Ranked! FourFourTwo's 50 best games of the decade
30. Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool (Premier League 2017/18)
Neither Arsenal nor Liverpool were defensively sound enough to compete for the Premier League title in 2017/18, which is exactly what they proved in this entertaining December clash. A Philippe Coutinho header gave the Reds a 1-0 half-time lead, and they appeared to be well on their way to collecting all three points when Mohamed Salah curled home from the edge of the area.
Arsenal responded instantly, though, Alexis Sanchez taking advantage of a loss of concentration from Joe Gomez to claw one back within a matter of seconds. And the hosts weren’t done there: Granit Xhaka’s 30-yard strike drew them level, before Mesut Ozil latched onto Alexandre Lacazette’s backheel to complete a quick-fire comeback.
Yet the drama still wasn’t over. Liverpool regrouped and were level again 13 minutes later, as Roberto Firmino’s powerful strike was fumbled into the net by Petr Cech. Both sides had chances for a winner late on but had to settle for a point apiece.
29. Boca Juniors 1-3 River Plate (Copa Liberatadores 2018)
Football matches don’t come much bigger than this. The spectacular rivalry between Boca Juniors and River Plate is more than a century old, but 2018 was the first time the Buenos Aires-based duo had met in the Copa Libertadores final. Regardless of the eventual outcome, it wasn’t going to be dull.
The first leg at La Bombonera ended in a 2-2 draw, but the return at River’s Estadio Monumental never came to pass after the Boca team bus was attacked en route to the stadium. The game was controversially moved to Madrid after the authorities ruled that it couldn’t take place in Argentina, seemingly handing Boca an advantage.
That feeling was strengthened when Dario Benedetto drew first blood at the Santiago Bernabeu to give Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side the lead, although Lucas Pratto’s 68th-minute strike sent the match to extra time.
Juan Quinteiro took advantage after Boca had Wilmar Barrios sent off, and the 10 men soon became nine when Fernando Gago was forced off through injury. Boca continued to frantically push forward, but Pity Martinez made sure of a River victory in stoppage time.
28. Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Malaga (Champions League 2012/13)
A dull 0-0 draw in the first leg of this Champions League quarter-final offered little hint of what was to come at Signal Iduna Park. Dortmund were favourites to progress to the last four but Manuel Pellegrini’s Malaga delivered an excellent performance, twice taking the lead - first through Joaquin in the opening half, then via an Eliseu strike with eight minutes left to play.
Dortmund were on the brink of a surprise elimination, initially looking too stunned to mount a response. The hosts eventually clicked into gear, though, with Marco Reus levelling the aggregate score in the first minute of stoppage time.
Jurgen Klopp’s side were still trailing on away goals, however, with extra time no longer a possibility. Roared on by their vociferous home support, BVB immediately charged forward upon regaining possession and grabbed the crucial third goal, Felipe Santana bundling the ball home after it ricocheted his way on the goalline.
27. Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool (Premier League 2013/14)
Liverpool’s title hopes had already been severely dented by the time of their visit to Selhurst Park on 5 May, having suffered a 2-0 defeat by Chelsea in their previous outing. Nevertheless, victory over a Crystal Palace team who had nothing left to play for would have moved the Reds three points clear at the summit and piled the pressure back onto Manchester City ahead of their upcoming meeting with West Ham.
Brendan Rodgers’ side came flying out of the blocks and took the lead through Joe Allen, before moving further clear with goals from Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez early in the second half. Liverpool players even raced to retrieve the ball from the net after Suarez’s strike, keen to eat away at Manchester City’s superior goal difference.
In the end, though, that proved redundant. Damien Delaney’s speculative effort pulled one back for Palace in the 78th minute, before Dwight Gayle notched up the atmosphere a few decibels with the home team’s second. Liverpool were visibly unnerved by this stage, and their loss of composure allowed Gayle to latch onto Glenn Murray’s superb chest pass to convert the unlikeliest of equalisers and kill off the Reds’ title ambitions.
26. Netherlands 0-1 Spain (2010 World Cup Final)
A new world champion was to be crowned in 2010, as the Netherlands and Spain locked horns in Johannesburg. What followed was a tempestuous encounter, with the Dutch reasoning that they could only beat Vicente del Bosque’s side by physically overwhelming them.
It almost worked. Nine Netherlands players were shown yellow cards, including Nigel de Jong - somehow - for planting his studs into Xabi Alonso’s chest. But Spain’s flowing football was certainly disrupted, and the best chance of the game in normal time fell to Arjen Robben, who failed to beat Iker Casillas in a one-on-one.
