Stories

7 teams who needed a favour from a rival: title-chases, drop dodges and fan-led losses

Burton and Derby are hardly vociferous enemies, but the Brewers need a hand from their neighbours to have a chance of staying up this weekend. Matt Allen recalls more examples from history... 

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1. Man United 2-1 Tottenham, 1999

On the final day of the 1998/99 campaign, Arsenal needed a lacklustre and mid-table Spurs to perform the unthinkable: enter Fortress Old Trafford and turn over Alex Ferguson's Treble-chasing side. Only then would Arsene Wenger's men have a shot at winning their second Premier League title in as many years. 

The circumstances surrounding the fixture added spice. George Graham, the former Arsenal manager, had been installed at White Hart Lane and was making jokes that Hobbit-sized winger Jose Dominguez would play in goal. Spurs fans arrived in the away end with a sign that read, "Let Them Win".

Briefly, the miracle was on when Les Ferdinand put Spurs ahead in the first half, only for the north Londoners to leak two decisive goals either side of half-time - one from David Beckham, the winner from Andy Cole two minutes after the restart - and end the Gunners' title hopes. The teases.

2. England 4-1 Netherlands, Euro '96

Having been embarrassed by Paul Gascoigne's smarts in a 2-0 defeat days previously, Scotland then suffered more frustration at the hands of England when the Auld Enemy contrived to smash Holland out of the park in a 4-1 group stage victory. Ultimately the result sent Scotland packing, although with a little help from Terry Venables' team it could have been a cause for celebration. 

Scotland, having drawn with the Dutch at Villa Park and defeated Switzerland 1-0 in the final group game, needed England to keep a clean sheet if they were to reach the knockout phase. Down the motorway, England were leading Holland 4-0, but when Patrick Kluivert popped up with a late strike, England's cake was iced: they had battered one of the pre-tournament favourites and conceded to knock Scotland out on goal difference.

3. Liverpool 2-1 Blackburn, 1995

Liverpool hosted title-chasing Blackburn knowing that victory would hand the title to much-hated rivals Manchester United. Before the game, rumours were rife that Liverpool would - to quote a much-used phrase - roll over and die, ensuring the spoils went to Alan Shearer & Co.

What happened was the complete opposite, however; Liverpool rattled Rovers, defeating them 2-1 with a Jamie Redknapp free-kick winner. The glum mood around Anfield was quickly lifted moments later with the news that United had blown their chances of winning the championship, having drawn against West Ham.

4. Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea, 2010

Caught in a similar predicament to 1995, Liverpool faced Chelsea in this home fixture laden with unpleasant outcomes. A win against Carlo Ancelotti's men would ensure that the fate of the Premier League was in Manchester United's hands with one match remaining (meaning they might surpass the Anfield club's haul of 18 titles); the flip side was that Chelsea represented something of a hate figure after several feisty domestic cup and Champions League clashes.

In the end, the result echoed 2013/14's self-destructive denouement: Steven Gerrard gifted a backpass into the path of Didier Drogba, who finished his chance in a 2-0 victory. The result left Chelsea only needing to win against Wigan at home to seal their position as champions. They triumphed 8-0.