Ranked! The 10 best Premier League matches EVER
There have been some epic games. But which game will be crowned the greatest in the division's history?
Words: James Maw, Vithushan Ehantharajah, Gary Parkinson, Joe Brewin, Phil Haigh
10. Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham, 02/05/2016
“We don’t want Tottenham to win the Premier League – the fans, the club and the players,” declared a chipper Eden Hazard just over a week before Chelsea’s meeting with Spurs that ultimately decided the 2015/16 title in Leicester’s favour. The Belgian didn’t know it then, but results thereafter set the scene: Tottenham needed to beat the Blues at Stamford Bridge to keep themselves in the race.
At half-time they were looking good for that: goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min had the visitors in command, resigning the Leicester players who were gathered at Jamie Vardy’s house to the fact they’d probably have to go again against Everton that weekend.
That was until Chelsea – so consistently hapless in their title defence that season – decided they wouldn’t become an irrelevant footnote of the campaign. Hazard was introduced at half-time and the west Londoners became a different side. They halved the deficit with over half an hour remaining when Gary Cahill lashed in from a corner, and didn’t relinquish the bit between their teeth.
Hazard’s crowning moment came with seven minutes left. With Chelsea very much in the ascendancy their brilliant Belgian – chief among those who’d disappointed during the campaign – curled in a terrific equaliser to send Spurs heads spinning and confirm Leicester as the most unlikely of champions. He’d got his wish after all. JB
9. Newcastle 5-0 Man United, 20/10/1996
Any heavy Manchester United defeat is remembered by fans of the victors, but this loss suffered by the Double winners was so glorious in its magnitude that it was celebrated far more widely than just on Tyneside. Darren Peacock scored the first, his header crossing the line despite the protestations of Peter Schmeichel – who had kept clean sheets in five of his previous nine league games.
David Ginola’s outrageous second set the tone, while Les Ferdinand and Alan Shearer doubled the lead after the break and made Magpies fans believe things couldn't get any better. How wrong they were, as Philippe Albert sealed the deal with a 25-yard lob – not bad for a defender. As Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan said without false deflation: “Undoubtedly, the most enjoyable day I've ever had as a manager.” RS
8. Leicester 3-3 Arsenal, 27/08/1997
Although Arsenal would ultimately go on to win the title in 1997/98, it wasn’t all plain sailing; the Gunners endured a stuttering start to the campaign, including this classic draw at Filbert Street. Dennis Bergkamp was the star of the show, putting the visitors 2-0 up with an hour played. Arsenal were untroubled until Emile Heskey pulled one back late on, before Matt Elliot equalised with what looked to be the final goal of the game in the 93rd minute.
Bergkamp wasn't done, though, finding time to score one of the great Premier League goals as he brought down a cross, beat his man and gloriously slotted the ball past Kasey Keller with the inside of his right foot. But this still wasn't the end of the action: the match endured long enough for Foxes skipper Steve Walsh to head home the latest of levellers and earn Leicester a point. PH
NEXT: Comebacks galore
7. Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal, 05/02/2011
Newcastle had been battered black and blue (not black and white, which they presumably wouldn't have minded as much) by the halfway stage of this fixture. Theo Walcott and Johan Djourou put Arsenal two up inside four minutes, before Robin van Persie grabbed two for himself, sending the Magpies into the dressing room 4-0 down at half-time.
With much lauded No.9 Andy Carroll having just been sold and not replaced, the locals were feeling more than a little restless. But pity the foolish fans who left at the interval, for Alan Pardew’s men had something special in store for the second half.
A moment of pure stupidity from Abou Diaby let the Magpies back in the game; the midfielder was sent off for a foolish shove on Joey Barton, then another push on Kevin Nolan. Two penalties from Barton and a Leon Best strike gave Newcastle a chance, with Arsenal teetering on the brink.
And then it came, a truly magnificent left-footed volley from the most unlikely of sources, Cheick Tiote. The Ivorian, as stunned as anyone to see the net ripple, ran halfway down the pitch in wild celebration – a jubilance shared by Newcastle’s stunned fans. RS
6. Aston Villa 1-2 Man United, 23/08/1993
Early in the Premier League's second season, the champions visited the runners-up for an evening game that displayed exactly what the competition was capable of: absorbing football played at breakneck speed. Ron Atkinson's hosts went for the jugular from the off, but it was boyhood Villa fan Lee Sharpe who opened the scoring after good work from Ryan Giggs (remember him?) and Paul Ince.
Dalian Atkinson saw off Steve Bruce to level just before the break, and after the oranges Villa again started the stronger, with Dean Saunders going close and Kevin Richardson whacking a half-volley off the post. However, United overcame the absence of the injured talisman Eric Cantona, with Paul Ince stepping up to the plate: his long pass set Giggs free to hit the post, before a slide-rule through-ball allowed Sharpe to coolly net the winner. GP
5. Wigan 3-2 West Ham, 15/05/2011
The result which sent West Ham down with a game to spare was indicative of a particularly poor campaign for the East Londoners. To stand a chance of extending their six-year top-flight run they needed three points at fellow relegation scrappers Wigan and a Fulham win at Birmingham. All looked rosy for Avram Grant’s side for nearly an hour, as both they and Fulham went two goals clear – but where the Cottagers held on to win, the Hammers collapsed into ignominy despite Demba Ba's first-half double.
