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The top 20 most dramatic injury-time winners in football history

Following Joselu's remarkable late brace to send Real Madrid into the Champions League final, Sports Mole ranks the 20 most dramatic injury-time winners in football history.

There is nothing in football quite like an injury-time winner.

When the fourth official's board goes up, you enter a stage of the match where the nerves are more frayed than ever and one mistake or one moment of magic can prove decisive with little or no time left to respond.

It is a time when heroes and villains are made, lasting memories are forged and the absolute peak time for drama in a sport which provides so many twists and turns.

While some injury-time goals are enough to earn three points, others are even more significant, winning knockout ties, cup finals and even league titles in the most dramatic fashion.

Perhaps the most famous example happened on May 13, 2012, when Sergio Aguero clinched the title for Manchester City in astonishing fashion against Queens Park Rangers, completing a stoppage-time turnaround that saw them pip rivals Manchester United to the Premier League on goal difference.

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring the winning goal against Queens Park Rangers on May 13, 2012© Reuters

With the 2023-24 Premier League title also now destined to go down to the final day, the 12-year anniversary of one of the most incredible and memorable moments in English football history gives us the perfect opportunity to look back at some of the other great injury-time winners, and where Aguero's moment in the sun ranks.

The rules for inclusion are as follows:

  • Only goals scored in stoppage time at the end of matches, i.e. beyond the 90-minute or 120-minute marks, count.

  • Only goals that were directly responsible for winning a match, tie or title count, which means no David Beckham vs. Greece or Steven Gerrard vs. West Ham United, for example.

  • So, without further ado, here is Sports Mole list of the 20 greatest injury-time winners in the history of football.

    20. Lionel Messi - Barcelona (vs. Real Madrid)

    Of all the many, many goals Lionel Messi has scored throughout his glittering career, few would have brought him quite as much satisfaction as this one.

    The defending champions trailed Real Madrid by three points having played a game more than their fiercest rivals when they visited the Bernabeu, and they knew that defeat would all but end their hopes of retaining the title.

    Even a draw would have left things firmly in Madrid's hands, and James Rodriguez appeared to have earned that for the hosts with an 85th-minute equaliser after Sergio Ramos had been sent off.

    Messi had earlier scored his 499th Barcelona goal with a fine solo effort, and he brought the significant 500 milestone up in the most dramatic fashion with a first-time finish into the bottom corner in the 92nd minute.

    The goal sent Barcelona back to the top of the table with five games left courtesy of their head-to-head record, although Madrid made use of their game in hand to go on and pip their Clasico rivals to the title.

    19. Dejan Lovren - Liverpool (vs. Borussia Dortmund)

    Dortmund pulled off their own remarkable European comeback against Malaga in 2012-13, but three years later - and with Klopp now in the opposite dugout - they were on the wrong end of one at the hands of Liverpool here.

    A 1-1 first-leg draw in Germany had given Liverpool the slight advantage heading back to Anfield, but within 10 minutes of the second leg starting they appeared to be heading out courtesy of quickfire goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

    Divock Origi pulled one back for the hosts shortly after half time, only for Marco Reus to restore Dortmund's two-goal lead to leave Liverpool needing three goals in the final half an hour.

    The Reds are no strangers to epic comebacks, though, and goals from Philippe Coutinho (66') and Mamadou Sakho (77') pulled them level on the night and left them needing only one more to progress to the Europa League semi-finals.

    It took until the 91st minute for that goal to finally come, and the unlikely source made it all the more dramatic as Dejan Lovren nodded home to send Anfield wild.

    Liverpool went on to make it all the way to the final, where they were beaten by Sevilla.

    18. Steve Bruce - Manchester United (vs. Sheffield Wednesday)

    A goal which ranks among the most dramatic and most important in Premier League history; without Steve Bruce's 96th-minute winner against Sheffield Wednesday we may never have seen Manchester United go on to dominate the first two decades of the competition.

    The Red Devils had gone 26 years without being crowned champions of England but were in the mix during the inaugural Premier League campaign, battling it out with Aston Villa at the top of the table.

    The visiting Wednesday looked set to inflict a damaging defeat on United at Old Trafford when they led 1-0 with only five minutes remaining, but Bruce rediscovered his uncanny eye for goal at the opportune moment, ending a six-month drought in incredible fashion.

    First the centre-back equalised in the 86th minute, and then six minutes into injury time he met Gary Pallister's cross with a bullet header that sent Sir Alex Ferguson and assistant Brian Kidd hopping onto the pitch in euphoria.

    'Fergie Time' was born, United went on to win their first Premier League title and the foundations had been set for a dynasty which lasted 20 years.

