Arsenal midfielder John Jensen developed a cult reputation. He joined the club only weeks after his spectacular goal in the 1992 European Championship final playing for Denmark. He was seen as a replacement for the popular David Rocastle, who was moving to reigning champions Leeds United.
Although he won the FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup whilst at Highbury, he became more known for his inability to find the back of the net. 97 games and over two years had passed before Arsenal hosted Queens Park Rangers on a dreary New Years’ Eve afternoon. George Graham’s side hadn’t won at home in two months and his side put in a dire performance and lost the game comprehensively 3-1. However, QPR’s win is not remembered by many.
That is because in this match, the unthinkable happened. John Jensen scored a goal for Arsenal! It was the equaliser and it came in his 98th match in all competitions for the north Londoners. Whenever he got near goal, Arsenal fans urged him to ‘shoot!’ This time, he was spot-on, bending a shot into the far top corner in front of the North Bank.
T-shirts were printed in Jensen’s honour. One of the tabloid newspapers ran the following headline in their sports section: SOUVENIR SPECIAL: After 98 games, 2 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, 2 days, 1 hour and 19 minutes, JENSEN SCORES!
He left in 1996 to return to his native Denmark after 138 games but achieved cult hero status for this goal.
Some say it is one of the greatest games the Premier League has ever seen. Certainly, it is one of the finest Manchester derbies to have ever been played. The meeting of Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in September 2009 was a special occasion.
It was the first time back at the Theatre of Dreams for Carlos Tevez since his controversial switch across the city that summer but his new club were quickly behind. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring inside three minutes. It was 1-1 at half-time though. Tevez robbed Ben Foster of possession and Gareth Barry scored his first Manchester City goal.
Goals were exchanged throughout a belting second half. There were braces for both Darren Fletcher and Craig Bellamy. Bellamy’s second goal came on the brink of time added on and made the score 3-3. It looked like the points would be shared. However, this was Manchester United in “Fergie Time.”
Ryan Giggs picked out a wonderful pass for substitute Michael Owen. Owen kept his composure to beat Shay Given and score his first goal at Old Trafford since his summer arrival from Newcastle United. On the touchline, Mark Hughes was seething. He felt the allotted time had been played well before Owen’s winner. For now, the noisy neighbours had been silenced but the rivalry between the two clubs was greater than it ever had been.
It was an entertaining and dramatic contest which was voted the ‘Greatest Match’ by fans at the 20 Seasons awards in 2012.
When Aston Villa met Liverpool FC at Villa Park in September 1992, the match was an early reunion for Dean Saunders. Saunders had recently transferred from Merseyside to Birmingham and whilst he scored twice for his new club in a 4-2 victory, that wasn’t the iconic moment of the match.
Israeli forward Ronny Rosenthal pulled off one of the Premier League’s most embarrassing misses ever seen. Even 25 years on, few have come close to toppling it. From a long punt up the pitch by visiting goalkeeper David James, Rosenthal got the better of Villa’s Shaun Teale and evaded the challenge of goalkeeper Nigel Spink. He’d done the hard part, now all he had to do was roll the ball into the empty net.
He elected to go for power over an easy side-footed finish and it seriously backfired. With pinpoint accuracy, he inexplicably managed to hit the crossbar with the goal gaping and begging at his mercy to score. It was an unbelievable miss and one which has gone down in the Premier League archive.
Rosenthal did score a consolation goal in this match and he did come off the bench to score a stunning hat-trick for Tottenham Hotspur in an FA Cup fifth round replay at Southampton in 1995. However, he will always be remembered as the man who beautifully managed to miss an open goal.
Hull City were a breath of fresh air into the Premier League in the early weeks of the 2008-2009 season. They won on the opening weekend at home to Fulham and then pulled off a famous London away double in successive weekends against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. They even were joint-top in late October after a 3-0 away triumph at West Bromwich Albion.
By Boxing Day, results had dried up slightly but the Tigers’ still sat in a creditable seventh spot in the table – only behind the traditional big four teams plus Aston Villa and Everton. They travelled to Manchester City, hoping to pull off another away scalp. This trip won’t be remembered for a shock result though.
Mark Hughes’ side were rampant in the first half and led at the interval 4-0. Stephen Ireland was in sparkling form, setting up three of the goals as Felipe Caicedo (2), Robinho and Shaun Wright-Phillips all found the back of the net. Hull were simply not at the races and manager Phil Brown was incensed with their opening 45 minutes.
