90. Pele nutmegs Eusebio
Benfica 2-5 Santos (4-8 agg), Estadio da Luz
Intercontinental Cup, 11 October 1962
The moment in a tie during which Santos gave the European champions a proper reality check by going 5-0 up in the Stadium of Light, Pele capped a crowning match by hitting a hat-trick and then nutmegging one of his greatest rising rivals. By then, the embarrassment was complete. As was the implication: Brazilian football and its personification, Pele, were unquestionably number-one.
What it meant the king was keeping the throne. Moreover, it led to the spread of the nutmeg – a universal move now (and the ultimate way to embarrass an opposition player) but one that Pele initially popularised in the ’50s and ’60s.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Zico and Flamengo destroy Liverpool, 1981
89. Eintracht Frankfurst improbably survive a five-way relegation struggle
Final day: Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 Kaiserslautern; Stuttgart 1-0 Werder Bremen; Nuremburg 1-2 Freiburg; Bochum 2-3 Hansa Rostock
Bundesliga, 29 May 1999
The moment Which one? With four games left of the 1998-99 German season, Eintracht Frankfurt looked as good as down only to win three games and cut a four-point gap to two.
With 15 minutes left, they were 2-1 up at home to previous champions Kaiserslautern but still striving for another two goals in a situation of so many changing positions and permutations.
At that point, 12th-placed Nuremburg were losing 2-0 to Freiburg but knew they were safe so long as Frankfurt’s score remained the same and Hansa Rostock – who were trailing 2-1 – failed to win at Bochum.
Improbably, both hit two each… only for Nuremburg’s Nikl to themselves strike in the 86th minute and likely stay up on goal difference at the expense of Eintracht.
Except, in the 87th minute, Jan Aage Fjortoft struck for Frankfurt to complete the swing. The difference wasn’t even, well, goal difference. It was goals scored. And Fjortoft had hit one of the most famous in Bundesliga history.
What it meant The most remarkable and riveting relegation scrap in football history.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Cagliari 1990-91; Oldham survive 1992-93; Everton 1993-94; Jimmy Glass 1999
88. Collymore closes in… and closes out a classic
Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle United, Anfield
Premier League, 3 April 1996
The moment an exhilarating and incredible – if also error-strewn – game between two title challengers that pulsated from first moment to last. Robbie Fowler scored the opener after two minutes, and Stan Collymore hit the last two minutes into stoppage time. In between, the lead changed hands three times and the ball rapidly went from one end of the pitch to the other much more often, emphasising what a proper helter-skelter game this was. In many ways, it was the ideal high-scoring match: plenty of attacking football, the initiative constantly changing and an awful lot on the line. Of course, it also had a thoroughly appropriate crescendo.
“When people say I’ve underachieved as a player, I’ll point to nights like that. That’s what I was given footballing gifts for: to entertain on nights like that.” Collymore
“We’ll carry on playing this way or I go.” Kevin Keegan
What it meant to a certain extent, this was the game that properly launched the modern Premier League. Certainly, it’s the kind of game the entire brand has been traded on and Sky breathlessly promote – and perhaps naively expect – before every Super Sunday. The day-to-day reality, of course, is often different… as Keegan found out himself. Because, in the context of that actual campaign, the match crystallised the reasons why his Newcastle United would not win the title. While Keegan’s side crashed through games in cavalier fashion, the eventual winners Manchester United closed them out.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Kaiserslautern 7-4 Bayern Munich, 1973; Barcelona 4-3 Valencia, 2001
87. The revolution is televised as Don Revie stares down Brian Clough
Calendar TV Studios
English league, 12 September 1974
The moment Over the previous half-decade, Brian Clough’s professional personality had won an unexpected league title for Derby County but also the anger of Don Revie’s Leeds United players. His media personality, meanwhile had inspired similarly contrasting emotions in the British public. On 12 September 1974, all of those strands were brought together in a brilliant, unprecedented, sparkling on-air live debate between Clough and Revie. The subject: Revie’s successor as Leeds boss… Clough – who had only been sacked hours previously.
And that in itself was the appropriate ending to what had been a chaotic, controversial, often-farcical 44 days at Elland Road.
“I’ll not call him Clough, I wouldn’t show him that disrespect.” Revie
“I wanted to do something you hadn’t done.” Clough
“There’s no way you can win it better… we’d only lost four matches.” Revie
“Well then I can only lose three.” Clough
What it meant For author David Peace, the personal duel was one of the driving forces of Clough’s career. Academic Domonic Sandbrook has even compared the exchange to the 1960 US presidential debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, with both men occupying obvious counterparts. Perhaps more concretely, the substantial pay-off from Leeds gave Clough the security and confidence to go to a club like Nottingham Forest with no fear. Moreover, it solidified his reputation as a master of the media – despite the draw the debate is perceived to have been.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Any number of Clough sound bites
86. Eusebio knocks out North Korea
Portugal 5-3 North Korea, Goodison Park
World Cup quarter-final, 23 July 1966
The moment Having already knocked out Italy, the 1966 World Cup’s shock team North Korea looked as if they were about to strike twice as they raced into a 3-0 lead against Portugal after 25 minutes. But, as the Europeans looked at each other accusingly, Eusebio only looked at how to make amends. Within moments, he had broken into the box and smashed the ball into the top corner. The striker scored the game’s next three goals – two of them penalties, with the forward himself brought down for one – to give Portugal an astounding win.
