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Right to the End: Football's Famous Cups & Finals Decided in the Last Minute

Updated on February 15, 2022
Antonio Martinez1 profile image

Antonio Martinez graduated from Montclair State University with a BA in History and a double minor in Journalism and Russian Area Sudies.

Peter Løvenkrands streches his arms in celebration after scoring the winning goal for Rangers against Celtic in the 2002 Scottish Cup final.
Peter Løvenkrands streches his arms in celebration after scoring the winning goal for Rangers against Celtic in the 2002 Scottish Cup final. | Source

In football, one moment can change the fortunes of two competing rivals. One moment becomes one play, which becomes one goal and everlasting memory. It takes just one memory to have something pulse-pounding unfold, particularly with a cup final the prize for surviving all the knockout phases needed only to reach the final.

Over the years, one goal has done so much for the player, the club, and even perhaps the country. One goal has seen players become famous, whether it is for one game or maybe a catalyst to a storied career. One goal has seen clubs emerge out of obscurity and become relevant in their respective countries, whether it be a semi-professional club or even a club overcoming tragedies.

One goal has always had fans and players expect the unexpected: the stoppage-time goal.

Jimmy Nicholl (L, #2) and Brian Greenhoff (C)celebrate as Alan Sunderland (R) scored the winning goal in the 1979 FA Cup as Arsenal won 3-2.
Jimmy Nicholl (L, #2) and Brian Greenhoff (C)celebrate as Alan Sunderland (R) scored the winning goal in the 1979 FA Cup as Arsenal won 3-2. | Source

England: Drama and Heartbreak

In 2015, Arsenal surpassed Manchester United by winning a record 12th FA Cup. The year before, Arsenal needed extra time to defeat Hull City.

Arsenal survived dramatic encounters before, especially in 1979, when Arsenal led 2-0 after 85 minutes against Manchester United. Manchester United then made a frantic comeback by tying the game with two goals in quick succession. Just when the game looked like it would go into extra time, Arsenal stole the thunder when Alan Sunderland scored in the 89th minute. Arsenal won the "Five Minute Final" in 1979; 14 years later, Arsenal won in a marathon against Sheffield United.

The 1993 FA Cup Final went into a replay after the first match finished 1-1. The second match was still 1-1 after regulation, and for a while, penalty kicks loomed. Arsenal's Andy Linighan suffered a broken nose from Sheffield's Mar Wright during the replay. Linighan would get the better of Wright during a corner kick in the 119th minute. Linighan outjumped Wright to head the ball past Chris Woods as Arsenal, who defeated the same opponent to win the League Cup, became the first English club to win a domestic cup double.

Arsenal would be undone two years later by a last-minute goal considered by many to be one of the best goals ever scored. Arsenal was hoping to be the first club to defend the title in 1995. With the match in extra time after regulation ended in 1-1, Nayim received possession of the ball in the 119th minute and launched a deep shot from 40 yards that went just past David Seaman.

One of the best goals continued the jinx of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, but another dramatic goal remained a curse for one Portuguese club in Amsterdam. Chelsea may have suffered an early exit in the Champions League group stage but fared better in the Europa League. Eden Hazard (against Sparta Prague) and David Luiz (at FC Basel) had scored vital stoppage-time goals, but one player on the news for an ugly biting incident played the hero. With Chelsea's match against Benfica tied at 1-1, Juan Mata struck a corner kick that found Branislav Ivanovic. The Serbian player hit the ball into the net to make Chelsea the first team to hold both the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League at the same time.

Chelsea would also be denied glory three months later via a stoppage-time goal. This goal came in Prague's Eden Arena as the English club faced Champions League winners Bayern München in the UEFA Super Cup with a 2-1 lead late in extra time. Chelsea thought they had avenged its 2012 Champions League loss to Bayern München until Javi Martinez scored one minute into extra time to force a penalty shootout, which Bayern München won.

France's Fantastic Finish in 2011

Arsenal provided fans a thrilling finish in 1979 with the famous "Five-Minute Final." Nearly 22 years later, Olympique Marseille kicked off France's footballing season in one of the most entertaining games, primarily since the match occurred in Tangiers, Morocco.

This opening game was the Trophée des champions (French Super Cup), a matchup that features the previous winners of Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France. However, Olympique Marseille would also play this match with Lille Metropole, winning both. For Lille Metropole, the club sought an unprecedented third straight major piece of hardware; for Olympique Marseille, the club sought to win the game for a second consecutive year following its victory in Tunisia.