So, rather than take out his fury behind closed doors, he took his players over to the supporters at the visiting end of the ground and furiously berated them for everyone to see. This must have been public humiliation for the players as Brown was seen wagging his finger at various individuals for several minutes. They did improve in the second half but still lost the game 5-1. Afterwards, Brown defended his decision to carry out his team talk in the public eye. He told the BBC: “I thought it was nice and cold and I thought I would keep the boys alive because they looked as if they were dead. Our 4,000 travelling fans deserved some kind of explanation for the first half performance and it was difficult for me to do that from the confines of a changing room. We owed them an apology for the first half performance.”
That decision seemed to have a negative effect on the rest of Hull’s season. They won just one more match all campaign in the Premier League and only managed to avoid relegation by a single point.
A year later, Hull returned to Eastlands and performed far better to leave with a 1-1 draw. Jimmy Bullard’s penalty ensured they would return to east Yorkshire with a point and he decided to mimic Brown’s team talk in a hilarious celebration that luckily, everyone saw the funny side of!
In 2001, Sol Campbell had a big decision to make. He was the jewel in the crown at Tottenham Hotspur. However, he had managed to win just one major honour in his career which was the League Cup in 1999. Tottenham were a mediocre team at the time, often finishing around 9th-13th in the table. If regular silverware was what Campbell was looking for, he might have to move on. Worse still for Tottenham, he was out of contract in summer 2001 and could move to another club on a free transfer. Spurs did all they could to keep him. They offered him a new deal, which would have made him the club’s highest wage earner. Campbell insisted though he had to leave to play UEFA Champions League football. So, where would he go?
Many of Europe’s top continental clubs were linked with him. Barcelona offered him a lucrative deal whilst Liverpool FC were another serious player in trying to recruit the England central defender. So in July 2001, it was a huge surprise to everyone when Campbell was pictured shaking hands with Arsene Wenger. He had switched sides in north London and joined Tottenham’s deadly rivals, Arsenal on a four-year deal for free.
At a news conference, Campbell said: “I’ve made my decision and I just hope people respect it. I’ve signed a four-year contract and I believe in that time I can make some great strides in my career.”
In November 2001, Campbell made his first return to White Hart Lane after his departure. It is fair to say that he didn’t get the fondest of welcomes from Spurs supporters.
He had the last laugh though, winning two Premier League titles, three FA Cup medals and scoring in the 2006 UEFA Champions League final. Whatever you think of Sol Campbell, this transfer remains one of the most controversial and biggest surprises of the last 25 years.
When Liverpool FC sold Fernando Torres on transfer deadline day in January 2011, few fans thought they would be getting a better replacement. Just over £20 million was paid to the Dutch club Ajax for Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez. Suarez would leave plenty of amazing and breathtaking memories on our game but he also brought baggage with him to this country.
Famed for the handball on the goal-line in extra-time that denied Ghana a place in the 2010 World Cup semi-finals, Suarez wasn’t the most popular player with neutral fans. His character was stained further after he was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra during a match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United in October 2011. Suarez was banned for eight matches by the FA and his refusal to shake Evra’s hand in the reverse fixture on his return at Old Trafford also received plenty of condemnation.
In 2012-2013, he was in electrifying form. Only Robin van Persie was ahead of him in the goalscoring charts and he was beginning to form a deadly alliance with Daniel Sturridge in the Reds’ attack under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers. In April 2013, Chelsea visited Anfield which was Rafa Benitez’s first return to the ground since leaving his post as Liverpool manager three years earlier.
The game was finely balanced. Chelsea led 2-1 after Suarez had unnecessarily given away a penalty for handball from which Eden Hazard converted from. Minutes later, he had a clash with Branislav Ivanovic in the Liverpool penalty area as a counter-attack broke down. Ivanovic was incensed about the battle though and pointed out to the referee Kevin Friend what had happened. At first, none of us knew what he was on about. However, replays were about to reveal the extent of Suarez’s crime. Upset with the grappling on him, he decided to take a bite out of the Serbian defender. It was an appalling and disgusting piece of behaviour which was initially unseen so he went unpunished. To add insult to Chelsea’s woes, Suarez scored a late equaliser to rescue a point for his side.
Four days later, he was charged by the FA and banned for 10 matches. Liverpool stated intent to appeal against the suspension but after 48 hours withdrew on Suarez’s acceptance that he should serve the ban and learn his lesson. He didn’t though. The same incident happened in the 2014 World Cup when he was playing for Uruguay.
