25 years of EPL: Memorable Moments

Capturing the ten best moments from a league with 25 years of history is nigh impossible. But it shouldn’t stop anyone from trying. Here is a list compiled after another of those attempts.

A young Palace fan, Matthew Simmons, bore the full brunt of it when Cantona launched into a chest-high kung fu kick at him in 1995.   -  Getty Images

Eric Cantona’s kung fu kick: 1995

If not for Eric Cantona, there was nothing to be remembered about the Crystal Palace — Manchester United fixture in January 1995. It was a stalemate. United had arrived with its record signing Andy Cole, but it was the mercurial Frenchman who made the occasion his own; albeit in an entirely wrong way. His short fuse was something of lore but a young Palace fan, Matthew Simmons, bore the full brunt of it when Cantona launched into a chest-high kung fu kick at him. In the 56th minute, Cantona and Palace centre-back Richard Shaw chased a long kick from the goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. Until then, the pair had bickered but when Cantona connected with his marker’s shin, he was issued the marching orders. On Cantona’s way back into the tunnel, Simmons ran towards him shouting. The words which were uttered have never been clear, but it didn’t matter to Cantona. The United forward was suspended until the end of September 1995 and after being found guilty of assault, was sentenced to two weeks in jail which was later reduced to 120 hours’ community service.

But if anyone thought it would diminish his popularity, they were proved wrong. According to many, Cantona is still the greatest player ever to have played in the Premier League.

Liverpool 4 Newcastle 3: 1996

 

When fans sit down to choose the best goal ever, the best team ever, the best player ever and so on, there are bound to be multiple views. But on the best game ever there may just be one legitimate claim: Liverpool 4 Newcastle 3 on April 3, 1996. It was a controversy-free full-on attacking display from both sides for 90 minutes at Anfield. Newcastle had squandered a 12-point lead, but still harboured hopes of winning the title. Liverpool, with only a mathematical chance, wasn’t ready to oblige. The scoring started in the second minute when Robbie Fowler headed home. It ended in the 92nd minute with Stan Collymore’s stunning winner (pic above).

Wayne Rooney’s first-ever Premier League goal against Arsenal: 2002

 

The early years of the new millennium were undoubtedly Arsenal’s. Two of the most remarkable runs in football history were scripted then. While winning the 2001-02 title, it had gone an entire season without an away defeat. Then in claiming the 2003-04 title, it didn’t lose home or away. But sandwiched between the two was a record-ending, career-defining effort by a 16-year-old substitute. In October 2002, Arsenal arrived at Goodison Park on a 30-game unbeaten streak only to be felled by a thunderous thirty-yard drive by Wayne Rooney. Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, predicted a great future for Rooney immediately after and he wasn’t one bit wrong.

Arsene Wenger’s all-foreign XI: 2005

 

Against Crystal Palace in 2005, Wenger became the first manager in English football history to choose an XI without a single British player. One newspaper even called it the “United Nations of Highbury”. “I don’t look at the passport of people but at the quality and attitude,” Wenger later said. “I hadn’t seen that … but Sven [Goran Eriksson, the then England manager] was here. What did he watch.” As per the latest survey in early 2017, nearly 70 % of players in the Premier League are foreign and this is the highest among any European league.

Patrick Viera vs. Roy Keane: 2005

 

Arsenal versus Manchester United games have witnessed a number of flashpoints. From Ruud van Nistelrooy being heckled after missing a penalty to a pizza allegedly thrown at Sir Alex Ferguson, they have had it all. But none perhaps captured the rivalry as well as the spat between Patrick Viera and Roy Keane at Highbury in 2005. It all started when Keane overheard Vieira picking on Gary Neville in that ultra-small tunnel at Highbury. Keane stepped in and told Vieira to go and play for Senegal. Vieira in turn taunted Keane about walking out of the World Cup in 2002. “If it had come to an actual fight,” Keane later said, “Patrick could probably have killed me.” The two have lived long enough to even do a documentary explaining the whole incident.

West Bromwich Albion’s great escape: 2005

 

Going into the last round of fixtures in the 2004-05 season, it was the first time since the league started that no team had been mathematically relegated. It began with West Bromwich Albion bottom on 31 points, Crystal Palace and Southampton 19th and 18th respectively on 32 points and Norwich City 17th with 33. Manchester United defeated Southampton 2-1 to end the Saints’ 27 years in the top division. But Norwich, which seemed the safest, was blanked 6-0 by Fulham at Craven Cottage. Crystal Palace had battled from 1-0 down to lead Charlton after 71 minutes, and, even though West Brom, by that point was 1-0 up against Portsmouth, Palace was holding 17th place in the live standings. Kieran Richardson added a second goal for West Brom but its fate turned for the better only when Jonathan Fortune equalised for Charlton to send Palace back into the relegation dog fight. Ultimately it was something which consumed Palace, relegating it along with Norwich and Southampton. West Brom had become the first Premier League side to have avoided the drop after being bottom on Christmas day.

Wayne Rooney’s overhead kick winner against Manchester City: 2011

 

Wayne Rooney’s spectacular finish in the Manchester derby in February 2011 is considered one of the greatest goals ever scored. With the match poised at 1-1, the England forward threw himself nearly five feet in the air, met Nani’s cross and sent the ball into the top right-hand corner. It took United eight points clear of City in the standings en route to a record 19th title. “I knew Nani was going to cross it so I was getting ready for a header, then it took a little deflection and come behind me,” he recalled. “I never really had time to think and just tried the overhead and thankfully it went in the top corner.”

Sergio Aguero’s goal clinches the title for Manchester City: 2012

 

Going into the final day of the 2011-12 season, Manchester City and Manchester United were locked on the same number of points. But City’s superior goal difference meant that it just had to win against Queen’s Park Rangers at home while United had to beat Sunderland by a minimum of eight goals. But astonishingly, City, which had dropped just two points at home all season, was down 2-1 going into stoppage time. United, meanwhile, was winning at Sunderland. Then came the most exhilarating five minutes the League has ever seen: Edin Dzeko headed in to make it 2-2 in the 92nd minute and Aguero scored in the last minute to snatch City’s first-ever English title.

Steven Gerrard slip: 2014

 

At Liverpool, Steven Gerard won the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, three League Cups and two FA Cups. But a gaping hole was the absence of a Premier League title. For a considerable while in 2014, it looked set to be filled with Liverpool’s first title in 24 years.

Liverpool was on a 16-match unbeaten run and led Manchester City by three points with three games left. But an infamous slip by Gerrard against Chelsea resulted in him giving the ball away and Demba Ba scoring. Chelsea won the match 2-0 and Reds’ title-challenge unravelled from there on as it drew 3-3 the next week against Crystal Palace after being 3-0 up with 11 minutes to go. The final match against Newcastle was merely academic as City won its second title in three seasons.

Leicester City winning the title: 2016

 

After escaping relegation at the end of the 2014-15 season, bookmakers made Leicester 5,000-1 outsider to be crowned champion. Whoever hedged their money, would have laughed their way to the bank. When Claudio Ranieri was appointed as manager he was widely mocked and was even the favourite to be the first manager sacked. But Leicester became the first club since Nottingham Forest in 1978 to be crowned first-time winner and Ranieri, who was once described by Jose Mourinho as having “the mentality of someone who doesn’t need to win” finally had a Premier League title.

Also here: David Beckham’s goal from half-line against Wimbledon (1996), Kevin Keegan’s rant against Alex Ferguson (1996), Newcastle team-mates Lee Bowyer-Kieron Dyer fight(2005), Man United beating Arsenal 8-2 (2011), Man City beating United 6-1 (2011).