The Premier League's Greatest Escapes feat. Leicester City and Sunderland
Leicester City’s 2-1 win over Watford put The Foxes level on points Manchester City and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table. This time last year, they were sat at rock bottom. Their great escape of 2014/15 is deemed as one of the greatest of the Premier League era, but what other escapes accompany them?
Sunderland were lying seven points from safety at the foot of the table with six matches remaining. Head coach Gus Poyet even said that his team needed “a miracle” to avoid relegation. Not only did they produce something of the sort, the Black Cats also had an important part to play in terms of the Premier League title. Eventual champions Manchester City scraped a 2-2 draw against Poyet’s men, Connor Wickham scoring twice at the Etihad Stadium to begin their run of form.
Wickham was again on target as Sunderland threw a spanner in Chelsea’s ambitions for the title with a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge, ending Mourinho’s unbeaten home record in the Premier League. Fabio Borini, on loan from title-chasing Liverpool, slotting home the winning penalty against his former side.
Two goals from the current Crystal Palace forward and another Borini spot-kick helped to beat fellow strugglers Cardiff City 4-0 at the Stadium of Light before Sebastian Larsson secured a surprise 1-0 win at Manchester United. A final 2-0 triumph over West Brom put Sunderland safe with a match to spare – unthinkable before their run of form.
West Bromwich Albion 2004/05
Until West Brom’s survival, it was a well-known rule that the team who were bottom on Christmas Day always dropped down to the second tier of football during the Premier League era. Gary Megson had lost his job in November 2004 and his successor; Bryan Robson, failed to pick up a win until January. Gradually, results and performances picked up and the Baggies would lose only three of their final dozen matches. Despite this, they still sat 20th going into the last game of the season. All of the bottom-four sides had a chance of staying up on the final day, with West Brom still needing to leap-frog those above them with a win over Portsmouth.
Norwich City were the first team to have their survival hopes slashed, as they headed towards a 6-0 loss at Fulham, while Manchester United sunk Southampton 2-1 at St Mary’s Stadium to send them down. The Midlands outfit took the lead against Portsmouth through striker Geoff Horsfield, but their second goal from Kieran Richardson was met with a muted response as Crystal Palace were winning at Charlton Athletic. If the results stayed the same, West Brom would be relegated. A Charlton equaliser from Jonathan Fortune changed that, signalling a dramatic ending that turned the impossible into a reality.
Leicester City 2014/15
Despite occupying 20th position from November to April, Leicester City breathed a sigh of relief heading into their final game, a feat that even manager Nigel Pearson branded “unthinkable”. Six wins, one defeat; with this only coming to champions Chelsea, and a draw at Sunderland meant Leicester had picked up 19 points over eight matches. Incredibly, this is as many they as they managed in their previous 29 games.
A 2-1 win over West Ham United began the charge for The Foxes, before Robert Huth and Jamie Vardy completed a thrilling late turnaround to defeat West Brom 3-2. In the final five matches of the campaign, only Mourinho’s Blues had a better defence; as Pearson’s men beat Burnley, Newcastle United and Southampton in the process.
Fulham’s survival of 2007/08 was a moment of pure resilience that will be remembered for years to come. With 20 minutes remaining in their 36th league game of the season at Manchester City, Roy Hodgson’s men were 2-0 down in a match they could not afford to lose, with defeat signifying certain relegated. A miraculous substitution in the form of Diomansy Kamara pulled a goal back and the cult hero went on to fire in a last-minute winner after Danny Murphy had equalised, eventually pulling off an incredible 3-2 victory.
As if this was not enough, Fulham wrapped up a hat-trick of consecutive triumphs at home to Portsmouth on the last day to secure their Premier League status, completing a series of results that are a hallmark for any side to follow.
Which is the Premier League’s greatest ever escape in your opinion? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @TBRFootball , especially if you think your club should be in the running!
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Alex Hannam