Best games of the 2010s
We thought it was time to pick out our standout matches from the last 10 years. From Champions League comebacks to World Cup shocks to Premier League deciders, it's all covered here - but in what order?
50. Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (World Cup 2010)
One of the most dramatic incidents in World Cup history denied Ghana a place in the semi-finals and the history books, with African football still awaiting its first last-four representative a decade on.
Few remember Sulley Muntari and Diego Forlan’s goals either side of half-time, as both sides battled for the right to face the Netherlands in Cape Town. Instead, the image that dominates this match is that of Luis Suarez punching clear Dominic Adiyiah’s header on the goalline, an offence that led to his dismissal and the award of a Ghanian penalty in the final minute of extra time.
Asamoah Gyan was the man entrusted to take the spot-kick, but his effort crashed against the crossbar - to the visible delight of the air-punching Suarez on the touchline. Gyan showed great nerve to convert his effort in the ensuing penalty shoot-out, but misses from John Mensah and Adiyiah handed Uruguay victory.
49. England 5-2 Spain (U17 World Cup Final 2017)
England won their first ever Under-17 World Cup in style, vanquishing Spain 5-2 in Kolkata. The Young Lions required a penalty shoot-out to squeeze past Japan in the last 16, but subsequent victories over the United States (4-1) and Brazil (3-1) were emphatic. Still, they saved their best until last, despite falling 2-0 behind within half an hour.
Rhian Brewster halved the deficit in the 44th minute, before England ran riot after the break. Morgan Gibbs-White, Phil Foden (twice) and Marc Guehi were all on target, while Callum Hudson-Odoi continually terrorised the opposition defence. Spain, for so long held up as the blueprint for England to follow, couldn’t cope.
48. Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Bayern Munich (Bundesliga 2015/16)
Don’t let the scoreline fool you. There might not have been any goals when Dortmund and Bayern locked horns in March 2016, but this was an intense, engaging encounter featuring plenty of chances and some wonderful football from both teams.
A draw suited Pep Guardiola’s Bayern, who remained five points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table as a result, but Thomas Muller, Douglas Costa, Arjen Robben and Arturo Vidal all spurned opportunities to land a knockout blow.
Dortmund had multiple openings of their own, however, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang twice denied by the excellent Manuel Neuer. Those involved have only just got their breath back.
47. Leeds 2-4 Derby County (Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 2018/19)
A historic rivalry was renewed in 2018/19, as Leeds and Derby battled it out for a place in the Premier League. A spying storm earlier in the season had seen Derby report Marcelo Bielsa’s side to the Football League after a member of the club’s staff was spotted lurking around the Rams’ training ground. Leeds fans audibly advised Derby boss Frank Lampard to “stop crying”, but it was the former England international who had the last laugh.
Leeds won the first leg of the pair’s Championship play-off semi-final 1-0, and then doubled their aggregate lead midway through the first half of the second meeting. But Derby didn’t give up and overturned the deficit through goals from Jack Marriott, Mason Mount and Harry Wilson, only for Stuart Dallas to level things up once more.
Then, with extra time beckoning, Marriott popped up with his second of the night to put Derby 4-3 ahead on aggregate. That’s how it remained, leaving Lampard conspicuously tear-free on the touchline.
46. Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur (2010/11)
Without a win at the home of their fiercest rivals since 1993, it looked like business as usual when Tottenham shipped two goals in the first 27 minutes of this north London derby. Arsenal, it seemed, were well on their way to top spot in the table.
This, however, was arguably Spurs’ strongest side of Premier League era up to that point, and they showed tremendous resolve to stage a remarkable second-half comeback. Gareth Bale pulled one back five minutes after the restart, before a Rafael van der Vaart penalty restored parity and a Younes Kaboul header completed the turnaround.
45. Bayern Munich 5-1 Wolfsburg (Bundesliga 2015/16)
A match made famous by one man. Bayern Munich found themselves 1-0 down when Robert Lewandowski decided to not so much grab the bull by its horns as put it in a headlock, scoring five goals in nine stunning second-half minutes to leave Wolfsburg - and the watching public - shell-shocked.
