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

David Beckham Tottenham

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.

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.

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.

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.

West Brom 2-0 Portsmouth, 2005

Talk about a nightmare situation: on the final day of the 2004/05 campaign, both West Brom and Southampton were locked in four-way relegation battle which also featured Norwich and Crystal Palace. The cruel twist to this do-or-die situation came when Portsmouth - mathematically safe from the drop - travelled to The Hawthorns. A Pompey win would give Southampton a shot at survival; defeat would all but consign them to the Championship (depending on the other results).

Unsurprisingly, they did little to cheer their south coast rivals and lost 2-0, prompting ecstatic roars from both sets of supporters. Southampton were relegated – and would have been anyway after losing to Manchester United – while West Brom enjoyed a dramatic stay of execution after Palace drew 2-2 with south London rivals Charlton.

Norwich, for what it's worth, were humped 6-0 by Fulham. 

Arsenal 2-3 Leeds, 2003

Oh, how Fergie must have rubbed his hands with joy as the fixtures ticked by during the spring of 2002/03. With the season drawing to a close, relegation-threatened Leeds visited Highbury to face an Arsenal team hot on the heels of Manchester United in the title race.

An unlikely Leeds win would secure their place in the top flight for the following year. It would also make it mathematically impossible for anyone to catch United at the top of the table.

What followed was a dramatic encounter in which the Whites were twice pegged back by Arsene Wenger's men, before striker Mark Viduka smashed the final nail into their coffin with a winner two minutes from time. The victory was tinged with bitterness, however: United romped to another top-flight title, although any misgivings at Elland Road were tempered by the crucial nature of their late escape.

Lazio 0-2 Inter, 2010

With both Inter and Roma chasing down the Serie A title in 2009/10, it was up to Lazio to play potential kingmakers. But when Inter travelled to the Stadio Olimpico in one of the season's decisive games, Roma could only watch in despair as the home ultras were heard to sing: "If you win we'll beat you up."

Their team duly obliged and lost 2-0.

The match was a pure farce. Despite Lazio handling a relegation battle, banners in the crowd ordered players to "Get out of their way"; when Inter took the lead, a sign was revealed carrying the words "Oh noooo". Clearly, few members of the home support were upset with knocking their local rivals down a peg or two.

Roma were furious. "After what we've seen, calling our championship the most beautiful in the world is absurd," moaned club president Rosella Sensi. 

Now read...

QUIZ! Can you name the 35 current Premier League players who made their debut in the competition 10+ years ago?

LIST 7 players who actually improved in their 30s

New features you'd love on FourFourTwo.com

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1