The closest title races in the history of football

In football, we’ve had some sensational title races that have had us glued to our seats. The most famous in recent memory has to be the famous AGUEROOOO moment in 2012 which awarded Manchester City the Premier League title over Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.

Another breath-taking moment has to be Atlético Madrid’s La Liga title win in 2014, their first for 18 years. Simeone’s side went into the decisive fixture against Barcelona at Nou Camp needing just one point to seal the championship. Alexis Sanchez put the home side ahead and when all hope seemed lost, up steped captain fantastic, Diego Godin, to head home and secure the title for El Cholo’s men.

Many argue the Aguero goal against a soon-to-be relegated QPR side was nowhere near as impressive as the Arsenal victory against an all-conquering Liverpool side at Anfield in 1989. The Gunners needed to win by two-clear-goals on the day and took an early lead through Alan Smith. With only one minute and 18 seconds left of normal time, Michael Thomas stepped up scored past Bruce Grobbelaar to do the unimaginable and win Arsenal the league at Anfield.

These are the stories that stick with football fans forever and is exactly why we call it the beautiful game. It’s fair to say these stories are well known in the footballing world but what about the ones that don’t get a mention, the ones that are as equally thrilling and breath-taking.

Let’s start off with my favourite one of all, and a league I don’t think many tunes into; the Algerian Ligue 1. In 2015, with only four games to go, all 16 teams were still in the title race. League leader’s ES Setif sat top of the pile with 41 points while bottom placed NA Hussein Dey had 30 points. It’s bizarre to think that with so little games remaining, every team in the league had a chance of winning the title!

After 26 matchdays, ES Setif were in miserable run of form, winning only two of their previous five league games. The pressure was mounting on the league leaders and in any circumstances, this would be worrying but imagine a world in which with four games to go, the table toppers could still get relegated.

In second place, MO Bejaia had lost four of their previous five while third placed MC Oran had scored the fewest goals in the division, netting only 17 times in 26 games.

It was all to play for with four games remaining and despite the potential for a real upset, ES Setif managed to regain control of Algerian Football, winning two, drawing one and losing one which was enough to secure them the league title with 48 points.

Only 15 points separated champions ES Setif and bottom placed USM Bel Abbes in the end. It certainly would be wonderful to see this happen in the Premier League one day, but with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City dominating English Football at this moment in time, it certainly seems like a long way away.

Heading across the other side of the world now to South America and the Chilean First Division.

It’s important to note that in Chile, they operate using a split season format, called the Apertura (opening) and Clausura (closing).

With Universidad de Chile having already won the Apertura season, the division moved onto the Clausura, were the title race became unbelievably exciting.

12 games in, three left to play and a ridiculous twelve teams still in with a shot of the title. Here’s how the league looked going into the final three games.

With two games to go, Colo Colo slipped up at the home of Antofagasta which left the door wide open for the other teams in the hunt.

Deportes Iquique shockingly gained one point out of a possible nine in their final three games, which resulted them in finishing 6th.

Universidad de Chile took advantage of their rivals slip ups by winning their final three games which was enough to secure the title, one point ahead of the famous ‘Colo Colo’.

Bizarrely, there were only six points separating 3rd and 12th in the league table.

Audax Italiano finished 7th ahead of O’Higgins and Deportes Temuco on goals scored because all three teams finished the season with the same points and the same goal difference! Who said Chilean football wasn’t interesting!

Heading into mainland Europe now, to one of the craziest final days of a footballing season to date in the French Ligue 2.

Six teams went into the final game knowing they could can win the title. The top two teams in the division would gain automatic promotion while the third-place side would participate in a promotion play-off, making the final day drama even more thrilling.

Here is what the league table looked like after 37 games:

Surprisingly, not one of the teams in the top 6 faced each other so their fates were very much in their own hands.  

The league leaders started off drama by sailing into a comfortable 2-0 lead after 18 minutes of play, leaving the other five sides to fight for the remaining promotion/play-off positions.  

At the interval of the games, Amiens were leading 1-0, while 3rd placed Troyes were 2-0 down away at Sochaux. Lens and Brest were winning comfortably and Nimes was losing, meaning Lens would be replacing Troyes in 3rd place for the promotion play-off position.

As the second half kicked off, the drama began yet again. Troyes turned on the afterburners and miraculously brought their game back to 2-2 by the 77th minute.  As things stood, the title was still going to Strasbourg.

Lens and Brest were both leading comfortably and so leapfrogged Amiens and Troyes in second and third place respectively.

With only minutes remaining, the Football Gods looked down on Troyes and gave them a moment their fans will never forget for the rest of their lives. On the 88th, the comeback was complete as Samuel Grandsir stepped up and turned the game on its head. His goal would secure their place in Ligue 1 after being 2-0 at half time. Or so they thought… In Reims, Amiens were still fighting for their lives and had a man advantage after the home side were reduced to 10 men. 96 minutes on the clock and another miracle was served as Emmanuel Bourgaud scored a last second winner to provide the sensational twist to the tale. With that goal, Amiens would again leapfrog Troyes into second place and gain automatic promotion to Ligue 1, leaving the club from the North of France to fight it out in the promotion play-offs.


About the author

University of Huddersfield Sports Journalism Graduate.
Formerly worked for the media team of National league side FC Halifax Town for two years.
Press officer at Park Tennis Club.
Massive Liverpool FC fan, and lover of all sports.

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