“As long as we don’t go four goals down, we’re still in with a chance.” Antonio Simoes
“We were taken completely by surprise… but I had my day.” Eusebio
What it meant That Eusebio definitely overtook Helmut Haller as the 1966 World Cup’s top scorer. But the exact nature of the revival also confirmed the striker’s status as the tournament’s stand-out player and Portugal as its most exhilarating team. North Korea, however, had set the template for admirable losers. It also marks only the second time in World Cup a team has come back from 3-0 down.
85. Dalglish resigns
English league, 22 February 1991
The moment The result exhilarated and entertained many people. But not, apparently, Kenny Dalglish. His Liverpool side had just drawn 4-4 with Everton in a remarkable game at Goodison Park, the home side coming from behind four times. But, resting his arm on the dugout after the game, he only carried a bewildered look on his face. His players thought it was because of the kamikaze nature of Liverpool’s defending. And, in the dressing room after the game, he had given no indication it was anything other than a setback to be overcome.
Then, two days later at training, the Liverpool squad were oddly told to meet in the dressing room. Dalglish simply walked in and said he was leaving.
The squad sat in silence. Which was much like the reaction of the general public once Dalglish staged a press conference later that day.
Incredibly, the man most associated with Liverpool and the majority of their victories throughout the last two decades was severing his attachment to the club.
“OK, let’s go training now.” Ronnie Moran after Dalglish’s announcement.
“No one had a clue it was coming or why he’d done it.” Ian Rush
“You could have knocked each and every one of the Liverpool players down with a feather.” Ray Houghton
“It’s just really a result of 20 years involvement in football at a very high level… I’ve been pushed to the limit.” Dalglish
“He gave so much to relatives of the Hillsborough victims and, eventually, it took its toll.” Houghton
“After we took the lead for the final time I knew I had to make a change to shore things up at the back. I could see what needed to be done and what would happen if I didn’t. I didn’t act on it. That was the moment I knew I was shattered. I needed to get away from the pressure.” Dalglish, years later
What it meant Quite a lot. On a football level, it eventually led Liverpool to lose the 1991 league title race to Arsenal and – in the long-term – to lose their place at the top of English football. Graeme Souness soon took over and greatly quickened what had been a gradual decline.
On a human level, however, Dalglish almost personified the underappreciated strain that followed the pain of Heysel and Hillsborough. Football may have moved on. But many involved couldn’t. Not least Dalglish. It remains one of the most shock departures in the game’s history.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Bela Guttman leaves Benfica 1962; Andy Cole leaves Newcastle 1995
84. West Germany weave magic at Wembley
England 1-3 West Germany, Wembley
Euro 72 quarter-finals, 29 April 1972
The moment West Germany take to the Wembley pitch six years after 1966 and duly take England apart. With the Bayern core in brilliant, belligerent form and Gunter Netzer effortlessly and endlessly switching positions with Franz Beckenbauer, England have little answer to the effervescence of the German attack. Although Franny Lee equalises Netzer’s swashbuckling opener in the 77th minute, the Germans merely illustrate the character that would epitomise them by going on to score another two in the closing 13. Relatively close though the score may have been, there was a distinct gulf in class between the teams.
“The second most famous 90 minutes of Germany’s history.” Uli Hesse
“Football from the year 2000.” L’Equipe
What it meant Germany’s first ever win on English soil but, most of all, a shift of football’s tectonic plates and the beginning of a dynasty. The Germans would surge to a scintillating Euro 72 win and begin the most consistent series of tournament performance in history. The nucleus of that side would do on to do the double by winning the World Cup and then almost complete a treble before losing the 76 final to Czechoslovakia.
The style of the win, however, would also tell the world that there was Total Football beyond Amsterdam.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Sergio Ramos’s goal v Denmark, 2007
83. Pivatelli takes out Coluna… and heralds the era of Catenaccio
Milan 2-1 Benfica, Wembley
European Cup final, 22 May 1963
The moment It’s the 57th minute and Benfica are on course for their third consecutive European Cup thanks to Eusebio’s early goal. Exhilarating and open, the Portuguese were causing all manner of problems for the more pragmatic Italians. But, suddenly, Milan catch Benfica out in midfield and striker Altafini is allowed a completely clear run to goal: 1-1. Immediately after the restart, Benfica attempt to build another attack only for Giovanni Pivatelli – charged by manager Nereo Rocco with man-marking Mario Coluna – to leave the number-10 hobbling after an abrasive challenge. Since substitutions are still to be introduced to the game, Benfica’s captain is left to limp around the field – but to absolutely no effect. Without their creative hub and primary playmaker, the Portuguese are unable to open gaps in Milan’s sturdy defence while simultaneously getting stretched. Eight minutes later, the Italians maximise the advantage as Altafini scores another breakaway goal. With Milan holding on, it was to be the last of the game.
