignificant. But then defeats for title rivals Manchester United and Chelsea gave them the chance to secure their crown at the home of their fiercest rivals.

It looked as though Spurs would be swept aside as they fell 2-0 behind before half time thanks to Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires goals, but they weren’t about to let their neighbours have things all their own way. Jamie Redknapp swept home from distance to make things interesting, and when Jens Lehman got himself caught up in a spot of six-yard box handbags with Robbie Keane, the Irishman was given the chance to level from the spot. He obliged, but the point was enough for Arsenal to reclaim the title from Manchester United. PH

42. Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham, 20/11/2010

Two down at half-time and without a win at their greatest rivals since 1993, Tottenham produced a remarkable comeback. Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh had put Arsene Wenger's side in control, but the turnaround started five minutes into the second period.

Half-time sub Jermain Defoe's knockdown found Rafael van der Vaart, who set up Gareth Bale for a clinical finish. Then Van der Vaart's free-kick was inexcusably handled by Cesc Fabregas, giving the Dutchman the chance to level from the spot. And with five minutes left, Van der Vaart's cross was headed in by Younes Kaboul to reduce the home sections of the Emirates to silence – no jokes, please. GP

41. Portsmouth 7-4 Reading, 29/09/2007

Any match that features 11 goals is likely to be high on entertainment – if not defending, of any standard - and this thriller between two of the Premier League’s lesser-heralded sides was exceptionally compelling.

Benjani Mwaruwari fired Portsmouth two goals ahead, but Reading got one back just before the break through Stephen Hunt and were level shortly after the interval when Dave Kitson capitalised on a David James blunder. Hermann Hreidarsson struck again for Pompey, before James made amends for his error by repelling a Nicky Shorey penalty. Benjani grabbed his hat-trick before Niko Kranjcar, Sean Davis and Sulley Muntari got in on the action. Goals for Shane Long and Shorey were enough to restore a smidgen of Reading’s pride, with manager Steve Coppell saying: “It must have been great for the impartial observer.” He wasn’t wrong. RS 


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Where's Wolves 1 - 5 West Brom - the game that got Mick McCarthy sacked and sent Wolves ultimately into League 1?