Spain refused to be cowered, however, and made a noticeable push in the second period of extra time after the Netherlands had been reduced to 10 men when Johnny Heitinga was sent off. With four minutes left to play they scored the goal that won them the World Cup, Cesc Fabregas feeding Andres Iniesta to fire the ball into the bottom corner.
25. West Brom 5-5 Manchester United (Premier League 2012/13)
Alex Ferguson’s last game as Manchester United manager was one of the most chaotic of his 27-year tenure at Old Trafford. The Red Devils had already wrapped up the Premier League table and West Brom were guaranteed a top-half finish, which meant the shackles were nowhere to be found at The Hawthorns on the final weekend.
United raced into an early lead through Shinji Kagawa, which was quickly doubled when Jonas Olsson turned the ball into his own net in the ninth minute. Alexander Buttner made it 3-0 on the half-hour mark, and although James Morrison and Romelu Lukaku struck either side of the interval to make it 2-3, further goals from Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez seemed to give the visitors an unassailable advantage.
The Baggies were determined to end an excellent season on a high, though, and quick-fire goals from Lukaku and Youssouf Mulumbu gave them hope. It was left to Lukaku to have the last word, the Chelsea loanee completing his hat-trick in the 86th minute to earn West Brom a point.
24. Spain 4-0 Italy (Euro 2012)
Euro 2012 was dominated by one debate: had Spain become boring? The side that had won the previous European Championship and the 2010 World Cup took their possession obsession to new levels in Poland and Ukraine, with many claiming that the previously swashbuckling stylists had morphed into shot-shy dullards.
It’s certainly true that Vicente del Bosque’s side eschewed risk in 2012. Spain proponents argued that this was primarily a result of bus-parking opponents, but by all accounts the reigning European and world champions needed to deliver a signature performance in the Kiev showpiece to cement their place in the pantheon of history’s greatest international teams.
They did exactly that. Spain were magnificent against Italy, running out 4-0 winners thanks to goals from David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata. "You have to hold your hands up and say the opponents were better,” said Italy boss Cesare Prandelli. "We have to congratulate a great side for their victory."
23. Chelsea 2-4 Bradford (FA Cup 2014/15)
Bradford were no strangers to upsets this decade, having beaten Arsenal and Aston Villa en route to the 2013 League Cup Final. But their most impressive triumph came two years later, when the Bantams stunned the soon-to-be Premier League champions at Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho named a reasonably strong Chelsea starting XI, which included Petr Cech, Didier Drobgba, Oscar and Gary Cahill. His side took a two-goal lead and appeared to be headed for the fourth round, but Jon Stead’s strike shortly before half-time gave Bradford a glimmer of hope.
The Premier League leaders sought to shut the game down after the break, with Mourinho bringing on Willian, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard to aid their cause. Yet three Bradford goals in the final 15 minutes left Stamford Bridge shell-shocked, as the Yorkshire outfit pulled off one of the biggest surprises in FA Cup history.
22. Manchester City 1-3 Leicester (Premier League 2015/16)
Leicester may have topped the Premier League table when they headed to the Etihad Stadium in February 2016, but this was the game in which their title tilt was expected to unravel. Instead, the Foxes delivered a season-defining display to stun City and move five points clear at the summit, firmly en route to the most extraordinary triumph in English football history.
Robert Huth was the unlikely scorer of a brace, bundling home the opener from a Riyad Mahrez free-kick and then making it 3-0 with a header from a corner on the hour mark. In between, Mahrez netted a brilliant goal after fine work from N’Golo Kante, while Jamie Vardy, Danny Drinkwater and Shinji Okazaki all had chances of their own.
Sergio Aguero notched a late consolation in the 87th minute, by which time Leicester were home and dry. “We want our fans to dream,” Claudio Ranieri said before the match. After it, they were starting to believe.
21. Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City (Premier League 2011/12)
Manchester City had won seven of their first eight games - scoring 27 goals along the way - before a trip across town to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in October 2011. It was undoubtedly their toughest test yet, but one Roberto Mancini’s men passed with flying colours.
The first half was a tight affair, with Mario Balotelli’s goal giving the visitors a slender lead the interval. Jonny Evans was sent off soon after the restart and Balotelli doubled his tally on the hour mark, before Sergio Aguero put the game beyond doubt in the 69th minute.
Darren Fletcher pulled one back for United in the 81st minute, but City ran riot in the closing stages, Edin Dzeko notching a brace and David Silva also getting in on the act to inflict the Red Devils’ worst home defeat since 1955. Fast forward to May and City were celebrating a Premier League title won on goal difference.
20. Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League 2011/12)
North London derbies have been entertaining affairs throughout the decade, but this seven-goal thriller in February 2012 was the pick of the bunch.
With both teams battling for a top-four finish, there was more than just local bragging rights up for grabs at the Emirates Stadium. Tottenham stormed into a 2-0 lead through Louis Saha and Emmanuel Adebayor, who took great glee in converting a penalty against his former club.
The Emirates threatened to descend into open mutiny - Arsenal had recently been eliminated from the Champions League and the FA Cup - but Bacary Sagna kept the restless natives at bay by halving the deficit in the 40th minute. Robin van Persie then snatched an equaliser before half-time, and Arsenal ran riot with three further goals after the break.
19. Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich (Champions League 2012/13)
Bayern Munich had one foot in the Champions League final after a phenomenal 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona in the first leg of this last-four clash. But the Catalans couldn’t be written off completely; this, after all, was the team that had won two of the last four editions of the competition. And they had Lionel Messi.
Bayern succeeded at holding Barcelona at arm’s length for the game’s opening quarter, with the home side’s first shot on target not arriving until the 23rd minute. Jupp Huynckes’ side then began to ease their way into proceedings, and it was they who broke the Camp Nou deadlock through Arjen Robben soon after half-time.
What followed was a masterclass in counter-attacking football. Barcelona did themselves no favours but were ultimately powerless to resist the slick, awesome breaks of Bayern, which produced two more goals to complete a record Champions League semi-final aggregate win.
18. Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (Premier League 2011/12)
Arsenal fans had low expectations coming into this August encounter but couldn’t have envisaged their side plumbing the depths quite so spectacularly. Arsene Wenger named one of his weakest ever starting XIs for a Premier League game, which made his transfer-market parsimony even more befuddling to those assembled in Old Trafford’s away end.
It took United until midway through the first half to take the lead through Danny Welbeck, before Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney gave the hosts some breathing space. Theo Walcott pulled one back just before half-time to keep Arsenal in it, but Rooney, Nani and Park Ji-sung put it out of the visitors’ reach again in the second period.
Robin van Persie netted the Gunners’ second shortly before Carl Jenkinson was sent off, which helped United add a seventh and eighth through Young and a matchball-collecting Rooney. An ignominious afternoon for Arsenal was complete.
17. Manchester City 5-3 Monaco (Champions League 2016/17)
Few sides have thrilled in the Champions League as much as Monaco in 2016/17. Leonardo Jardim’s group of young whippersnappers included Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy, Fabinho and Thomas Lemar, all of whom were ably assisted by the more experienced - but equally integral - duo of Radamel Falcao and Kamil Glik.
Manchester City weren’t without talent themselves of course, and it was they who drew first blood in this last-16, first-leg clash through Raheem Sterling. Monaco were soon level, though, Falcao heading home a Fabinho cross, before Mbappe gave the visitors the advantage before the break.
Falcao had the chance to make it 3-1 but saw his tame penalty saved by Willy Caballero, a boost which City capitalised on when Sergio Aguero drew them level. A sumptuous Falcao chip restored Monaco’s advantage, but a late flurry of goals from Aguero, John Stones and Leroy Sane gave City a first-leg lead. Monaco’s strikes here proved decisive, though, the Ligue 1 outfit advancing on away goals after a 3-1 win in the principality.
16. Liverpool 5-5 Arsenal (League Cup 2019/20)
The shackles were well and truly off in this humdinger of a League Cup fourth-round clash. Shkodran Mustafi put the ball in his own net to give Liverpool the lead and compound Arsenal’s recent woes, but the visitors battled back and were soon sitting on a 3-1 advantage thanks to a Gabriel Martinelli brace and Lucas Torreira effort.
James Milner reduced the arrears from the penalty spot, but Arsenal had their two-goal lead back when Ainsley Maitland-Niles converted after a sublime back-heel assist from Mesut Ozil. Yet their cushion was soon wiped out, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain netting against his former club and Divock Origi making it 4-4 either side of the hour mark.
Still the drama wasn’t over. Joe Willock once again edged the Gunners in front, but Origi continued his useful knack for scoring crucial late goals by restoring parity deep into second-half stoppage time. A penalty shoot-out followed, with Dani Ceballos the only man to miss from 12 yards to send Jurgen Klopp’s side through.
15. Spain 1-5 Netherlands (World Cup 2014)
It’s easy to forget now but, for a while, this looked like being business as usual for Spain. The reigning world and European champions went 1-0 up through a Xabi Alonso penalty and should have doubled their lead soon after, David Silva spurning a golden opportunity after being played in by Andres Iniesta.