It was a sensational salvo. Lewandowski had a hat-trick within five minutes but wasn’t done there, proceeding to add a fourth after some fine work from Douglas Costa on the left flank, before making it five with a stunning acrobatic volley on the hour mark. Even Pep Guardiola, head in hands in the home dugout, couldn’t believe what he had witnessed.
44. Swansea 5-4 Crystal Palace (Premier League 2016/17)
“A clean sheet and the first goal are probably two things top of our agenda,” declared Palace manager Alan Pardew ahead of his side’s trip to the Liberty Stadium in November 2016. Wilfried Zaha opened the scoring to fulfil half of Pardew’s wish, but a first shut-out in 18 Premier League games was beyond them - and then some.
A Gylfi Sigurdsson strike ensured Swansea went in level at the break, before these two relegation battlers played out a bonkers, topsy-turvy second half. The hosts went 3-1 up, before Palace roared back to take a 4-3 lead with six minutes remaining.
Pardew’s side remained ahead until stoppage time, when a quick-fire Fernando Llorente brace turned the game on its head once more, leaving the beleaguered boss to lament his team’s defensive frailties once more.
43. Manchester City 0-1 Wigan (FA Cup 2012/13)
Having lost out to Manchester United in the title race, Manchester City had the chance to partially redeem themselves by winning the FA Cup. Lowly Wigan, whose relegation to the Premier League would be confirmed a few days later, were the only thing between Roberto Mancini’s men and the trophy.
But despite their superior star power, City came unstuck at Wembley. Wigan were fearless and took the game to their wealthier opponents throughout, with Shaun Maloney a constant threat and Callum McManaman delivering the performance of his career.
This was no smash and grab: the Latics fully deserved the victory that was given to them in dramatic fashion, Ben Watson flashing a header home in second-half stoppage time.
42. England 1-2 Iceland (Euro 2016)
One of the darkest days in the history of the England national team, but the brightest for the underdogs of Iceland. Few expected anything other than a straightforward win for Roy Hodgson’s side in the last 16 of Euro 2016, particularly when Wayne Rooney drew first blood inside four minutes.
Iceland were soon level through Ragnar Sigurdsson, though, and what followed was England’s most ignominious episode since a 1-0 defeat by the United States at the 1950 World Cup. The underdogs edged ahead in the 18th minute and were the better team thereafter, outplaying, outthinking and outfighting their more celebrated counterparts to deservedly book a place in the quarter-finals.
41. Bayern Munich 1-1 Chelsea (Champions League Final 2011/12)
Chelsea’s extraordinary European campaign culminated in characteristic fashion, as Roberto Di Matteo’s charges overcame Bayern Munich in their own backyard. The Bundesliga giants were overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy at the Allianz Arena, against a Chelsea side who had surely used up all their luck with a narrow victory over Barcelona in the semi-finals.
Bayern dominated possession from the outset but had to wait until the 83rd minute for the first goal, given to them by Thomas Muller. But Chelsea rallied, Didier Drogba powering a brilliant near-post header past Manuel Neuer to make it 1-1 in the closing stages.
A decisive third goal proved elusive in extra time, meaning the Champions League final would be decided on penalties for the first time since 2008, when Chelsea were beaten by Manchester United. The Blues made amends this time, Drogba converting the winning kick to give London its first ever European champions.
40. Watford 3-1 Leicester City (Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 2012/13)
The most dramatic moment in Championship play-off history settled this semi-final in Watford’s favour. The two teams were level on aggregate when Leicester were awarded a penalty in the seventh minute of injury time at the end of the second leg at Vicarage Road. Anthony Knockaert stepped up but saw his effort saved by Manuel Almunia, who reacted quickly to deny the winger on the rebound too.
Watford’s fans breathed a sigh of relief in the knowledge that they now had extra time to try and land a decisive blow. The home side’s players had other ideas, though, immediately racing down the other end after clearing their lines.
Fernando Forestieri collected possession on the right flank and lifted the ball towards the back post, where Jonathan Hogg had the presence of mind to head it back to the onrushing Tory Deeney. The Watford captain made no mistake, smashing the ball home from 10 yards to send Vicarage Road into raptures and the Hornets into the final.
39. Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona (Champions League 2010/11)
In March 2010, Barcelona travelled to the Emirates Stadium and produced one of the most dominant first-half displays of the Pep Guardiola era. Nevertheless, Arsenal dug deep to secure a 2-2 draw that night, and they went one better when welcoming the Blaugrana to north London the following season.
David Villa broke the deadlock midway through the opening period, but a Jack Wilshere-inspired Arsenal grew stronger as the game wore on. They had to wait until the 78th minute to draw level through Robin van Persie, but the Gunners were well on top by that stage of proceedings and struck the winning goal though Andrey Arshavin five minutes later.
38. West Ham 2-4 Manchester United (Premier League 2010/2011)
Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were renowned for their comebacks, and this was probably their best in the Premier League in the final three years of the Scot’s reign. Two Mark Noble penalties in the first quarter of this April clash put West Ham in a commanding position and left United facing the prospect of seeing their lead at the top of the Premier League table cut to just two points.
The Hammers held a two-goal advantage until the 65th minute, when Wayne Rooney scored the first of his three goals that afternoon. Javier Hernandez put the icing on the cake late on, leaving United seven points clear at the summit after Arsenal were held to a draw by Blackburn.
37. Parma 4-5 AC Milan (Serie A 2014/15)
Nine goals, two red cards, an impudent back-heel finish and a remarkable own goal: this seemingly nondescript Serie A fixture had it all. Giacomo Bonaventura gave Milan the lead after a relatively quiet opening 25 minutes, but Antonio Cassano hit back against his former club soon after.
The Rossoneri had established a two-goal lead by half-time thanks to Keisuke Honda and Jeremy Menez, but a poor start to the second period saw Felipe make it 2-3 and Daniele Bonera sent off. The two teams traded goals before Parma’s numerical disadvantage was wiped out in the 77th minute, as Felipe was given his marching orders.
Menez then improvised to tuck the ball home with his heel after rounding Parma goalkeeper Antonio Miante, but Milan still weren’t home and dry and faced a nervous finale after a comical Mattia De Sciglio own goal from outside the box had made it 5-4 to the visitors.
36. Juventus 3-2 Roma (Serie A 2014/15)
Roma ultimately finished 17 points behind Juventus in the 2014/15 title race, but they were widely backed to push the Bianconeri all the way after beginning the campaign with five triumphs on the trot. Juventus also boasted a 100% winning record heading into this titanic tussle in October, which didn’t disappoint.
Carlos Tevez nudged the hosts ahead with a penalty, but their lead lasted just five minutes as Francesco Totti restored parity with another spot-kick. Juan Iturbe then gave Roma the lead in the 44th minute, but there was still time in the first half for Tevez to make it 2-2, again from the spot.
Both sides seemed to have settled for a share of the spoils until the closing stages, when Leonardo Bonucci’s magnificent volley put the champions in pole position. A fiery affair was rounded off in suitable fashion, with Alvaro Morata and Kostas Manolas both shown red cards after a melee involving multiple players from both sides.
35. RB Leipzig 4-5 Bayern Munich (Bundesliga 2016/17)
There was little to play for when Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich travelled to second-placed RB Leipzig in May 2017, but that didn’t prevent the two sides serving up a pulsating encounter.
Leipzig went 4-2 ahead in the 65th minute, Timo Werner grabbing his second of the game to give the home side some breathing space. Bayern, who had already been crowned champions, were on the verge of a third league defeat of the season, but Robert Lewandowski gave them hope by making it 4-3 with six minutes left on the clock.
Cue injury-time frenzy. A pinpoint David Alaba free-kick wiped out Leipzig’s lead, before Arjen Robben dribbled down the right wing, cut inside on his left foot and… well, you know the rest.
34. Belgium 3-2 Japan (World Cup 2018)
Optimism was in short supply in Japan ahead of the 2018 World Cup, even after the Samurai Blue were drawn in a favourable group alongside Colombia, Senegal and Poland. Yet Akira Nishino’s performed better than expected in Russia, and even took a two-goal lead against Belgium in the round of 16.
On the brink of what would have been another premature and underwhelming exit, Roberto Martinez’s side fought back. Jan Vertonghen pulled one back with a looping header in the 69th minute, and Marouane Fellaini nodded home an equaliser soon after.