    17. Kelvin - Porto (vs. Benfica)

    Ninety minutes into the penultimate game of the season and Portugal's two most successful teams, who are once again vying for the title, are locked at 1-1.

    Porto had won eight of the previous 10 titles, but Benfica seemed to be on the verge of toppling their greatest foes with a two-point lead heading into their trip to the Estadio Do Dragao.

    A draw would have left them only needing to match Porto's result on the final day of the season, whereas victory would have handed them the title in Porto's own backyard.

    For the hosts, the only way to wrestle control of the title into their own hands was to win. Up stepped 19-year-old Kelvin, who had spent the majority of the season in the second tier with the reserves, with a stunning strike from an acute angle in the 91st minute to add a dramatic twist in a nip-and-tuck title race.

    The win moved Porto one point clear of Benfica and they went on to win the title yet again the following week, while Kelvin never scored another league goal for the club.

    16. David Gray - Hibernian (vs. Rangers)

    Hibernian had not won the Scottish Cup for 114 years heading into the 2016 final against Rangers, while they only had a trio of Scottish League Cups to their name since last being crowned top-flight champions in 1951-52.

    Rangers had already seen their fair share of drama on their way past Old Firm rivals Celtic in the semi-final, but they learned early that the final would not be any more straightforward as Hibs took the lead after only three minutes.

    The favourites, who had lifted the trophy a whopping 30 times since Hibs last got their hands on it, hit back to lead 2-1, but Anthony Stokes doubled his personal tally with 10 minutes remaining to send the game heading towards extra time.

    That was until Alan Stubbs's side won a corner in the second minute of injury time which captain David Gray met with a header that inked his name into Hibernian history - one of only 15 goals he scored in his entire senior career.

    15. Ben Watson - Wigan Athletic (vs. Manchester City)

    Three years earlier in the English FA Cup final there was an even bigger David vs. Goliath contest as Wigan Athletic came up against free-spending Manchester City at Wembley.

    Man City had won the Premier League the previous season and were bidding for a second FA Cup in three years, whereas Wigan were on course for relegation from the top flight and had never won a major trophy in their entire history - the biggest previously had been League One or the Football League Trophy.

    Yet the magic of the cup can never be counted out, and the Latics had already fared much better than many had expected when they reached injury time with the scores still goalless.

    The match seemed destined for extra time, but in scenes remarkably similar to what would happen between Hibs and Rangers a few years later, a late Wigan corner led to Ben Watson's glancing header to seal one of the greatest FA Cup final upsets of all time.

    14. Alisson Becker - Liverpool (vs. West Bromwich Albion)

    A goalkeeper goal is one of the rarest treats in football; a stoppage-time goalkeeper goal to win a match is rarer still; and a stoppage-time goalkeeper goal to win a hugely important match has only a handful of precedents in football history.

    That is what Alisson Becker provided on May 16, 2021, when he went up for a corner in the 95th minute with the scores locked at 1-1 between relegated West Brom and top-four hopefuls Liverpool.

    Jurgen Klopp's side realistically needed a win to stand any chance of making the top four that season, and dropping points to a team already consigned to Championship football the following year would have been a potentially fatal blow.

    Hal Robson-Kanu's opener stunned Liverpool, who could only muster a Mohamed Salah equaliser in response before the clock ticked into injury time.

    Cue Alisson, who raced upfield for a last-gasp corner and got his head to Trent Alexander-Arnold's delivery, sending it beyond his counterpart in the opposite goal to spark scenes of wild celebrations amongst the Liverpool players.

    The Brazilian, who immediately dedicated the remarkable moment to his father who had tragically drowned just three months earlier, became the first goalkeeper to score a competitive goal for Liverpool in their entire history, and it could not have come at a better time. The only downside was that it happened behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The result moved Liverpool to within one point of the top four with two games remaining, and they ended up qualifying for the Champions League for 2021-22, when they made it all the way to the final.

    13. Troy Deeney - Watford (vs. Leicester City)

    Few occasions consistently throw up dramatic moments more than the Championship playoffs, and Troy Deeney's strike against Leicester in 2013 is without doubt at the top of that long list.

    The scores were level at 2-2 on aggregate deep into injury time, and extra time seemed inevitable until Anthony Knockaert won a questionable penalty for the visiting Foxes.

    The winger insisted on taking the spot kick himself, only to be thwarted by Manuel Almunia, who made an even better second save immediately afterwards before Watford were finally able to clear the danger.

    Just seconds later the ball was in the back of the net at the other end, with Deeney slamming a half-volley past the scrambling defence in the 97th minute to complete a jaw-dropping end to the game and book Watford's place in football's richest game.