After 70 minutes, Lille led 2-0 on goals by Florent Balmont and Eden Hazard. A goal by Andre Ayew cut the deficit in half, only for Moussa Sow to restore a two-goal lead. What unfolded after 85 minutes what nothing short of breathtaking.

In two minutes, Marseille managed to tie the match with two goals by Loic Remy and Jeremy Morel. It would worsen for Lille when Aurelien Chedjou received a second yellow card and an immediate dismissal. Ayew subsequently scored on the following penalty to put Marseille up 4-3. However, Lille tied the match, thanks to another critical signing.

He came over from Lokomotiv Moskva after playing in three seasons for the Russian club. With one heading moment, Montenegro's Marko Basa matched the entire goal tally he had for Lokomotiv Moskva as his goal tied the game at 4-4. Ultimately, the Ayew brothers would decide this game to prevent a penalty shootout. Jordan Ayew tumbled inside the penalty box for the second time late in the match. Andre Ayew added his second penalty to complete the hat trick.

The comeback was complete as Marseille picked up France's first significant honor of the 2011-12 season with a 5-4 victory.

Callum McManaman (15) celebrates with Ben Watson (8) after Watson scored the winning goal for Wigan Athletic in the 2013 FA Cup final.
Callum McManaman (15) celebrates with Ben Watson (8) after Watson scored the winning goal for Wigan Athletic in the 2013 FA Cup final. | Source

An Intrepid Dane and a Gutsy Substitute

Last-minute goals in cup finals are unique, especially in Europe's most contentious rivalries. On May 4, 2002: Celtic and Rangers met in the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park. Scotland's Old Firm Derby has seen Celtic and Rangers met over 400 times, but in 2002, the rivalry meant so much. The star in the final would be a Danish player acquired two years earlier. In 1999, Peter Løvenkrands won the 1999 Danish Cup with Akademisk Boldklub.

In 2002, Løvenkrands guided Rangers to a Scottish League Cup seven weeks before that Scottish Cup final.

A double was a stake for Rangers, and Løvenkrands was looking to score against Celtic once again after doing so in the Scottish League Cup semi-final. Løvenkrands tied the match at 1-1 in the 21st minute; his second goal came with 11 seconds remaining in regulation, and the game tied at 2-2. The play started with Neil McCann shooting a deep ball to Løvenkrands, who headed the ball down and into the net as the Rangers won 3-2.

Løvenkrands etched his name in Scotland's biggest rivalries; another player etched his name and club in footballing history at England's grand stadium.

Before 2013, Wigan Athletic was trophy-less in their 81-year history, but its FA Cup history had not seen success as its 1987 run was the best Wigan achieved in the tournament. But things changed in 2013 when a favorable draw and an emphatic 3-0 victory at Goodison Park against Everton helped Wigan Athletic reach its first-ever FA Cup final.

Only Manchester City stood in Wigan Athletic's way.

Manchester City had a star-studded roster looking to get some form of silverware, but the task was made difficult in the 84th minute when Pablo Zabaleta's sending-off reduced the team to 10 men. Assured of playing in Europe for the first time, Wigan had nothing to lose, even if they only made one substitution, a move that seems unfathomable. He had come on to replace Jordi Gomez, but Ben Watson had a traumatic experience just six months earlier. During a Premier League match against Liverpool, Watson broke his leg, and his return seemed doubtful, especially with Wigan struggling to survive in the Premier League.

But Watson returned on May 4 in Wigan's 3-2 victory over West Bromwich Albion. In the FA Cup Final, the match remained scoreless until Shaun Maloney delivered a corner kick in which Watson headed in toward the net.

Wigan had won its first-ever trophy, but that would be short-lived. Three days later, Wigan Athletic became the first FA Cup winner to be relegated in the same season when it lost to Arsenal. But Watson's game-winning goal made the 2013 FA Cup Final one of the best upsets in the tournament in 25 years.

Not Just on Holy Days

The Danish Cup is unique in football because it has been traditionally held on Ascension Thursday. But there was a problem on this hold day in 2011. Ascension Thursday fell on June 2, and FIFA reserved this date to host international matches. The Danish Cup final would be moved up two weeks earlier to May 22.

However, May 22 was also the day of the Copenhagen Marathon.

