Feature

Have a team ever come from second on final day to win title?

By Adrian Kajumba 19 May 2024
Odegaard, Rice, Arsenal

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The destination of the Premier League title will be decided on the season’s last day for only the 10th time in the competition's history this weekend.

Manchester City are in pole position going into Sunday's final round of matches, but a draw or a defeat at home to West Ham United coupled with a win for second-placed Arsenal against Everton would see the Gunners crowned champions.

History favours City, however. On each previous occasion the team sitting top of the Premier League going into the final day have ended up lifting the Trophy.

Indeed, the last team to come from behind on the final matchday to be crowned champions was Arsenal, when they won the league title at Liverpool thanks to Michael Thomas's stoppage-time goal to make it 2-0 at Anfield in 1988/89.

But that does not mean there have not been late twists and turns on the Premier League's final days.

Here, Adrian Kajumba looks at the nine previous occasions when the race to be crowned Premier League champions has gone down to the wire.

1994/95

How things stood

Blackburn Rovers went into their final-day trip to Liverpool with a two-point lead, and having to match or better Manchester United’s result against West Ham to guarantee winning their first Premier League title.

Meanwhile Man Utd needed a big favour from their old foes at Anfield. If Liverpool took points off Blackburn and United won at West Ham, the title would remain at Old Trafford for a third successive season.

Table before/after
Kick-off Final
Position Club Points Club Points
1 Blackburn 89 Blackburn 89
2 Man Utd 87 Man Utd 88

How the day unfolded

Alan Shearer fired Kenny Dalglish’s side ahead not long before Michael Hughes put West Ham 1-0 up to strengthen Blackburn’s grip on the title.

But Brian McClair’s second-half equaliser for Man Utd, quickly followed by John Barnes’s Liverpool leveller, gave the Red Devils hope again.

United then laid siege to their hosts’ goal but their efforts were repeatedly repelled by inspired West Ham goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko and his defiant defenders.

And all those missed chances came back to haunt Man Utd when Liverpool’s Jamie Redknapp netted an injury-time free-kick winner.

Had Sir Alex Ferguson’s men scored a second goal, Redknapp’s strike would have helped hand United the title.

But instead the final whistle went at Upton Park not long after Redknapp scored, sparking Blackburn celebrations as they won the title by a point.

Final-day scores

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1995/96

How things stood

A year later it was Man Utd who went into the final fixtures with the advantage.

In January of this season that featured Kevin Keegan’s unforgettable “I will love it if we beat them” rant, United trailed Newcastle United by 12 points.

But they turned that into a two-point lead by the last day when they travelled to Middlesbrough knowing that, with their superior goal difference, a draw would probably be enough to clinch the title.

Newcastle hosted Tottenham Hotspur needing a win and a Man Utd defeat to lift the trophy.

Table before/after
Kick-off Final
Position Club Points Club Points
1 Man Utd 79 Man Utd 82
2 Newcastle 77 Newcastle 78

How the final day unfolded

David May eased Man Utd nerves with an early goal before Andrew Cole’s second-half strike all but ended any doubt about the title’s destination.

Soon after Jason Dozzell put Spurs ahead before Les Ferdinand equalised for Newcastle.

But there was to be no turnaround as Ryan Giggs made it 3-0 to seal United’s third title in the first four seasons of the Premier League.

Final-day scores

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1998/99

How things stood

Arsenal’s defeat at Leeds United followed by Man Utd’s draw at Blackburn in their penultimate fixtures edged the Old Trafford side one point ahead going into the final day.

That left Arsenal needing to beat Aston Villa and hoping that their north London rivals Spurs would take points off the Red Devils if the Gunners were to retain the title. However, if Man Utd matched or bettered Arsenal’s result, the trophy would be heading back to Old Trafford.

Table before/after
Kick-off Final
Position Club Points Club Points
1 Man Utd 76 Man Utd 79
2 Arsenal 75 Arsenal 78

How the day unfolded

For 18 minutes Arsenal had genuine hope of staging a dramatic last-day turnaround to retain the title they won the previous season as part of a domestic Double.

When Ferdinand's lob put Spurs ahead after 24 minutes, there was the rare sight of a Spurs goal being celebrated by Arsenal.

Arsenal then joined Man Utd level on 76 points, with both teams having the same goal difference.

But goals either side of half-time from David Beckham and Cole turned the Old Trafford match around.

They also put United clear at the top of the table again and on their way to part one of their historic Treble, rendering Nwankwo Kanu’s eventual winner for Arsenal against Villa academic in the process.

Final-day scores

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2007/08

How things stood

The two sides fighting for the title were level on points going into their final fixtures for the first time in Premier League history after Chelsea had beaten Man Utd in Matchweek 36 to reel in the leaders.

United’s superior goal difference gave them an advantage ahead of their trip to Wigan and Chelsea’s match against Bolton Wanderers.

Ferguson's side needed to match Chelsea’s result to win their 10th Premier League title, while the Blues were hoping for some help from Wigan and a home win against the Trotters.

Table before/after
Kick-off Final
Position Club Points Club Points
1 Man Utd 84 Man Utd 87
2 Chelsea 84 Chelsea 85

How things unfolded

At the halfway stage it was firmly advantage United thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s 20th-minute penalty.

Ronaldo, pen v Wigan

Andriy Shevchenko gave Chelsea the lead just after the hour to put them level on points again with their rivals.

But Giggs sealed Man Utd's 2-0 victory, while Bolton’s injury-time equaliser from Matthew Taylor ended Chelsea’s hopes once and for all.

