8 of the Most Chaotic Season Finales in Football History

Imagine your entire season coming down to one day, one final match to get over the line, the thin line between joy and despair.

The pressure’s on, there’s no time for thinking, there’s no place for mistakes and there’s certainly no margin for error.

We’ve seen it all over the years, but here are eight of the most dramatic final days in football history.

Division 1 1988/89

Considered the catalyst for the formation of the ​Premier League, Liverpool and Arsenal battled it out for the title at Anfield on the last day of the 1988/89 season. The Reds went into this one three points above the Gunners, and merely had to avoid defeat by two goals to take the crown again, with Arsenal in need of a win by at least two goals to secure the title on goals scored.

So obviously, Liverpool lost by two goals.

Alan Smith put Arsenal ahead after 51 minutes, and a tense second half played out at Anfield.

In stoppage time, Lee Dixon hoofed it long to Smith, who flicked it on for Michael Thomas to slot under the onrushing Bruce Grobbelaar. The title belonged to Arsenal, and Merseyside’s perceived invincibility of the 1980s was over.

​Pos. Team​ W​ D​ L​ GD​ GF​ ​GA Pts​
1​ ​Arsenal ​22 ​10 ​6 ​+37 ​73 ​36 ​76
​2 ​Liverpool ​22 ​10 ​6 ​+37 ​65 ​28 ​76

Bundesliga 2000/01

Gather round children for the story of Schalke’s four minute championship!

Heading into the last day of the season in 2001, Schalke had tentative hopes of winning their first ever Bundesliga title. They needed to beat relegation-threatened Unterhaching at their final game at their home ground of Parkstadion, while needing Bayern to lose away at Hamburg.

For much of that day, the Königsblauen were failing to hold their end of the bargain. They trailed their inferior opponents until deep into the second half, eventually securing a topsy-turvy 5-3 victory late on. When Ebbe Sand rounded off the scoring in the 89th minute, there had yet to be a goal at Volksparkstadion.

And then two came along.

The first fell the way of Hamburg, sparking wild celebrations down in Gelsenkirchen. Sergej Barbarez had headed them in front. The title was heading to Schalke.

And then it wasn’t.

While supporters had already invaded the pitch at Parkstadion, ​Bayern were trying their best to find a title-saving equaliser, and would you believe it, they found one.

A back pass was called against Hamburg in the 93rd minute, and Die Roten were given one last chance to find a goal – Stefan Effenberg teed up Patrik Andersson, and the ball crept in to win the league and break Schalke hearts.

Pos. Team​ W​ D​ L​ GD​ Pts​
​1 ​Bayern 19​ ​6 ​9 ​+25 ​63
​2 ​Schalke ​18 8​ ​8 ​+30 ​62

Premier League 2004/05

West Bromwich Albion fans celebrate on t

You’d have to search far and wide to find a league season anywhere that saw no one guaranteed of relegation heading into the final day, and that’s what makes the Premier League’s 2004/05 season so unique.

West Brom started the day bottom on 31 points, Southampton in 19th on 32, Crystal Palace in 18th with the same amount but a superior goal difference, and Norwich just outside the bottom three on 33 points.

Incredibly, the Baggies were the ones to escape relegation, beating Portsmouth 2-0 at The Hawthorns. Elsewhere, the Saints led Manchester United before losing 2-1, Palace drew 2-2 at local rivals Charlton, and Norwich were thumped 6-0 by Fulham.

Pos. ​Team ​W D​ L​ GD​ Pts​
​17 ​West Brom ​6 16​ ​16 -25​ ​34
​18 ​Crystal Palace ​7 ​12 ​19 ​-21 ​33
​19 Norwich​ ​7 ​12 ​19 ​-35 ​33
​20 ​Southampton ​6 ​14 ​18 ​-21 ​32

Premier League 2011/12

Manchester City's Belgian captain Vincen

The most iconic moment in Premier League history came on the final day of the 2011/12 season.

A title race between Manchester City and Manchester United had captured the nation all year long, and it boiled down to a memorable finish.

City led United on goal difference – much thanks to their 6-1 thrashing of their greatest rivals at Old Trafford in the autumn – and only had to match the Red Devils’ result. Roberto Mancini’s side hosted QPR, who needed the points to stave off relegation, while Sir Alex Ferguson’s men travelled to Sunderland, who had nothing to play for.

Wayne Rooney put United ahead at the Stadium of Light early on, and that would be the only goal on Wearside that day.

At the Etihad, meanwhile, chaos personified was occurring.

Pablo Zabaleta put ​City ahead just before the break, but Djibril Cisse equalised just after it. QPR captain and former City man Joey Barton was sent off for violent conduct just before the hour mark, but it didn’t stop his side soon taking the lead through Jamie Mackie.

