Relying on rivals
It’s bad enough when you need favours from others, but what if those others are your traditional enemies? On the last day of the Championship, Burton needed a result at Preston and hope that fellow drop-dodgers Barnsley and Bolton were thwarted – by Derby and Forest respectively, the Brewers' local rivals.
It didn't come off – the Rams battered Barnsley, but Forest fell late on to Bolton and Burton lost at Preston anyway. But sometimes it can work – as you're about to find out...
Liverpool 2-1 Blackburn, 1995
Manchester United had won the first two Premier League titles, but to grab the hat-trick they needed a final-day favour from Fergie's greatest rivals Liverpool. The Reds were hosting Blackburn, who were two points clear... and managed by Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish. Surely, for either reason, they'd roll over?
Oh no, friend, not at all. Alan Shearer scored, because Alan Shearer usually did, but after the break Liverpool levelled through Dalglish's old signing John Barnes – and, in the 90th minute, went in front through Jamie Redknapp, prompting radio commentator Alan Green to holler "and Liverpool have handed the title to Manchester United!" But Green was wrong, because the holders were being held by a gleeful West Ham – and missed out on the title by a point.
England 4-1 Netherlands, Euro '96
Having been embarrassed by Paul Gascoigne in a 2-0 loss days previously, Scotland then suffered more frustration at the hands of England in the decisive group game.
Having drawn with the Dutch at Villa Park and beaten Switzerland 1-0 in the final game, Scotland needed the Three Lions to beat the Guus Hiddink's men by four goals. That seemed unlikely but England duly went 4-0 up... before Patrick Kluivert’s late consolation iced England’s cake: not only had they demolished one of the pre-tournament favourites, they’d also knocked the Scots out on goal difference.
Manchester United 2-1 Tottenham, 1999
On the final day of the 1998-99 season, Arsenal needed a mid-table Tottenham to do the unthinkable: visit Old Trafford and inflict defeat upon Alex Ferguson's Treble-chasers. Only then would Arsene Wenger's charges have a shot at winning their second Premier League title in as many campaigns.
Spurs fans arrived in the away end with a banner saying "Let Them Win", but the miracle was briefly on when Les Ferdinand put the visitors ahead in the first half. However, Tottenham leaked two decisive goals either side of half-time - one from David Beckham, the winner from Andy Cole two minutes after the restart - to end the Gunners' title hopes.
Arsenal 2-3 Leeds, 2003
Oh, how Sir Alex Ferguson 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, the Arsenal team hot on the heels of Manchester United in the title race had to host... Leeds United. Luckily for the Red Devils, the relegation-threatened Yorkshiremen had skin in the game: while a win would mathematically crown their cross-Pennine rivals, it would also secure their own place in the top flight for the following year.
What followed was a dramatic encounter in which the visitors 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.
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.
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 to their own team: "If you win we'll beat you up."
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, the world's most sarcastic banner 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 finished second, Lazio survived and the sky was blue again.
Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea, 2010
Liverpool faced Chelsea in a home game laden with unpleasant outcomes: a win against Carlo Ancelotti's men would put Manchester United in control of their own destiny as they chased a 19th top-flight title – eclipsing Liverpool's record. Then again, the Blues were hardly popular in the red half of Merseyside after several feisty domestic cup and Champions League clashes.
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 beat Wigan at home to seal the championship crown. They triumphed 8-0.
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