Instead of 3:00 pm local time, the Danish Cup final was pushed back three hours and then another 45 minutes due to lightning. The 2011 Danish Cup also marked the first time last season's finalists contested in the final. In 2010, FC Nordsjælland needed extra time to win FC Midtjylland 2-0. This final would be no different as Nordsjælland's Rawez Lawan and Midtjylland's Mikkel Thygesen alternated goals during the match. The game looked headed for extra time again. Nordsjælland made sure it did not as it capitalized in regulations thanks to its final substitution. Søren Christensen came on to replace Tobias Mikkelsen. Christensen scored two minutes into stoppage time to secure the 3-2 victory.

FC Nordsjælland became the first club in 23 years to win consecutive Danish Cups.

Russia: Two Dramatic 1-0 Results

An instance where a cup final lifted both a club and a fledgling region unfolded in 2004. For years, Chechnya had been a strife with war, not only making living difficult for the citizens but the region's primary football club. For almost two decades, Terek Grozny played home games in the neighboring city of Pyatigorsk for two decades, including its 2004 season in Russia's second division. But the club impressed in the Russian Cup in reaching its first final.

Terek Grozny provided hope for the region as it would win Russia's second division in 2004 and its first trip to Russia's Premier League.

Four days after Terek Grozny defeated Shinnik Yaroslavl to reach the final, tragedy struck in Grozny. A deadly explosion ripped through Grozny's stadium, killing Chechnya's president Akhmad Kadyrov. Sad times continued throughout Chechnya ahead of May 29, when the club faced Krylya Sovetov Samara in the Russian Cup final amidst heavy hearts. The match was scoreless throughout regulation when Terek Grozny's key player made his impact. He scored winning goals against Rotor Volgograd and Shinnik Yaroslavl to get his club to the final. Andrei Fedkov, having led Russia's First Division with 38 goals in 2004, scored two minutes into stoppage time to secure Terek Grozny's first-ever Russian Cup.

More importantly, the 1-0 victory meant Terek Grozny became the first club outside Russia's top division to win the Russian Cup. Five years later, another Russian Cup needed a stoppage time goal.

It came at Arena Khimki in 2009, the first time a venue outside Moscow (although Khimki is a suburb) hosted the Russian Cup final. CSKA Moskva faced reigning league champions, Rubin Kazan, in the Russian Cup and sought to win its eighth season. CSKA had an arduous journey that saw the club need a 90th-minute goal by Alan Dzagoev to defeat Baltika Kaliningrad. Then, CSKA survived a late rally by city rivals Dynamo Moscow by winning in a penalty shootout.

CSKA had an even more miserable start 13 minutes into the match against Rubin Kazan when Pavel Mamayev denied Alejandro Damian Dominguez of a goal-scoring opportunity and earned a red card. CSKA played with ten men. Still, Rubin could not capitalize on that man advantage as CSKA held their nerve by going defensive at first before attacking more.

CSKA had many stars on its roster: the Berezutski twins Vasily and Alexei, Wagner Love (who scored in cup finals in 2006 and 2008), and Igor Akinfeev. However, a player who had not scored a lot of goals provided CSKA with a critical play. Evgeni Aldonin received a long pass from Carvalho and launched a shot that went past Sergei Ryzhikov, the goal coming two minutes into stoppage time.

CSKA Moscow won its fifth Russian Cup, and it would not be the only moment Aldonin had in 2009. Just six months later, Aldonin scored a stoppage-time goal in Istanbul to secure CSKA's first ever trip to the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League.

Miracle at Brisbane

History unfolded in one of Australia’s main stadia in 2011. They play their home games at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia; for the Brisbane Roar, elation came at home. Brisbane Roar secured its first league title on Jan. 29, 2011.

Seven weeks later, Brisbane Roar secured another trophy in what became an exhilarating final.

The 2011 A-League Grand Final between Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners (CCM) finished scoreless after regulation. After the first half of extra time, CCM stood on the cusp of the league title with goals by Adam Kwasnik and Oliver Bozanic. Wth five minutes remaining, CCM still held the 2-0 lead.

That was until Brisbane Roar pushed forward more offensively and the move paid dividends. He was a 71st-minute substitute when he replaced Kost Barbarouses, and Henrique scored in the 117th minute. The goal started with Matt McKay’s lob to Jean Carlos Solorzano, who would find Thomas Broich in the penalty area before finding Henrique, who side-footed his attempt past CCM goalkeeper Matthew Ryan.

Ryan finished as the winner of the Joe Marston Medal, awarded to the best player in the A-League Grand Final. Ryan, however, failed to keep CCM from deciding this final in extra time. Brisbane Roar had a corner in stoppage time following Daniel McBreen’s failed clearance. Broich, who helped set up the first goal, struck the corner kick which found Erik Paartalu.