    Few moments in football history better encapsulate how quickly fortunes can change during a match, although ultimately both teams had to settle for another season in the Championship with Watford losing to Crystal Palace in the final at Wembley.

    12. James Coppinger - Doncaster Rovers (vs. Brentford)

    Incredibly, just two weeks prior to Deeney's heroics there was almost a carbon copy in the league below as promotion rivals Doncaster and Brentford met at Griffin Park on the final day.

    The contest was a straight shootout for the second automatic promotion spot in League One, with Bournemouth having already clinched the first, and it was a winner-takes-all affair.

    With 81 points to Brentford's 79, Doncaster were on course to go up until Brentford were awarded a penalty in stoppage time - score that and the Bees had secured promotion.

    Fulham loanee Marcello Trotta took the ball off the usual penalty taker Kevin O'Connor in scenes eerily similar to what would follow at Vicarage Road a couple of weeks later, but proceeded to cannon his spot kick against the crossbar.

    Within seconds, Doncaster had broken up the other end and poured salt in the wound by scoring through James Coppinger, whose goal not only wrapped up promotion but also the League One title with Bournemouth having failed to win their final game of the season.

    The Championship playoffs is certainly higher stakes than that, but the decisiveness of this goal in terms of the season as a whole is enough to see it rank just above Deeney's more famous strike.

    11. Andres Iniesta - Barcelona (vs. Chelsea)

    Ask any Barcelona fan for their favourite Andres Iniesta moment and most would say this goal, ahead of even his winner for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final.

    Chelsea looked destined to meet Manchester United in the final of the Champions League for the second year in a row when they led Barca 1-0 at Stamford Bridge heading into injury time, with the first leg having ended goalless at Camp Nou.

    However, the match was still on a knife edge and, despite Barcelona being reduced to 10 men, Chelsea knew that only one goal was needed to kill off their chances in devastating fashion.

    To add to the drama, the Blues felt a burning sense of injustice following one of the most controversial refereeing performances in Champions League history, with Tom Henning Ovrebo having turned down a number of penalty claims amongst other questionable calls.

    All of that merely exacerbated the feeling of despair when Iniesta sent an incredible first-time strike into the top corner with the outside of his boot, firing Barcelona into the final of the Champions League at Chelsea's expense.

    Pep Guardiola's side went on to beat United in Rome, and Iniesta's strike has since been credited with kickstarting a dominant era for a team widely regarded as the greatest in club football history.

    10. Sergi Roberto - Barcelona (vs. Paris Saint-Germain)

    Barcelona have been on the wrong end of some incredible Champions League comebacks over the years, but they pulled off arguably the best of the lot themselves in the 2016-17 last 16.

    The Spanish giants seemed down and out even before the second leg began having slumped to a 4-0 defeat in Paris, yet hope was rekindled when they pulled it back to 4-3 on aggregate at Camp Nou.

    However, their dreams of producing the biggest turnaround ever seen in the competition looked to be over once and for all when Edinson Cavani netted an away goal in the second half, making it 3-1 on the night, 5-3 on aggregate and leaving Barcelona needing three goals.

    That was still the case in the 87th minute when even the most ardent supporter must have given up all hope, and even a stunning Neymar free kick only looked like a consolation until he added another from the penalty spot in the opening seconds of stoppage time.

    Five minutes added-on time were signalled but the clock was closer to 96 minutes when Neymar turned provider, delivering the cross for Sergi Roberto's odds-defying aggregate winner which sent Camp Nou wild.

    For pure drama few goals come close, but ultimately all it earned Barcelona was a place in the quarter-finals, where they were beaten by Juventus.

    9. Lucas Moura - Tottenham Hotspur (vs. Ajax)

    One night after Liverpool had pulled off an historic Champions League comeback against Barcelona at Anfield, Tottenham ensured an all-English final by producing arguably even more dramatic scenes in Amsterdam.

    Ajax won the first leg in North London to leave themselves in command of the tie at the halfway stage, and they had one foot firmly in the final when Matthijs de Ligt gave them a lead after only five minutes of the second leg.

    Hakim Ziyech's strike 10 minutes before half time then left Spurs needing three away goals without reply in the second half to progress - something which looked nigh-on impossible against a swashbuckling Ajax side that had already beaten Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the semi-finals.

    Lucas Moura gave them hope with one back 10 minutes after the interval and then restored belief with a quickfire second, but it was Ajax who were still on course to meet Liverpool in Madrid when the clock went red.

    However, literally the second the full five minutes of allotted injury time had elapsed, Lucas completed his hat-trick and with it another Champions League comeback for the ages.