Japan stemmed the flow thereafter, and even had chances of their own to find a winner. Keisuke Honda stung the palms of Thibaut Cortois with a 40-yard free-kick, before Belgium launched a brilliant counter-attack which culminated in Nacer Chadli rolling the ball home at the back post after a wonderful dummy from Romelu Lukaku.
33. Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United (Champions League 2010/11)
“They're the best in Europe, no question about that. In my time as a manager, I would say they're the best team we've faced. Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that. It's not easy when you've been well beaten like that to think another way. No one has given us a hiding like that.”
So said Alex Ferguson after watching his Manchester United team lose a Champions League final to Barcelona for the second time in three seasons. Pep Guardiola’s men were magnificent at Wembley, delivering a performance for the ages to take the trophy back to the Catalonia.
United went into half-time level after Wayne Rooney cancelled out Pedro Rodriguez’s opener. But Barcelona were mesmerising in the second half, scoring twice more through Lionel Messi and David Villa, and making the champions of England look ineffectual and impotent.
32. Arsenal 3-2 Hull City (FA Cup Final 2013/14)
Without a trophy in nine years, Arsenal headed into this Wembley showpiece as wary favourites, with memories of their shock defeat by Birmingham in the 2011 League Cup final at the forefront of supporters’ minds.
Their fears were hardly assuaged when Hull established a two-goal lead inside eight minutes. First, James Chester flicked a Tom Huddlestone volley past Lukasz Fabianski, then Curtis Davies smashed home a second to put the Tigers in a commanding position.
Arsenal fans must have feared the worst at that point, but Santi Cazorla halved the deficit in the 17th minute to make their task a little more manageable. The Gunners still weren’t level until deep into the second half, but their superior quality ultimately told as Aaron Ramsey notched the winner in extra time.
31. Borussia Dortmund 4-4 Schalke (Bundesliga 2017/18)
Having gone five games without a win, Borussia Dortmund were under pressure to reinvigorate their Bundesliga title tilt when arch-rivals Schalke came to town in November 2017. Peter Bosz couldn’t have asked for a better start from his team, who stormed into a 4-0 lead inside 25 minutes.
Schalke were on the ropes and the visiting fans must have feared a repeat of the 7-0 shellacking they received at the hands of their adversaries in 1966. Instead, the Royal Blues gave those supporters a glimmer of hope with two second-half goals within the space of five minutes to cut Dortmund’s lead in half.
It remained 4-2 until the 86th minute, when Daniel Caligiuri set nerves jangling around Signal Iduna Park. Dortmund were rattled and tried in vain to hold on, but Naldo’s bullet header in the fourth minute of stoppage time completed an astonishing comeback for Schalke.
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 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 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 Bromwich Albion 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 City (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 City (Premier League 2015/16)
Leicester may have been atop 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 of 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 Hotspur (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.
10. Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League 2015/16)
Eden Hazard will always be a popular figure in Leicester. The Belgian’s late equaliser here handed the Premier League title to Claudio Ranieri’s side, many members of whom were watching the action unfold at Jamie Vardy’s house. For a long while, however, it looked as if the champagne bottles would have to remain unopened.
Tottenham knew that only a win would do to keep their title hopes alive, and an accomplished first-half performance saw them enter the away dressing room at the interval with a 2-0 lead.
Chelsea had nothing tangible to play for but were suitably motivated to stop their London rivals’ charge for the championship. That showed in a fiery second period which numerous fouls and yellow cards, as well as Erik Lamela standing on Cesc Fabregas’ hand and Mousa Dembele planting his fingers in Diego Costa’s eye. More significantly, Gary Cahill and Hazard scored to wipe out Tottenham’s lead and kick-start the celebrations at casa de Vardy.
9. Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal (Premier League 2010/11)
A seven-match unbeaten run had brought Arsenal back into the title race by the start of February 2011. Newcastle, conversely, were without a win in three games and potentially in danger of being sucked into the relegation battle despite having occupied a place in the top five a few months prior.
A dominant first-half display meant Arsene Wenger’s side looked set to ramp up the pressure further on Manchester United, who led the league by five points but weren’t in action until later that day. The Gunners were 3-0 up after just 10 minutes, with Robin van Persie adding a fourth shortly after the midway point of the first half.
