The Closest Premier League Finishes
Crystal Palace’s dramatic comeback against Liverpool on Monday night means victory for the Premier League’s top two on Sunday would see the title decided by a margin of just two points.
Compared to last year’s title ‘race’, where Manchester United romped home by 11 points, that seems close. However it has been even tighter in the past.
Man City win – 1.17
West Ham win – 14.50
Draw – 7.80
(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)
3. 1998-99: Manchester United 79 points, Arsenal 78 points
There have been several seasons where the destination of the Premier League trophy has been decided by a single point, however I’m going with this one as everything was still all to play for on the final day.
United were looking to reclaim the title after Arsenal’s league and cup double of the previous season, but had a balancing act on their hands with finals in the FA Cup and Champions League to follow the end of the Premier League campaign.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s late winner for Leeds against Arsenal in the penultimate game of the season had helped the Yorkshire club secure Champions League football, but more importantly it left Sir Alex Ferguson’s club – who themselves had only drawn with relegated Blackburn – one point clear entering the final round of fixtures.
The Manchester club faced Tottenham in the final game – a side with nothing to play for, and one which sceptics suggested would have no desire to do their North London rivals a favour. However Les Ferdinand’s lob gave Spurs a shock first-half lead, and while David Beckham equalised before the break, Arsenal knew that a goal of their own against Aston Villa would put them top.
However Andy Cole gave United the lead just minutes into the second half, and while Kanu’s second-half strike for Arsenal made for a nervy final few minutes up at Old Trafford, United held on to finish the campaign one point clear of there rivals. What happened next at Wembley and Camp Nou will live long in the memory.
2. 2009-10: Chelsea 86 points, Manchester United 85 points
The 2009-10 season could easily have been a transitional one for Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo had joined Real Madrid off the back of a season in which he led his employers to the Champions League final, and in had come the rather uninspiring quartet of Mame Biram Diouf, Gabriel Obertan, Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia.
However a fast start – six wins from the first seven games – and a five-game winning run in February and March which seemed to be a staple of Ferguson sides – United were at the summit when Chelsea came to visit on April 3rd.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side had blown hot and cold – putting five past Blackburn and seven past Sunderland but finishing with nine men in a 4-2 defeat at home to a Manchester City side only just beginning to establish themselves as Champions League contenders let alone title challengers. But they got things right at Old Trafford, opening up a two goal lead through Joe Cole and Didier Drogba before Kiko Macheda’s late goal made them sweat.
United were still feeling the effects of that defeat the following week, failing to break down a Blackburn side containing such luminaries as Vince Grella and Nikola Kalinić, meaning even defeat at Tottenham did not stop the Blues going into the final weekend a point clear.
What could have been a tense afternoon proved anything but, as Nicolas Anelka’s early goal and a red card for Wigan’s Gary Caldwell allowed Chelsea to cruise to what would end up as an 8-0 victory, taking them over the 100 goal mark for the season. United’s 4-0 victory over Stoke was positively underwhelming in comparison.
3. 2011-12: Manchester City 89 points (+64 goal difference), Manchester United 89 points (+56 goal difference)
When Manchester City won 6-1 at Old Trafford in October 2011, few mentioned goal difference considerations, and rightly so – the result was so monumental in its own right that the late goals from Edin Džeko and David Silva were seen as statement-making rather than mere statistics. However it would be goal difference that ended up deciding the destination of the title after one of the most dramatic final days in Premier League history.
That momentous win had left City five points clear after nine games and serious contenders to earn their first ever Premier League title. New signing Sergio Agüero had hit the ground running, while fellow strikers Džeko and Mario Balotelli would also end the season with double figures. However a relative slump around the turn of the year would hand the initiative to their local rivals and a run of two points from three games in March and April looked like ending Roberto Mancini’s title dreams.
But then, much like this season, their rivals slipped up at a crucial moment. Shaun Maloney’s winner for Wigan opened the door before Steven Pienaar’s late Everton equaliser at Old Trafford nudged it that bit wider. Before you knew it, Vincent Kompany’s header in a late-season Manchester Derby put City ahead on goal difference and a 2-0 victory at Newcastle left them needing just a home win against struggling QPR.
If that seemed straightforward, people should have known better. As United ground out a 1-0 victory at Sunderland, City saw their early lead cancelled out by goals from Djibril Cissé and Jamie Mackie, as the London club chased the win they needed to guarantee their top-flight status.
As the game entered stoppage time, Mark Hughes’ visitors were down to 10-men but still in the lead. However Džeko’s header gave them hope and as the clock ticked towards the 94-minute mark up stepped Agüero to fire home the winner from Balotelli’s pass, the Italian’s first and only assist in English football.
The Premier League, or any league for that matter, will do well to produce a more dramatic finish to a season. Can it happen again?
There’s no need to worry about an underwhelming finale, as if any of this weekend’s Premier League games end goalless, GR88.com will refund selected losing match bets on that particular game. Full terms and conditions can be found here.
Betting Instinct tip – With Manchester City and Liverpool both facing theoretically simple home games, back both teams to win to nil at 4.39 with GR88.com.
TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+.