As the old saying goes, this was typical City doing it the hard way.

After knocking on the door all afternoon, the title seemed to be slipping away from them. Until Edin Dzeko headed in the equaliser in stoppage time.

There was renewed belief around the Etihad as City mounted one final attack. Nigel de Jong found Sergio Aguero. He found Mario Balotelli. He fell backwards, but toe-poked it back for Aguero, who rode the challenge of QPR defender Taye Taiwo. He shot, he scored. 93:20 on the clock, and City won the league for the first time in 44 years.

​Pos. Team​ W​ D​ L​ GD​ Pts​
​1 Manchester City​ ​28 ​5 ​5 ​+64 ​89
​2 ​Manchester United ​28 ​5 ​5 ​+56 ​89

League 1 2012/13

Marcello Trotta

Two of the top three met at Griffin Park on the final day of the 2012/13 season, as Brentford and Doncaster chased a win to guarantee promotion.

While Bournemouth secured second place with a win elsewhere, the Bees and Donny battled it out for top spot.

A cagey match yielded no goals right until the last, and Brentford were awarded a penalty deep into stoppage time. 

Marcello Trotta – who had been so reliable for Brentford all season – picked up the ball and placed it on the spot.

He hit the bar. Trottbar, if you will.

Rovers raced down the other end in full flight, and the ball eventually fell to James Coppinger to win the title for Doncaster in the 96th minute. Heartbreak for Brentford, who would then go on to lose in the playoff final.

​Pos. ​Team W D​ L​ GD​ Pts​
​1 ​Doncaster Rovers ​25 ​9 ​12 ​+18 ​84
​2 ​Bournemouth ​24 11​ ​11 ​+23 ​83
​3 Brentford​ ​21 ​16 ​9 ​+15 ​79

La Liga 2013/14

Diego Godin

On the verge of their first title in nearly two decades, Atletico Madrid needed a point on the last day of this season. The catch? They needed to avoid defeat at Barcelona, who would instead win the league if they claimed all three points.

When star striker Diego Costa had to be substituted after just 16 minutes, it looked like an uphill battle for Atleti, and matters were made worse when Alexis Sanchez gave Barça the lead.

However, Diego Godin – a rock at the back all season long – headed them level just after the interval, and his side would cling on to secure the draw they needed to be crowned kings of Spain again.

​Pos. Team​ W​ D​ L​ GD​ Pts
​1 ​Atletico Madrid ​28 ​6 4 ​+51 ​90
​2 Barcelona​ ​27 ​6 ​5 ​+67 ​87
​3 Real Madrid​ ​27 6​ ​5 ​+66 ​87

Championship 2015/16

Albert Adomah

Another case of winner takes all occurred in the Championship during the 2015/16 season.

Burnley, Middlesbrough and Brighton entered the final day with two points between them, the Clarets on top by that margin and Boro and the Seagulls level. Sean Dyche’s men were guaranteed promotion, however, as their rivals had to face each other.

​Cristhian Stuani put Aitor Karanka’s side ahead, but Dale Stephens equalised for Albion in the second half, before being dismissed for a bad tackle just minutes later.

Boro held on to secure automatic promotion, and Brighton would be knocked out of the playoffs by Sheffield Wednesday.

​Pos. ​Team ​W D​ L​ GD​ Pts​
1​ ​Burnley ​26 ​15 ​5 ​+37 ​93
​2 ​Middlesbrough ​26 ​11 ​9 ​+32 ​89
3​ ​Brighton ​24 ​17 ​5 ​+30 ​89

Serie A 2017/18

Alessandro Murgia,Felipe Anderson

Having been starved of Champions League football for years, Lazio and Inter went toe-to-toe on the final day of Serie A in the 2017/18 season.

The Biancocelesti needed a point to claim a spot in the top four, while only a win would do for the Nerazzurri and clinch their place via the head to head rule.

An Ivan Perisic own goal put Lazio ahead early on, before Danilo D’Ambrosio levelled it for Inter. Felipe Anderson struck to give the hosts the advantage again, and as the game entered the final 15 minutes, it sprung into life.

Lazio defender Stefan de Vrij​ – who had a pre-contractual agreement to join Inter – conceded a needless penalty, and Mauro Icardi lashed it in. Senad Lulic was sent off just after, and Matias Vecino struck to ensure Inter returned to European football’s top table.

​Pos. Team​ W​ D​ L​ GD​ Pts​
​4 ​Inter ​20 ​12 ​6 +36​ ​72
​5 ​Lazio ​21 ​9 ​8 ​+40 ​72

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