He left Liverpool FC with many fantastic memories including great goals, devastating hat-tricks against Norwich City and deservedly swept the awards board in 2014 before his £75 million switch to Barcelona. However, the marks on his character will always remain with many fans.
It was a relationship that looked like the perfect marriage; Chelsea and Jose Mourinho together. During his two stints in charge, Mourinho would win three Premier League titles, three League Cup trophies and the FA Cup. When the Blues’ cantered to the title in 2014-2015, it looked like a new Mourinho dynasty at Stamford Bridge was set to sweep the Premier League.
Their collapse the following season was nothing short of remarkable. The players seemed to down tools on the manager and for everything Mourinho tried, including desperation tactics, form didn’t improve. After a 2-1 defeat at Leicester City in December 2015, Mourinho admitted afterwards he felt his work was “betrayed.” The hierarchy decided the manager was to blame and sacked him three days later. At the end of the season, he was confirmed as Louis van Gaal’s successor at Manchester United.
Mourinho had always wanted to manage the Mancunian club and now here was his chance to stamp his authority on another huge global side. In October 2016, the time had come for his first domestic return to Stamford Bridge. Sky Sports billed it as “The Return.”
It would be a painful afternoon for Mourinho as he watched his side ripped to shreds by Antonio Conte’s high-energy unit. Pedro put Chelsea infront inside 30 seconds after miscommunication between Chris Smalling and David de Gea. Slack marking allowed Gary Cahill to add a second from a corner shortly afterwards. Further efforts in the second half from Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kane added to Chelsea’s glee. Their fans could rejoice in a wonderful performance and a 4-0 final scoreline. All Mourinho could do was digest this disappointment as he was on the receiving end of a bad afternoon against the fans and club that used to idolise him.
In September 2002, Birmingham City and Aston Villa faced each other for the first time in the Premier League era. There was plenty at stake and it was more than just three points too. Birmingham led 1-0 through a Clinton Morrison strike but there was all to play for with just 15 minutes remaining. Then, step forward one of the most bizarre goals in Premier League history.
Villa defender Olof Mellberg takes a throw-in and throws the ball back to his goalkeeper, Peter Enckelman. The Finnish goalie makes a complete meal of a simple opportunity to trap the ball and start a fresh attack. The ball rolls underneath his foot and trickles all the way into the back of the net. Enckelman puts his hands on his head as Birmingham supporters rejoice in their delight.
Geoff Horsfield later adds a third goal and Birmingham go onto win four of their first six Premier League encounters with their rivals in the Second City. Enckelman now works as a field sales executive for DHL. Earlier this year, he was asked whether he knew he’d touched the ball on its way into the net. He said: “The actual truth is I’m not 100 percent sure. I’m 90 percent sure I didn’t touch the ball, but I couldn’t swear I did.”
It gave us a derby moment in Premier League history that is rarely forgotten.
Not many goalkeepers have scored in the Premier League. Peter Schmeichel, Asmir Begovic, Brad Friedel and Paul Robinson are four of the five lucky keepers to score. The fifth was the American shot-stopper Tim Howard.
In January 2012, Everton were facing bottom-placed Bolton Wanderers at Goodison Park and were expected to win fairly comfortably. It was turning into a frustrating evening though for the home faithful with the scoreline remaining goalless until the 62nd minute.
Howard took a routine goal-kick which picked up plenty of speed in the air due to the blustery conditions on the evening. This completely confused Adam Bogdan in the Bolton goal as the ball bounced over him and into the net. The crowd and Everton players celebrated but Howard didn’t. He felt slightly embarrassed for his opposite number. His 101-yard clearance that went in remains the longest-distance goal in Premier League history.
He said afterwards: “It was cruel. You saw the back fours and the keepers not being able to believe balls all night, and at the back one wrong step and it can be a nightmare. For our goal I was disappointed from a goalkeepers’ union standpoint. You never want to see that happen. It’s not nice, it’s embarrassing, so I felt for Adam but you have to move on from it.”
Bolton won the game 2-1 but it was Howard’s bizarre goal that is mainly remembered in this encounter.
On Saturday, 7 May 1994, Everton’s Premier League future looked in severe jeopardy. They began the day in the bottom three after a shocking campaign and faced the real prospect of being relegated to the Endsleigh League Division One.