He earned Goal of the Year honors for his volley in Brisbane Roar’s regular season finale, but Paartalu headed a last-minute goal that completed Brisbane Roar’s unlikely comeback. The final would come down to a penalty shootout.

Goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos saved two of CCM’s attempts to give Brisbane Roar an opportunity to win the final. He scored the first goal for Brisbane Roar, and Henrique converted Brisbane Roar’s fourth consecutive attempt to secure the club’s first ever cup final.

A Shocking Semi-Professional Upstart

One of the major stories that unfolded in Belgium in 2006 did not happen in the major footballing cities of Brussels, Bruges or Liege. Rather, the biggest surprise came from a club based in Waregem that was playing in Belgium's first division after winning promotion the season before. Originating from a partnership from two clubs in 2001, Zulte Waregem stunned Belgium by finishing sixth in its first season in top flight football. The club had a manager that was a multi-tasker: Francky Dury was also the club's trainer as well as a Ghent police detective.

It was on May 13: Zulte Waregem made a significant splash as it faced Excelsior Mouscron in the Belgian Cup Final. With the match tied at 1-1, Zulte Waregem's Tim Matthys launched a curling shot that saw the trophy come to Waregem for the first time in 32 years.

Little did many people know that the Belgian Cup began a stunning run for both Matthys and his club. Just over four months later, Matthys scored the go-ahead goal that sent Zulte Waregem to the group stage of the UEFA Cup at Lokomotiv Moskva's expense. Less than three weeks after that upset, Matthys scored a hat trick at Austria Wien.

When it was all said and done, Zulte Waregem finished as the last standing semi-professional club of the UEFA Cup, not to mention Belgium's last representative in European football for the 2006-07 season.

Playing for Something More

Winning a cup final can provide many clubs a stepping ladder to major club competition, no matter how big the country. Perhaps that is the especially true case for Liechtenstein because it is the only active UEFA member not to support a domestic league. Only the Liechtenstein Cup acts as the lone automatic berth to the Europa League for the winner. However, one club dominated the tournament throughout its history: FC Vaduz, whose successful cup history includes 14 consecutive triumphs between 1998 and 2011.

In 2012, it was a different story at Liechtenstein's main football venue, Rheinpark.

FC Vaduz had led 2-0 before USV Mauren/Eschen staged a comeback. First, Igor Manojlovic converted a penalty kick to make it 2-1 before Eren Dulundu scored four minutes into stoppage time to force extra time. Despite finishing the game with ten men, USV Mauren/Eschen held firm to force a penalty shootout. There, all four players converted their attempts, including Dulundu and Manojlovic.

USV Mauren/Eschen won its first Liechtenstein Cup since 1987.

Gold Standard: The Miracle at Barcelona

All the above cup finals mentioned were memorable, but they all pale in comparison to that which happened on May 26, 1999, when the UEFA Champions League Final took place at Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain. Manchester United was in familiar territory: the club traveled to the venue for the first time since playing to a 3-3 draw against Barcelona. They also faced Bayern München twice during the group stage, drawing on both occasions: 2-2 in Munich's Olympiastadion and 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, the latter result helping Manchester United reach the knockout stage.

But Manchester United trailed 1-0 after only six minutes and throughout the game, Bayern München held on desperatelz to win its first European trophy in 23 years. In fact, ribbons of Bayern Munich's colors were already put on the trophy while Manchester United was pressing for the tying goal as injury time began with goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel setting the tone.

But another Manchester United player redeemed himself from the first meeting after scoring the game-tying own goal in Germany. After replacing Jesper Blomqvist in the 67th minute, Teddy Sheringham scored the tying goal after Ryan Giggs missed his attempt. Extra time loomed, but Manchester United was able to get another corner kick. Schmeichel stayed in his penalty area as Beckham struck another corner kick, finding another super substitute. After replacing Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjær headed a Sheringham flick toward the net and scored the winning goal.

In winning 2-1, Manchester United achieved not only an unprecedented treble, but in some ways lifted a cloud over English clubs, as it became the first English club to win a European competition post-Heysel Stadium disaster era.

What Manchester United and all these winners proved that there will come a time where digging deep is the only way to win the ultimate prize. A never-say-die attitude also helps as well because the truth is, the game is not over until the final whistle sounds.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Antonio Martinez


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