You don’t have to watch a lot of soccer to know that goals are rare and every single one is a pretty big deal. Goals that come in the dying minutes of a match — particularly those that change the outcome of a major tournament — are arguably the most dramatic events in sports.
Below, we recount our five favorite last-minute goals from the “beautiful game.”
5. Brisbane Roar win the A-League Grand Final in dramatic fashion in back-to-back years
They have soccer in Australia. You probably knew that, but chances are that you don’t watch a lot of it. Aussie soccer doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the international sports media, but the A-League is a pretty big deal Down Under. And it occasionally produces spectacular finishes — particularly in recent years.
The first entry on our list isn’t a single last-minute finish from the A-League, but rather two back-to-back finishes in the Grand Final, the league’s championship match.
In 2011, Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners went to added time tied 0-0. Brisbane conceded twice in the first half of added time and, by all appearances, had completely collapsed. Then, somehow, Brisbane found a way to roar back (pun definitely intended) and tie the match as injury time expired. Brisbane went on to win the match on penalties.
The next year, Brisbane again found themselves in the Grand Final, this time against Perth Glory, and once again part of late-match drama. A highly questionable foul call in the 96th minute set up a chance for Brisbane striker Besart Berisha to win the title on the last kick of the match — and that’s exactly what he did.
4. Landon Donovan rescues team USA with a goal in injury time against Algeria
Heading into the final match of the group stage at the 2010 World Cup, the US squad knew it needed a win against Algeria to ensure passage to the knockout stage.
It seemed everything was against the US on that day in Pretoria, South Africa. A Clint Dempsey goal was disallowed on an offside call, Jozy Altidore hit the post and the match was still 0-0 as injury time began.
Then, Landon Donovan saved the day. Dempsey charged toward the Algerian goal and directed a hard, low shot in. The goalkeeper made the save, but the rebound bounced right to the feet of Donovan, who was making a follow-up charge. He slotted it into the corner and the celebration was on.
Some called it the greatest goal in US soccer history (though the US Women’s team has scored a few in the ensuing years that might have stolen that title). It was certainly the most dramatic.
Watch the goal and listen to Ian Darke’s excellent call. Then, for the full effect, watch the reaction video.
3. Italy crushes German dreams with two goals in injury time in the 2006 World Cup semi-final
World Cup 2006 host nation Germany needed some late-match heroics on the part of Miroslav Klose to tie their quarter-final match against Argentina and eventually win it on penalties. The German squad entered the semi-final in Dortmund with the belief that they were destined to win the tournament on home soil.
The Italians had something to say about that, however. A hard-fought match went into extra time tied 0-0 and Fabio Grosso broke German hearts with a goal in the 119th minute, just moments before the match would have gone to penalties. With the Germans pushing to tie the match in the final few seconds, the Italians once again breached their defense and Alessando Del Piero added a second goal for the Azzuri as the final whistle blew.
Italy went on to beat France on penalties in the final and raise the World Cup for the fourth time.
2. Manchester City scores twice in injury time to steal the Premiership title from Manchester United
Heading into the final week of the 2011-12 Premiere League season, fierce rivals Manchester United and Manchester City were tied at the top of the table. Ahead on goal differential, Man City knew all they had to do was win their last match and the title would be theirs for the first time in 44 years (a period of time that saw United win 12 titles). Man City’s opponent for the last match? Queens Park Rangers, a team fighting to avoid getting relegated to a lower league. City had it in the bag, right?
Not so fast. Down 2-1 and with time running out, it appeared to the world that Man City had blown its chance. Word came in from out of town that Manchester United had just defeated Sunderland, meaning that Man City would have to do the near-impossible and score twice in injury time if they were to win the title.
And that’s just what they did.
Sergio Aguero’s goal in the 94th minute capped the greatest moment in Premier League history.
1. Manchester United scores twice in injury time to win the 1999 UEFA Champions League
Man U may have come out on the losing side of entry No. 2 in our list, but the storied club has seen more than its share of big wins over the years — and none was bigger than the 1999 Champions League Final.
Facing Bayern Munich at Camp Nou in Barcelona without captain Roy Keane or Paul Scholes (both suspended), United conceded a set piece goal in just the sixth minute. The match remained 1-0 all the way until second-half injury time, when perhaps the greatest comeback in soccer history occurred (the 2005 Champions League-winning Liverpool squad would certainly take issue with this claim — Liverpool’s comeback was bigger, but it didn’t take place in the waning seconds of the match).
Desperate enough to send goaltender Peter Schmeichel into the opposing penalty area, United equalized when striker Teddy Sherinham redirected a weak Ryan Giggs shot into the back of the net one minute into injury time. Energized by the goal, United continued to press as regular time ticked away and extra time loomed. Within 30 seconds of Sheringham’s goal, United earned a corner, delivered by David Beckham. Sheringham headed it forward and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stuck out his foot and stabbed the ball into the back of the net. Many Munich players fell to their knees and literally needed assistance to stand up again, devastated by losing a match they were mere moments away from winning.
The victory completed a rare “Treble” for United, which also won the FA Cup and the Premier League.
Making this moment even greater is some masterful commentary by Clive Tyldesley. “Name on the trophy.” “Oh, Teddy, Teddy.” “Manchester United have reached the Promised Land.” Just great stuff.