Top five: Football’s biggest ever bottle jobs

Date published: Saturday 11th March 2017 12:05

5. Arsenal 1 Birmingham 2 – 2010-11
Arsenal make a PSG-inspired list after a series of breakdowns during the back end of the 2010-11 season, with the Capital One Cup final being the one played out on the biggest stage.

Three weeks after blowing a 4-0 half-time Premier League lead at Newcastle, who came back to draw 4-4, the Gunners had a wonderful opportunity to end their six-year trophy drought when they faced relegation-threatened Birmingham at Wembley.

Robin van Persie cancelled out Nikola Zigic’s opener and with 19 other shots failing to find the net, Arsenal were cruising towards extra-time to complete the job, when in the 89th minute Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny contrived to present Obafemi Martins with an open goal, and gift the trophy to the Blues, who ended the season being relegated.

Not content with having blown that, Arsene Wenger’s side, who were only one point off leaders Man Utd, then won just one of their next eight games to ruin their title hopes, before three defeats in the last five matches saw them return to their natural habitat of fourth place.

 

4. AC Milan 3 Liverpool 3 – Champions League final 2005
Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani said in the wake of Istanbul: “Even if we come second in the league, and second in the Champions League, this is not a disastrous season for us.” Yes, it was. Milan blew it, more than bottled it, but their failure on two fronts suggests there was a psychological weakness within the squad, despite the star names it contained.

The Rossoneri had already fluffed the Serie A title, winning only three of their last nine matches to hand the Scudetto to Juventus. You would expect a team containing the likes of Cafu, Nesta, Maldini, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka, Shevchenko and Crespo to recover from that psychological blow, and it appeared they had when they strolled in at half-time 3-0 up against Rafael Benitez’s misfits.

Crespo labelled claims Milan were celebrating at the break as “bullsh*t” but Cafu later contradicted his former team-mate: “It’s true, yes.” he told FourFourTwo.

“We scored three great goals against a Liverpool team that was one of the most tactically aware sides I have ever faced — we thought it was our day, and we relaxed.”

“I realised it was all lost even before the penalty shootout started, when Shevchenko missed that clear opportunity right in front of Dudek during extra time.”

 

3. England 1 Iceland 2 – Euro 2016
The England national team have failed regularly and embarrassed occasionally down the years, but their spineless Euro 2016 exit shocked even those who thought there were no depths left to plumb.

They even took the lead against Iceland, with Wayne Rooney’s fourth-minute penalty the perfect nerve-settler. But the Three Lions gave up a soft equaliser almost immediately, before Joe Hart ushered Kolbein Sigthorsson’s 19th-minute shot into his net.

The ITV punditry team discussed at half-time whether Roy Hodgson would have to drop choco wrists as his starting goalkeeper for the quarter-final, clearly not realising the hole England were in or anticipating the sh*tshow to come.

The second half was worse than the first, as England simply soiled themselves for 45 minutes. Marcus Rashford, 18, was the only player to display any composure or carry an attacking threat. The striker was given just the last four minutes as England made themselves a laughing stock once more.

 

2. Crystal Palace 3 Liverpool 3 – 2013
Steven Gerrard’s slip is the moment many remember as pivotal in Liverpool’s title collapse, and though it handed the initiative to Manchester City, that stumble was an accident. His side’s collapse eight days later at Selhurst Park was entirely preventable.

They ran into a three-goal lead within 10 minutes of the break, a cushion they still held with only 11 minutes remaining. But, to the backdrop of their fans shouting “attack, attack, attack”, the Reds continued to pour forward looking to put a dent in City’s superior goal difference.

Damien Delaney’s deflected strike should have been the cue for Brendan Rodgers’s side to rein in their composure. But instead it disappeared out of sight, with Dwight Gayle capitalising on chaos within the Reds’ ranks to score on minutes 81 and 88, leaving Luis Suarez to sink into his shirt, before being escorted away from the scene of ‘Crystanbul’ by a devastated Gerrard.

 

1. Brazil 1 Germany 7 – World Cup 2014
Expectations were high of the home nation reaching the final, despite the absence of Neymar, who’d been crocked in the quarter-final win over Colombia.

Neymar wasn’t dead, though, despite how it may have appeared when stand-in skipper David Luiz held the striker’s jersey as a tribute during the national anthem. This was Luiz when he was still a PlayStation footballer, not the defensive colossus Chelsea seem to acquired since, so that should have been a warning sign that Brazil might be in a spot of bother.

The match wasn’t half an hour old before Germany were 5-0 up. Andre Schurrle came off the bench in the second half to score another couple before Oscar netted a solitary reply for Brazil.

Brazil’s surrender even made their opponents uncomfortable. Germany captain Philipp Lahm said he felt “very uneasy” during the match and “not at all euphoric”, while Mats Hummels admitted the team at half-time discussed “not humiliating” their hosts. Had they been feeling less sympathetic, it could so easily have been 10.

 

Ian Watson

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