That miss proved costly. A magnificent diving header from Robin van Persie levelled the score on the stroke of half-time, an incredible and unique goal that put the Netherlands in the ascendancy. A symbolic second followed after the break, as Spain’s midfield heartbeat and ideologue-in-chief Xavi Hernandez lost possession, leading to Arjen Robben’s first goal of the afternoon.
Vicente del Bosque’s side had grown accustomed to controlling matches over the years, and their failure to do so here left them looking dazed and confused. Stefan de Vrij scored a back-post header to make it 3-1, before Van Persie and Robben completed a famous rout in the final 20 minutes. A few days later and Spain were out, a 2-0 defeat by Chile sending the holders home before any other nation.
14. Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid (Champions League Final 2014)
Having wrapped up the La Liga title a week earlier, Atletico Madrid were seeking to complete a historic double by winning the first Champions League in the club’s history. Arch-rivals Real Madrid stood in their way, los Blancos competing in the first European final since 2002.
Atletico lost Diego Costa, who had attempted to rush back from a hamstring problem in time for the Lisbon showpiece, to injury early on, but they recovered from that setback to take the lead through Diego Godin in the 36th minute.
Madrid controlled possession for much of the encounter, but Atleti stood firm and looked set to hold on for a 1-0 win. Yet Sergio Ramos popped up in second-half stoppage time to force an additional 30 minutes, during which Madrid ran riot and an exhausted Atletico folded. Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo each got on the scoresheet, completing an emphatic victory for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
13. Reading 5-7 Arsenal (League Cup 2012/13)
Reading fans could hardly have dreamed up a better start. Within 37 minutes of this fourth-round tie the Championship side held a 4-0 lead, Jason Roberts, Laurent Koscielny (own goal), Mikele Leigertwood and Noel Hunt all finding the net to give Brian McDermott’s side what seemed like an unassailable lead. Even when Theo Walcott pulled one back just before half-time, there appeared to be little danger of an Arsenal comeback.
Olivier Giroud’s goal in the 64th minute made the scoreline a little more respectable for Arsene Wenger’s side, but the visiting fans (those who hadn’t already exited in disgust, that is) had to wait until the closing stages before they could really celebrate. Koscielny made amends for his own goal to make it 4-3 to Reading, before Walcott grabbed a last-gasp equaliser in the sixth minute of injury time.
Marouane Chamakh completed the turnaround in the first period of extra time, but Reading regrouped and drew level through Pavel Pogrebnyak in the 116th minute. The Royals thought they had done enough to force a penalty shoot-out, only for Walcott and Chamakh to cap a memorable night with a goal each in time added on.
12. Ajax 2-3 Tottenham (Champions League 2018/19)
After outplaying Tottenham in a 1-0 win in north London in the first leg of this Champions League semi-final, Ajax proceeded to extend their aggregate advantage with two more goals in the first half of the return fixture. A team featuring the youthful talents of Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Hakim Ziyech and Donny van de Beek were on the brink of the club’s first appearance in the final of the competition since 1996.
In what amounted to a final throw of the dice, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino replaced Victor Wanyama with Fernando Llorente at half-time in Amsterdam. It proved to be one of the best decisions of his Tottenham career. Ajax couldn’t deal with the aerial power of the Spaniard, whose presence up front also freed up Lucas Moura and Dele Alli in support.
It was Lucas who proved to be the chief beneficiary, the Brazilian scoring an incredible hat-trick - the last goal arriving as late as the sixth minute of stoppage time - to complete one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history. “This type of emotion is impossible without football,” said a tearful Pochettino in the aftermath.
11. Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (Champions League 2018/19)
Twenty-four hours before Tottenham’s triumph, Liverpool produced a miracle of their own. Overturning a 3-0 deficit from the first leg looked a tall order even before Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, two-thirds of the Reds’ fearsome frontline, were ruled out with injury.
Divock Origi scored early on but Barcelona weren’t on the ropes yet, with Lionel Messi going close to an equaliser and then fashioning several dangerous openings that compelled Anfield to hold its breath.
Georginio Wijnaldum made it 2-0 on the night in the 54th minute, then raised the decibel levels by a few more notches by heading home Liverpool’s third within 120 seconds. From that moment on it seemed inevitable that the Reds would find an aggregate winner, which was eventually given to them by Origi in the 79th minute. This was a remarkable performance from Jurgen Klopp’s side, who followed it up with a 2-0 defeat of Tottenham in the final.