Booed off at the break, pride restoration was the only item on the agenda for Newcastle in the second half. Despite Abou Diaby’s red card, it took the hosts until the 68th minute to get on the scoresheet, Joey Barton converting a penalty to give the Magpies a glimmer. Leon Best reduced the arrears further, before another Barton spot-kick left Arsenal clinging on. They couldn’t quite manage it, Cheik Tiote equalising with a superb volley to send St James’ Park delirious.
8. Barcelona 1-0 Inter Milan (Champions League 2009/10)
It’s somewhat incongruous that the most famous game of serial trophy-winner Jose Mourinho’s career ended in defeat. In fact, a 1-0 loss at the Camp Nou secured an aggregate victory for Inter in this Champions League semi-final, and represented a personal and tactical triumph for a manager who had increasingly come to define himself in opposition to Barcelona.
Inter led 3-1 from the first leg but found themselves up against it early on in Catalonia, as Thiago Motta was sent off after 28 minutes. Mourinho hastily rearranged his side, who proceeded to deliver an outstanding bend-not-break defensive performance to keep Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring team at bay.
Employing the lesser-spotted 4-5-0 formation, Inter restricted Barcelona to very few clear-cut chances, mouse frustrating cat. Gerard Pique eventually broke their resistance in the 84th minute, but it was too little, too late and Inter deservedly reached the final after one of the greatest defensive displays in Champions League history.
7. Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (Champions League 2011/12)
Chelsea held a slender 1-0 lead heading into the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Barcelona. That represented an excellent at Stamford Bridge, but most onlookers felt it wouldn’t be enough to prevent the European champions reaching another final in front of their own fans.
That feeling intensified following an inauspicious three-minute spell in the first half that saw Sergio Busquets open the scoring and John Terry sent off for mindlessly kneeing Alexis Sanchez off the ball. Andres Iniesta then doubled the hosts’ lead, but a glorious Ramires chip gave Chelsea a vital away goal on the stroke of half-time.
Barcelona now needed one more to secure passage to the final, and duly dominated possession in the second half. But Lionel Messi crashed a penalty off the crossbar and Sanchez, Isaac Cuenca and Busquets all missed chances of their own, as Pep Guardiola’s side became increasingly desperate as time ticked away. Resisting the kitchen sink, Chelsea stood firm before launching a decisive breakaway in injury time, Fernando Torres rounding Victor Valdes to send the Blues through.
6. Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund (Europa League 2015/16)
When Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck inside 10 minutes at Anfield, Liverpool suddenly needed three goals without reply to advance to the Europa League semi-finals. Against a Borussia Dortmund team who thrived on the counter-attack, that looked like an onerous task.
Divock Origi got the hosts started in the 48th minute, but Marco Reus put Dortmund three goals ahead for a second time shortly before the hour mark to extinguish the Anfield roar.
The lull was only temporary. The home fans had something to cheer when Philippe Coutinho found the bottom corner in the 66th minute, and they were positively ecstatic when Mamadou Sakho then stooped to head home from a Coutinho corner. The visitors still held the advantage on away goals, but Dejan Lovren completed an outstanding comeback in stoppage time, scoring Liverpool’s fourth to leave Dortmund distraught.
5. Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona (La Liga 2016/17)
El Clasico hasn’t always delivered this decade, the product sometimes failing to live up to the hype, but this April 2017 encounter was a bona fide classic. Three points clear at the top of La Liga having played one game fewer, Real Madrid knew that victory here would set them on the path towards a first title since 2012. Defeat, though, would see them drop down to second. The stakes could hardly have been higher.
Casemiro gave Madrid the lead after Sergio Ramos’ shot came off the post, but Lionel Messi drew Barcelona level after some fabulous footwork set him free in the box. It remained 1-1 deep into the second half, but the visitors’ gradual screw-turning brought its reward in the 73rd minute, Ivan Rakitic firing a fine left-footed strike past Keylor Navas.
Madrid immediately pushed forward in search of an equaliser and were rewarded with five minutes left to play, James Rodriguez turning home Marcelo’s cross at the near post. That left Barcelona’s title chances hanging by a thread but Messi still had one more piece of magic in his locker, the Argentine genius popping up in the second minute of stoppage time to score the game’s decisive fifth from the edge of the box.
4. Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain (Champions League 2016/17)
It was a coming-of-age performance. PSG had long been desperate to turn their domestic dominance into European supremacy, and a 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona in the first leg of this last-16 clash was an ideal way to announce their arrival on the continental stage.
It was hard to see a way back for Ernesto Valverde’s side, particularly after they initially failed to add to Luis Suarez’s third-minute goal. Yet a Layvin Kurzawa own goal shortly before half-time altered the dynamic, and Barcelona were now just one behind on aggregate when Suarez scored a penalty early in the second period.
PSG were on the ropes, but Edinson Cavani’s strike just after the hour changed everything: suddenly Barcelona needed six. They still hadn’t added to their score 25 minutes later, but Neymar’s 88th-minute effort gave the hosts a glimmer of hope. The Brazilian then converted a penalty against his future employers, before delivering the free-kick that was latched on to by Sergi Roberto for a sensational aggregate winner in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
3. Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid (La Liga 2010/11)
The apex of Pep Guardiola’s four-year tenure as Barcelona manager came against their bitter rivals. The Blaugrana were out of this world on this November night in 2010, thrashing Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid en route to another La Liga title.
Somewhat surprisingly given his defence-minded reputation, Mourinho stuck with his usual starting XI and fielded Xabi Alonso as Madrid’s deepest midfielder and Mesut Ozil at No.10. It didn’t work. Barcelona took the lead through Xavi Hernandez in the 10th minute and soon found themselves further ahead, Pedro Rodriguez tapping home after David Villa had been denied.
The exhibition continued in the second half, as Madrid proved unable to disrupt Barcelona’s mesmerising passing triangles. A quick-fire Villa brace made it 4-0 before the hour mark, and the now-forgotten Jeffren Suarez even got in on the act in injury time. “I stood up and applauded what I was seeing,” Wayne Rooney later revealed. “It was the best performance I’ve ever seen.”
2. Manchester City 3-2 Queens Park Rangers (Premier League 2011/12)
Manchester City fans of a certain vintage could happily reel off countless examples of their side snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but those days appeared long behind the title-chasing team of 2011/12. Relegation-threatened opponents were the only thing between Roberto Mancini’s men and the Premier League, and there was no way such a star-studded side would mess it up.
But mess it up they very nearly did. City went 1-0 up through Pablo Zabaleta and seemed to be cruising to victory, only for Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie to turn the game on its head despite the sending-off of QPR midfielder Joey Barton. Suddenly Manchester United were on course to win the title, unless City could score twice in the final 34 minutes.
They couldn’t. QPR still led 2-1 as the clock ticked into stoppage time, when City belatedly sprang into life. Edin Dzeko gave the hosts a lifeline, before Sergio Aguero sparked the wildest celebrations the Etihad Stadium has ever seen by scoring a last-gasp winner. For the first time in 44 years, the title belonged to City.
1. Brazil 1-7 Germany (World Cup 2014)
It was impossible not to be swept up in the emotion of the occasion whenever Brazilian players and fans sang the final verse of their national anthem acapella before the hosts’ 2014 World Cup matches. In the end, though, passion and sentimentality were part of the reason for the Selecao’s undoing, as a ruthless, surgical Germany side swept them aside in this earth-shattering semi-final.
Robbed of the injured Neymar - whose shirt was held aloft by Julio Cesar and David Luiz as part of a bizarre pre-game public mourning - Brazil imploded in spectacular fashion. Thomas Muller edged Germany ahead after being left unmarked from a corner before a jaw-dropping six-minute spell brought four more goals for Joachim Low’s side, including the strike that saw Miroslav Klose overtake Ronaldo as the World Cup’s highest all-time scorer, pouring salt into gaping Brazilian wounds.
Andre Schurrle got in on the act after the break, before Oscar scored what cannot even be termed a consolation in the 90th minute. Brazil had been brutally humiliated on their own soil, comprehensively dismantled by a Germany side which didn’t even have to be at its best to register a record victory for a World Cup semi-final.
This was, quite simply, the most shocking result in the tournament’s history, a savage, seismic shellacking that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed history unfolding before their eyes.
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