Saturday’s clash between Atlético Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Nou Camp will be only the third ‘winner takes all’ match on the final day of the campaign in history and the first since 1951.
But over the past few years football has brought us some other spectacular and dramatic season endings. We have made a list in chronological order of the best five.
#1: English Premier League of 1988/89
Arsenal midfielder Mickey Thomas wrote himself into the history books when he scored the most dramatic of late winners to clinch the 1988/89 First Division title. Arsenal travelled to leaders Liverpool on the final day of the season needing to win by at least two goals to take the title on goal difference from the Anfield club. Leading 1-0 in injury time Thomas surged forward from midfield, ran onto an Alan Smith flick-on and chipped the advancing Bruce Grobbelaar to score Arsenal’s crucial second.
#2: Spanish Primera Division of 1993/94
Picture the scene on the final day of the 1993-94 La Liga season… It’s Deportivo against Valencia at the Riazor on the final day of the season. Deportivo, sitting on top of the league, need to just hold their nerve and win to claim their first ever La Liga title. As the game heads into injury time it’s still 0-0. Title rivals Barcelona are beating Sevilla so Deportivo need to win.
As Deportivo throw everything forward, Nando is fouled in the box: penalty to Deportivo! Regular taker Bebeto bottles it, Donato has been substituted, so up steps Yugoslavian defender Miroslav Djukic. This to win the title. He shoots… And he… misses. His lame attempt, straight at goalie Gonzalez, hands Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona the title on goal difference.
#3: German Bundesliga of 2000/01
Schalke 04 and Bayern Munich reached the penultimate round level on points and it looked like the dreadlock wouldn’t be broken. But in the last minute of their respective games Bayern scored the winner against Kaiserslautern and Stuttgart did the same against Schalke, leaving Bayern with a three-point advantage (albeit with a worse goal difference) over Schalke.
In the last matchday, Schalke amazingly recovered from a two-goal deficit to beat Unterhaching 5-3 but the title would still go to Bayern as long as they could hold the 0-0 score at Hamburg. In the 90th minute, however, Sergej Barbarez scored for Hamburg, sending the Schalke fans into raptures (and onto the pitch) celebrating what would have been their first German title since 1958. ‘Would have been’ had Patrik Andersson not drawn level for Bayern following an indirect free kick in the fourth minute of injury time.
#4: German Bundesliga of 1999/00 and 2001/02
To lose one Bundesliga that was in the bag might be considered unfortunate. To lose two smacked of carelessness. In 2000 Bayer Leverkusen only needed a draw against strugglers Unterhaching but, thanks largely to an own goal by Michael Ballack, contrived to lose 2-0. Bayern Munich don’t blow opportunities like this (apart from the 1999 UEFA Champions League final against Manchester United), and beat Werder Bremen 3-1.
In 2002 it was even worse for Leverkusen. They led by 5 points with 3 games to play, but lost two. Meanwhile Dortmund won their last three fixtures to grab an unlikely title. Leverkusen went on to lose in the finals of both the European and German Cups and have never been the same force since.
#5: English Premier League of 2011/12
Manchester City needed to beat struggling QPR at home to pip rivals Manchester United to the Premiership crown. Losing 2-1 going into injury time all looked lost. But step forward Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero in the 92nd and 93rd minutes to clinch a 3-2 win for the most astonishing ending to any Premier League season.