“It was a shame because our great captain couldn’t do anything for the team and so Milan made the most of the opportunity. Milan made the most of the opportunity on the counter-attack.” Eusebio
“Milan were up to all the cynical stuff – pulling your hair, spitting, treading on your toes.” Andy Nelson on Ipswich’s second-round defeat to Milan in the same season.
What it meant That Benfica’s run had ended and Catenaccio’s had started. The Milanese clubs – both practitioners of the philosophy – would win three of the next six finals. Moreover, the temporary dominance of a more defensive style would also encapsulate a shift right across the game.
In 1958, the average goals per game at the World Cup had been 3.6. Benfica, Real Madrid and even Milan themselves would maintain that kind of ratio in the early years of the European Cup.
By 1966, however, the average had dropped to more moderate, modern-style level of 2.6 as so many more teams shifted to four at the back.
The football world had lost some of its innocence. And the loss of Coluna had marked a clear turning point.
Similar moments that didn’t make it Rudi Voller gets injured for Werder Bremen in the 1985-86 title race; Pavel Nedved is injured against Greece in the Euro 2004 semi-final
82. Basile Boli completes Bernad Tapie’s dream… and begins his nightmare
Olympique Marseille 1-0 Milan, Olympiastadion Munich
Champions League final, 26 May 1993
The moment After 38 barren years and four failed finals, a French club finally had the chance to bring the Champions League trophy back to the country that first devised the competition. Except, against a team as formidable as Milan, something special was going to be required.
Defender Basile Boli seemed to provide it in the 43rd minute as he evaded Frank Rijkaard to superbly head in a corner.
It soon became apparent, however, that club president Tapie had provided something extra still. Having pumped a fortune into the club over the previous half-decade in a desperate obsession with lifting the European Cup, the ex-government minister was clearly concerned that even that wasn’t enough against the might of Milan.
So, in the week before the final, Marseille player Jean-Jacques Eydelie approached Valenciennes players Jacques Glassmann, Jorge Burruchaga and Chistophe Robert asking them to “ease off” in a league fixture four days beforehand. Not only would it allow Marseille to effortlessly seal the title, it would spare them any injuries or stress ahead of the crucial Champions League.
Three weeks after Marseille’s emotional European victory, detectives dug up an envelope containing 250,000 francs in the garden of Robert’s aunt. He later admitted to accepting the bribe.
“It was not the happiest period of French football.” Arsene Wenger
What it meant Marseille became the only French club to win the European Cup but also the only competition winners to be stripped of a league title and eventually demoted. The scandal cast suspicion on all of Marseille’s Tapie-purchased success and altered the dynamics of French football. Perhaps fittingly, the final also ended the first official “Champions League” season, appropriately foreshadowing the competition’s obsession and emphasis on money.
81. Wolves overturn Honved… and European football history
Wolves 3-2 Honved, Molineux
Friendly, 13 December 1954
The moment In the mid-50s, English football wasn’t exactly feeling secure in itself. Over the previous 18 months, its national team had twice been embarrassed by Hungary before getting knocked out of the 1954 World Cup in the quarter-finals by world champions Uruguay.
Having had their reality drastically realigned, it was hardly surprising that some sectors of the public would get carried away by the ambience of floodlights and live TV as Wolves took on Spartak Moscow and Honved in a set of prestige friendlies. Not to mention the action.
After the English champions had beaten the Russians, it initially seemed like the Hungarian side – featuring Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis and Zoltan Czibor among a number of national team players – would reassert their superiority as they raced into a 2-0 lead.
Except Wolves showed the kind of graft that had granted them such an elevated position in the English game. First, Hancock hit a penalty just after half-time to amp up the electric atmosphere. But Wolves still had to wait.
Until, 15 minutes from the end, Swinborne headed home an equaliser. Then, within 100 seconds, all of Shorthouse, Smith and Wilshaw combined to set up Swinborne for the winner.
Emboldened by the result, the Daily Mail declared in an infamous headline that Wolves were “Champions of the World”.
That only energised one of their foreign counterparts though. Disconcerted by the suggestion that a team could be the greatest despite not even granting a return game, L’Equipe writer Gabriel Hanot proposed an all-encompassing continental competition.
“If the English are so sure about their hegemony in football, then this is the time to create a European tournament.” Hanot
“Too many wogs and dagoes!” Alan Hardaker offers his reasons for opposing the tournament
What it meant That Europe would have a much more decisive and definitive way of declaring its champions. Although Hanot initially proposed a giant round-robin (and sowed the seeds of a future Super League), he altered his proposal to a knock-out when the clubs felt it would require too many fixtures. In the same era as a political union was formed, Europe was to be unified in another – possibly more lasting – way.