Charles N’Zogbia took charge to start and finish an inspired Wigan comeback. Twelve minutes into the second half, the Frenchman curled a delightful free-kick into the top corner, before Connor Sammon – thrown on at half-time with Victor Moses by Roberto Martinez – equalised in the 68th minute.
With a draw no use to either side – and neither very good at defending – the two teams exchanged blows like punch-drunk boxers, before N’Zogbia cut in from the right and squeezed a shot under Rob Green in the fourth minute of added time. Wigan got the win, West Ham got that sinking feeling and Avram Grant got the sack. VE
4. Tottenham 3-5 Man United, 01/10/2001
Rarely has that rotten old cliché 'a game of two halves' been a more appropriate way to describe a football match than this momentous Manchester United fightback. Spurs romped into a 3-0 half-time lead thanks to a debut goal from Dean Richards and one each from Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege, but Sir Alex Ferguson worked his magic in the champions’ dressing room during the break and United returned to the pitch for the second half like a wounded animal.
Andy Cole scored within a minute of the restart and from that moment the tide turned, as Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastien Veron and David Beckham transformed Tottenham’s day of ecstasy to one of agony. PH
NEXT: And the winner is...
3. Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle, 03/04/1996
Voted the finest match of the division's first decade, this high-octane humdinger is widely renowned as one of the definitive matches of the Premier League era. Both sides were pushing Manchester United for the title, with the visitors knowing a win would take them level on points with the leaders.
The game started at a frantic pace, with Robbie Fowler giving the Reds an early lead, only for Les Ferdinand and David Ginola to quickly strike back for the Toon. Fowler’s well-taken second put Liverpool level early in the second half, but within two minutes Faustino Asprilla had edged Newcastle back in front. With just over 20 minutes to play, Stanley Victor Collymore popped up with another equaliser, and from then on both teams went hell for leather looking for a winner.
It was Liverpool - and Collymore - who got it after a neat passing moving involving veteran duo John Barnes and Ian Rush. Magpies boss Kevin Keegan slumped forward in the dugout to provide one of the Premier League’s most enduring images, before curiously claiming after the final whistle; “I know I should be disappointed, but I’m elated.” JM
2. Arsenal 3-2 Man United, 09/11/1997
A little over a year after Arsene Wenger arrived in north London, the French revolution was really starting to take shape. The Gunners had started the 1997/98 season well, with just one defeat in their first 13 matches, but the visit of champions and league leaders Manchester United to Highbury was by far their sternest test yet.
Arsenal went ahead when an 18-year-old Nicolas Anelka brilliantly blasted the ball past Peter Schmeichel for his first Premier League goal. The lead was doubled before the half-hour mark, when Patrick Vieira brilliantly swept a loose ball back across the Dane's head and into the net. But United fought back in typical fashion, former Tottenham man Teddy Sheringham netting a quickfire double to enrage the locals and level the scores before half-time.
It was those same fans, however, who had the last laugh thanks to David Platt's late header. The win moved Arsenal to within a point of the top, and by May they would be champions for the first time in the Wenger era, sowing the seeds for one of the fiercest rivalries in Premier League history. JM
1. Manchester City 3-2 QPR, 13/05/2012
Top at kick-off on the last day, all Manchester City had to do was beat QPR – managed by former City boss Mark Hughes, who had his own reasons for wanting an unlikely win: not only had he been rather brusquely shoved out for City to hire Roberto Mancini, but the 17th-placed Rs were only two points above the relegation zone.
A tense first half got even nervier when Wayne Rooney's goal put title rivals Manchester United ahead at Sunderland, and although Pablo Zabaleta scored before the break, Djibril Cisse's equaliser early in the second period ramped up the blood pressure. Red-carded Joey Barton then tried to take some City players with him, before Jamie Mackie put the Hoops into an unlikely 66th-minute lead.
City entered the five minutes' added time 2-1 down, but Edin Dzeko's 92nd-minute leveller gave hope; three minutes later, Mario Balotelli's first assist of the season was larruped home by Sergio Aguero. City were champions at the very death. GP
100-91 • 90-81 • 80-71 • 70-61 • 60-51 • 50-41 • 40-31 • 30-21 • 20-11 • 10-1
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Joe was the Deputy Editor at FourFourTwo until 2022, having risen through the FFT academy and been on the brand since 2013 in various capacities.
By weekend and frustrating midweek night he is a Leicester City fan, and in 2020 co-wrote the autobiography of former Foxes winger Matt Piper – subsequently listed for both the Telegraph and William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards.
By Conor Pope
By Conor Pope