What’s better than a last day of the championship in which everything has yet to be decided?
Watching two or three teams battle it out in the last 90 minutes for the title, avoid relegation or reach one of the last places in Europe is one of the most engaging emotions in football. It is often even more thrilling than a final.
So, here are seven of the most exciting season finals in some of the best leagues in the world … ranked by how dramatic they’ve been.
PSG have won Ligue 1 several times in recent years, but that hasn’t always been the case. There was indeed a time when Parisians fought to avoid relegation.
One of these seasons was 2007/08 when, on the final matchday, they absolutely had to avoid defeat to ensure their salvation. This was just one of many themes, with Lyon fighting Bordeaux for the title and a very heated fight to access the European cups.
Despite the initial disadvantage, PSG managed to beat Sochaux 2-1. Lens was at the expense of this and, despite the 40 points, was relegated.
Lyon, inspired by a young striker named Karim Benzema, beat Auxerre 3-1 to win the Scudetto; while Bordeaux drew 2-2 against Lens. Marseille took last place in the Champions League with a pyrotechnic 4-3 victory over Strasbourg, enough to beat competition from Nancy, who at one point in the day were in third place by four points.
The match between Metz and Le Mans was the only match that had nothing at stake, given that the hosts were already relegated and the guests stable in the middle of the table. And that too ended with a 4-3 pyrotechnic victory for Metz, who had already scored 3 goals in 34 minutes.
What a day!
The one between River Plate and Boca Juniors is the most heated rivalry outside the European borders, and the two teams know how to put on a show.
Ahead of the final matchday of the 2019/20 season, River led by one point and had held that position for seven weeks. All they had to do to win the championship was beat mid-table Atletico Tucuman.
After closing the first half at 1-1, in the second half the River failed to break through the opposing defense and equalized, offering its side to their usual rivals.
In La Bombonera, however, Boca struggled more than they should against Gimnasia coached by Diego Armando Maradona, so much so that after 70 ‘the two teams were still 0-0.
Luckily for Boca, Carlos Tevez had previously planted a kiss on Maradona’s lips as a sign of good luck and, despite the Argentine icon’s best efforts to thwart his former club, Gimnasia relented.
The lightning bolt from outside the box by Tevez himself in the 71st minute caused total chaos in the stands, punishing River Plate in the cruellest way possible. We are sure that even Maradona had a smile on his face away from the cameras.
Some fans in Brazil particularly miss the old playoff system, arguing that the league format represents a boring end to the season. Absolutely no one could make that claim for the 2020 season, though, as Flamengo and Internacional battled for the title to the end.
Internacional had been making their way to the top for six straight weeks as the season ran towards climax and looked set to win their first title since 1979.
But everything changed when they met direct competitors, as well as reigning champions, of Flamengo in the penultimate match. Internacional took the lead on 12 minutes away from home but ultimately had to surrender to goals from Giorgian Arrascaeta and Gabriel Barbosa. Flamengo took advantage of this, overtaking their rivals with two points ahead of the last championship.
Both teams ended their seasons simultaneously on a dramatic Thursday night. Flamengo just needed to beat Sao Paulo away and the title was theirs again, but they were unable to get the job done, going behind just before half-time, then ending up behind again after having equalized and thus closing the match with a 2-1 defeat. Sao Paulo had held first place for much of the start of the season only to collapse in the second half, but showed all their strength at the worst moment for Flamengo.
This left the door open for Internacional who, amazingly, did not go beyond 0-0 at home to Corinthians (12th in the league) which meant they lost the title by just one point.
Today Inter is considered one of the powers of Italian and European football. But long ago she was more of a bridesmaid, known more for her epic and impossible failures.
The most spectacular collapse is certainly that of 2001/02.
The Nerazzurri had been at the top of the table for 15 weeks out of 33 (there were still 18 teams in Serie A) waiting for the final matchday. The formula was simple: beat Lazio to avoid being ousted by Juventus or Rome.
In the stands, the fans of Lazio and Inter sat together, with the hosts desperately trying to prevent the Giallorossi from winning the Scudetto. But on the pitch it’s a completely different story, with the Biancocelesti coming back twice and eventually winning 4-2.
Both Roma and Juventus have won their matches against Turin and Udinese respectively, with the Bianconeri overtaking Inter in first place. Hector Cuper’s men even fell below Roma, finishing third. Once the news broke, we witnessed the iconic images of Ronaldo in tears on the Inter bench.
When in Milan, don’t talk about May 5th!
Do you remember the last time Bayern had to struggle to win the Bundesliga? Well, he probably never struggled harder than in 2000/01.
The Bavarians had lost first place on Matchday 29 when Schalke beat them 3-1 in Munich, displacing them at the top of the table. But in the 33rd, Bayern had made a double pass.
They just needed a point against Hamburg on the final matchday and the title was theirs, regardless of what Schalke did. Never Royal Blues they certainly put pressure on, beating relegated Unterhaching 5-3 in comeback.
And Schalke thought they had made it when news broke that Sergej Barbarez had given HSV (Hamburg) an unlikely 90-minute lead against Bayern. The fans were so convinced that the celebrations had already broken out in the stands.
But the ecstasy soon turned to heartbreak when, in the 94th minute, Patrik Andersson fired an indirect free-kick from his home. Explosion of joy at the triple whistle for the Bavarians and Schalke 04, well, they felt an almost impossible pain to replicate in sport.
The classic it’s an unparalleled rivalry and in 2006/07 Real Madrid took four points from Barcelona, winning 2-0 at home before leaving Camp Nou 3-3 in a game they probably deserved to win.
But avoiding defeat proved immensely valuable when, on the final matchday, Real managed to catch up to Mallorca’s 1-0 closing with a 3-1 win thanks to goals from Jose Antonio Reyes (x2) and Mahamadou Diarra in the space of 12 minutes of the second half. The Blancos got the better of Barcelona in the La Liga victory by virtue of the direct clashes.
The blaugrana lost the opportunity to take the lead just a week earlier, throwing away a 2-1 lead and drawing 2-2 in the last minute at home against rivals Espanyol; while only 12 games before, Real Madrid were even fourth.
Going from fourth to final triumph over 12 games is impressive. Bayern’s success in 2001 was certainly resounding, but nothing can ever surpass Sergio Aguero’s goal. One who sent down rivers of tears to men, women and children, accomplishing a feat that no one could understand. Even Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t believe it.
Under 2-1 at home against QPR, the Citizens are unable to get the better of their opponents, who are 10 men left, and are about to throw away their first title since 1968 to give it to their historical rivals. On 13 May 2012 he had all the credentials to become a nightmare for Manchester City fans.
But when … well, you’ll know what happened next. Dzeko, 92 ‘. Mario Balotelli passes in the 94th minute to AGUEROOOO! A nightmare became the ultimate dream.
Manchester City commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Premier League’s highlight with a statue of Aguero.
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