United won the league by two points 10 days before edging Chelsea out on penalties in the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow.

Final-day scores

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2009/10

How things stood

The same teams as two years earlier - Chelsea and Man Utd - were locked in another last-day duel, although this time the roles were reversed.

Chelsea were a point clear and knew that by matching or bettering nearest challengers Man Utd’s result they would claim a third Premier League title.

United needed already safe Wigan to deny Chelsea a win and beat Stoke City at Old Trafford themselves to leapfrog Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

Table before/after
Kick-off Final
Position Club Points Club Points
1 Chelsea 83 Chelsea 86
2 Man Utd 82 Man Utd 85

How the day unfolded

Chelsea did not give Man Utd any hope of becoming the first team to win four consecutive Premier League titles after taking a sixth-minute lead through Nicolas Anelka before Wigan went down to 10 men following Gary Caldwell’s sending off.

Both Chelsea and United were 2-0 up at half-time.

Chelsea took full advantage of their extra man, scoring six second-half goals, including three from Didier Drogba, compared to United's two to maintain their points lead at the top and further improve their superior goal difference.

Final-day scores

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2011/12

How things stood

The Manchester rivals had near identical records going into their final fixtures of the season, with only a goal difference of +12 in Man City’s favour between them.

Man City, who hosted QPR, just needed to match Man Utd’s result to earn their first Premier League title.

Dropping points would open the door for United, who travelled to Sunderland. What followed was the most dramatic Premier League finish ever.

Table before/after
Kick-off Final
Position Club Points Club Points
1 Man City 86 Man City 89
2 Man Utd 86 Man Utd 89

How the day unfolded

The Premier League lead changed hands for the first time ever on the final day when Wayne Rooney put United ahead on 20 minutes.

When the final whistle went at Sunderland, United had won 1-0 and were all set to be crowned champions as Man City were being held 2-2 by 10-man QPR after Edin Dzeko’s stoppage-time equaliser.

But there was still more time to go at the Etihad Stadium, and in an unbelievable finish, Sergio Aguero scored the winner in the fourth minute of added time to seal a remarkable City fightback and snatch the title from their neighbours’ grasp in a sensational finale.

Final-day scores

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2013/14

How things stood

The key late twist in this race came in the weeks before the final day as Liverpool squandered a three-point advantage by losing at home to Chelsea and blowing a three-goal lead to draw at Crystal Palace.

Man City, meanwhile, picked up wins at Palace and Everton to leapfrog Liverpool - the first time they had led the division all season - to go into their season finale against West Ham two points clear.

With the better goal difference too, Liverpool needed Man City to lose at home to West Ham and beat Newcastle at Anfield themselves to claim a first Premier League crown.

Table before/after
Kick-off Final
Position Club Points Club Points
1 Man City 83 Man City 86
2 Liverpool 81 Liverpool 84

How the day unfolded

Man City avoided any late panic with a comfortable 2-0 win, thanks to goals in each half from Samir Nasri and Vincent Kompany. Liverpool recovered from Martin Skrtel’s own goal to win, courtesy of second-half efforts from Daniel Agger and Daniel Sturridge, but it was too little too late as their slips during the title race run-in proved costly.

Final-day scores

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2018/19

How things stood

There had been a one-point gap between Man City and Liverpool since early March when Pep Guardiola’s side won at AFC Bournemouth to go top 24 hours before Liverpool’s goalless Merseyside derby draw at Everton.

The two sides then both won their next eight matches leaving Man City, who travelled to Brighton & Hove Albion and won their final 13 in total, needing to match or better Liverpool’s result against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the last day to be champions.

Dropped City points and a Liverpool win would see the trophy heading to Anfield instead.

Table before/after
Kick-off Final
Position Club Points Club Points
1 Man City 95 Man City 98
2 Liverpool 94 Liverpool 97

How the day unfolded

In the end, both sides maintained momentum and Man City retained their title.

Liverpool were given the briefest glimmer of hope when Sadio Mane put them 1-0 up and Brighton led through Glenn Murray's goal.

Man City’s 2012 hero Aguero instantly equalised, though they did not reclaim top spot until Aymeric Laporte put them 2-1 up after 38 minutes. Guardiola’s side did not look back after that, clinching a 4-1 victory while Liverpool won 2-0.

Final-day scores

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2021/22
How things stood

Liverpool’s midweek win at Southampton, a few days after Man City were held to a 2-2 draw at West Ham, took the title race to the final day with City, who hosted Villa, a point ahead. Match or better Liverpool’s result and City would retain the trophy.

Any City slip up coupled with a Liverpool win against Wolves, and the Reds would regain the title they won in 2019/20.

Table before/after
Kick-off Final
Position Club Pts Club Pts
1 Man City 90 Man City 93
2 Liverpool 89 Liverpool 92

How the day unfolded

Man City were at it again - both with the last-day 3-2 comeback win and by opening the door for Liverpool, only to end up dashing their hopes again.

When Mane cancelled out Pedro Neto’s early Wolves goal, Liverpool were level with City on 90 points and daring to dream.

City were trailing 2-0 at this point in a near carbon-copy repeat of the situation they found themselves in against QPR in 2012.

One more Liverpool goal at that stage would have sent them top, but Jurgen Klopp’s side could not initially find one, and Man City scored three times in five minutes to take charge.

Liverpool did eventually score twice even later in the second half, but it was ultimately in vain.

Final-day scores

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