As the optimistic among us banish the jumpers to the back of the closet and even the most delicate players retire the gloves until September, May very much marks the business end of the club football calendar.
This is when European semi-finals are contested and titles are decided. But with the footballing hiatus still dragging on, why not look back to a time when trophies were dished out by performances on the pitch, rather than executives in their home offices over Zoom.
1986 – Kenny Dalglish Wins First Title as Player-Manager
Having spent eight seasons on the playing staff of the all-conquering Liverpool side of Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan, Dalglish had taken up the managerial role from the latter after the Heysel Stadium tragedy in 1985.
However, his debut campaign in the hot seat looked set for disappointment as, following defeat to their title-rivals Everton at Anfield in February, the Reds were eight points behind their neighbours. Yet, ten wins from their next 11 games took Dalglish within a victory of the First Division title.
For the decisive match against Chelsea, Dalglish naturally started himself and, with a wonderful volley 23 minutes in, scored the only goal of the game to secure his first ever title as a manager.
1998 – Tony Adams Emphatically Seals Arsène Wenger’s First Title
Four months on from sitting sixth in the table, 13 points behind Manchester United, Tony Adams charged onto a glorious clipped pass from fellow centre-back Steve Bould to nail a left-footed half-volley past Everton’s goalkeeper and make it 4-0. (Incredibly, this was the second time the two English defenders had combined for a Premier League goal.)
This win clinched Arsenal and Arsène Wenger’s first Premier League title two weeks before the Gunners completed the club’s second-ever double.
2003 – Real Madrid’s ‘Galácticos’ Humbled by Mallorca
1-0 up and cruising at half-time, the so-called ‘Galácticos’ of Real Madrid, with their roster boasting such names as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Luís Figo were undone by a player they let slip through their fingers, Samuel Eto’o.
The then 22-year-old former Madrid youth-team player assisted then scored Mallorca’s second and third of the night. Having ended the defending champions of Europe’s 49-game unbeaten run in the league, Eto’o was substituted to a standing ovation from the Santiago Bernabéu.
2005 – The ‘Ghost Goal’ in Champions League Semi-final
A tense, tactical battle between José Mourinho’s Chelsea and Rafa Benítez’s Liverpool across two legs of the Champions League semi-final produced just one goal in 180 minutes – and even that may not have crossed the line.
Luis García broke the deadlock in the fourth-minute of the second leg at Anfield but no definitive camera angle could be found to prove whether or not Gallas had hooked the bouncing ball clear before it had entirely crossed the line.
Mourinho, unsurprisingly, didn’t take this well, brandishing the effort famously as a ‘ghost goal’ and, a little more confusingly, as: “It was a goal that came from the moon – from the Anfield stands.”
2011 – Second Leg of the Clásico Champions League Semi-Final
This match was the fourth clásico between Real Madrid and Barcelona in 18 days after a league meeting, the Copa del Rey final and the first leg.
Lionel Messi’s two goals at the Bernabéu put the emphasis on Real but the hosts, with Mourinho watching from a hotel in Barcelona having been banned from the touchline, could only muster a 1-1 draw. This series of games were played in a toxic atmosphere – this second leg was the only match of the four which didn’t see a Real Madrid player dismissed.
Despite prevailing in the tie, Pep Guardiola couldn’t quite take satisfaction in getting one over on his old foe, saying: “I think, ultimately, Mourinho won the war.”
2014 – Harry Kane Own Goal in London Derby
At this point in Harry Kane’s career, the future England captain had made just a handful of Premier League starts but had scored three in his last four. However, Kane – who can now boast eight goals against West Ham – scored his first in this London derby at the wrong end of the pitch.
Andy Carroll desperately tried to claim the goal as his own – and for good reason, considering he finished the campaign with just two strikes in all competitions – but you can clearly see Kane acknowledge his error as he not only hops in anger but pulls the legs of his shorts up for good measure.
2014 – Hamilton Hits Double Figures in Scottish Championship
3rd May: 6 years ago we equalled our club record league win with this 10-2 last day of season victory over Morton at NDP. Att:2034. We would secure promotion via the play offs 3 weeks later, where we’ve remained since. It was the first double figure Lge win in Scotland since 1967 pic.twitter.com/6eF2oO2nrT
— Hamilton Accies FC (@acciesfc) May 3, 2020
Some people unfairly deride the Scottish top flight as an outrageous duopoly where the Glasgow clubs divvy up the titles among themselves (it’s more like a monopoly these days). However, you can still find some gaping discrepancies in standards in the second tier and none better than when Hamilton Academical ripped ten (10!) past Morton late in the season.
Going into the match the Accies knew they needed at least an eight-goal winning margin to pip Dundee to automatic promotion if the leaders drew and, incredibly, they achieved it. Unfortunately, Dundee defeated Dumbarton by the mundane scoreline of 2-1 to secure their spot in the top flight.
2018 – Atlético Madrid beat Arsenal to Reach Europa League Final
Despite playing against ten men at the Emirates for 80 minutes in the first leg, Arsenal could only muster a 1-1 draw in their Europa League semi-final.
Arsène Wenger was denied the chance to lift a trophy in his final season with the club when a familiar foe in the form of Diego Costa scored the only goal of the game after Laurent Koscielny was forced off with an injury which ruled him out of that summer’s World Cup.
Despite equipping themselves admirably against one of the best teams in Europe, there would be no fairytale ending for the Frenchman’s ‘love story’ with Arsenal.