On the final day, they faced Wimbledon at home. The Crazy Gang were the most in-form side in the division coming into the game, having won seven of their last nine matches. After 20 minutes, things looked very gloomy for the Toffees’ faithful. A Dean Holdsworth penalty and an own goal by Gary Ablett had the home side 2-0 down.
A lifeline was thrown by Graham Stuart’s own penalty in the 24th minute but at half-time, Everton were the only team of the strugglers to be losing. They were going down at this stage.
With nothing to lose, manager Mike Walker threw everything available to him off the bench. On 67 minutes, Barry Horne hit the goal of his life. The Welshman’s rocket into the top corner made it 2-2 and gave the supporters real belief of the great escape. With nine minutes left, ecstasy swept the ground.
Stuart played a fairly untidy one-two combination with Tony Cottee and the midfielder took a weak shot on which somehow squirmed past Hans Segers and into the net. This moment came under further scrutiny when the Dutchman became at the centre of match-fixing allegations less than a year later. In his autobiography, ‘The Final Score,’ his claim was: “He (Stuart) hit a shot that took a deflection off another player’s leg, so that made the ball change direction slightly. The pitch was uneven and the ball hit a bump and spun beyond my control as I dived.”
At the full-time whistle, fans ran onto the pitch in celebration. Everton’s win meant they were safe as long as the other teams they were fighting with all hadn’t won. None of them did. Sheffield United’s late loss at Stamford Bridge meant the Blades went down instead with Oldham Athletic and Swindon Town.
It wouldn’t be the only escape Everton would have against the drop in the 1990s on the final day either. This one was down to fighting spirit, luck and a very poor piece of goalkeeping.
Not many goalkeepers have had the honour of scoring goals in the Premier League. Brad Friedel is part of an exclusive club which consists of just four other shot-stoppers.
The American was playing for Blackburn Rovers when he scored his only goal in professional football, although there would be no overall celebration for Friedel. Blackburn were playing away at The Valley against Charlton Athletic and made a horrible start. Carlton Cole opened the scoring after 10 minutes and before half-time, Jason Euell had doubled the Addicks’ lead.
Graeme Souness made some tactical readjustments at half-time and brought on both Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, who made a difference. Cole reduced the deficit 16 minutes from time when he intercepted a wayward backpass. Blackburn pushed forward for the equaliser and they got it in stoppage time from the most unlikely source. In a goalmouth scramble, Friedel’s left-footed shot ended up in the back of Charlton’s net. It looked like the visitors had snatched a draw but heartache would follow.
Happy with the draw, Blackburn suddenly backed off and Charlton were clinical. From 25-yards out, Claus Jensen’s delicate volley evaded Friedel’s grasp and left him devastated. Charlton’s three-game losing streak was over as they won 3-2. It was a personal milestone for Brad Friedel but he probably didn’t feel like celebrating about it too much afterwards.
The opening day of the 2002-2003 season saw a young teenager make his debut for Everton by the name of Wayne Rooney. Considered “Once a blue, always a blue,” the young lad from the Croxteth area of Liverpool made an early impression against Tottenham Hotspur on his debut, setting up the club’s first goal of the campaign for Mark Pembridge. The game finished 2-2 and a star was born.
However, it was Tottenham’s north London rivals, Arsenal who would feel the firm punch of Rooney a couple of months later. The Gunners arrived at Goodison Park on a 30-match unbeaten run in the Premier League and it looked like that run would extend when Freddie Ljungberg put the visitors ahead inside eight minutes. This was a stronger Everton team though and they equalised midway through the first half through Tomasz Radzinski.
Rooney was brought on in the second half by manager David Moyes and entered the national conscience in stoppage time. He collected the ball from just past the halfway line and with Arsenal defenders backing off, fancied his chances. His shot flew past David Seaman, off the underside of his crossbar and into the net. ITV commentator Clive Tydlesey commented: “Oh a brilliant goal, a brilliant goal. Remember the name, Wayne Rooney!”
Arsene Wenger was quick to praise him afterwards too, saying: “Rooney is the biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England. There has certainly not been a player under 20 as good as him since I became a manager here.”
Rooney was crowned BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2002, was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award and soon earned himself his first professional contract. He moved on to Manchester United in August 2004 and became the club’s all-time record goalscorer, surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton in the early weeks of 2017.
His career went full circle in 2017 when he returned to Everton on a free transfer and scored his 200th Premier League goal in a draw with Manchester City in August 2017.
It wasn’t just the Premier League that was introduced to Wayne Rooney in October 2002; it was the football world as a whole.