    Spurs went on to lose to Liverpool in the final, but in getting there had given their fans arguably the most memorable moment in the club's entire history.

    8. Joselu - Real Madrid (vs. Bayern Munich>

    With two star-studded lineups including the likes of Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane and Vinicius Junior, there appeared to be no shortage of potential match-winners when Real Madrid welcomed Bayern Munich to the Bernabeu for the second leg of their Champions League semi-final in 2023-24.

    However, few would have expected a former Stoke City and Newcastle United flop, and Espanyol loanee, to emerge as the hero of the hour, with Joselu producing one of the all-time great late turnarounds to send Madrid into a record-extending 18th final.

    The tie was tantalisingly poised at 2-2 following a thrilling first leg in Munich a week earlier, but Bayern looked on course to reach the final against the odds following a composed showing, which saw Alphonso Davies blast them into the lead both on the night and on aggregate after 68 minutes.

    Manuel Neuer had been one of the Bavarians' star performers during the contest, but with 88 minutes on the clock he spilled a Vinicius Junior shot at the feet of Joselu, who reacted quickest to the loose ball to fire it home and seemingly send the match to extra time.

    However, just three minutes later with the clock ticking into injury time, Joselu had the ball in the back of the net again, turning home Antonio Rudiger's cross to send the Bernabeu into bedlam, with the goal initially being ruled out for offside but then being awarded on review.

    Even then, the drama was not over as the two sides played out 15 minutes of stoppage time, during which Bayern were left incensed at the linesman's decision to raise his flag and the referee's decision to award a free kick for a tight offside, with the whistle going just before Bayern put the ball in the back of the net.

    While the Bernabeu enjoyed one of the greatest and loudest nights in its storied history, the result will have evoked traumatic memories for Bayern given the similarities to the 1999 final, and for Matthijs de Ligt in particular after he was also in the Ajax side that succumbed to Lucas Moura's winner exactly five years earlier.

    7. Rodrygo - Real Madrid (vs. Manchester City)

    Just a couple of years before Joselu's heroics, Rodrygo produced an almost identical late show to send Madrid to the final at the expense of favourites Manchester City.

    Carlo Ancelotti's side had been outplayed by Man City over both legs of their semi-final but had somehow managed to stay in the tie in the first leg, losing 4-3 at the Etihad Stadium.

    A Riyad Mahrez goal at the Bernabeu looked to have put the tie beyond reach for the 13-time champions, and as the clock approached the 90th minute they had not even registered a shot on target, yet alone looked like getting the two goals they needed to force extra time.

    However, previous victories over Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea on the way to the semi-finals had taught people never to count Real Madrid out, and sure enough they came back from the dead once again to provide a stunning finish to the contest.

    Madrid's first shot on target produced an equaliser on the night as Rodrygo converted Karim Benzema's cutback from close range, and the Brazilian wrote his name into Los Blancos folklore by then grabbing a second just a minute later.

    A cross from the right took a touch off Marco Asensio on the way through, but that did not stop Rodrygo from getting a brilliant head on the ball, sending it flying beyond a shell-shocked Ederson.

    As the winner on the night, that goal qualifies for a place on this list, although in the tie as a whole it was only enough to force extra time, so there was still work to do.

    Benzema duly completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in Champions League history with a penalty in the additional 30 minutes, sending Madrid into the final against Liverpool on May 28.

    6. Patrik Andersson - Bayern Munich (vs. Hamburg)

    Long before 'Agueroooooooooo' there was Patrik Andersson, who sealed the Bundesliga title for Bayern Munich in remarkably similar fashion to Man City's famous triumph 11 years later.

    Bayern went into the final match of the season expecting to clinch the league trophy for the third successive campaign, sitting as they were three points clear of second-placed Schalke 04 and facing a Hamburger side only a couple of places above the relegation zone but already safe from the drop.

    The defending champions would have to lose and Schalke would need to beat Unterhaching for the Gelsenkirchen outfit to win the title for the first time since 1958.

    Schalke were keeping up their end of the bargain with a 5-3 lead over their relegated opponents, and then they received the news they had been hoping for: Hamburg had scored in the 90th minute to take the lead against Bayern.

    Such a late goal appeared to be final, and the Schalke supporters were so convinced that the title was theirs that they invaded the pitch and set off fireworks in euphoric celebration.

    However, the Bayern match was still going on and, in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Andersson scored the title-winning goal from that rarest of football phenomena, an indirect free kick inside the box.

    Incidentally this is the only goal on the list which was not part of a win for the team in question on the day, but the fact that it sealed yet another Bundesliga crown for Bayern qualifies it for a place.

    5. Jimmy Glass - Carlisle United (vs. Plymouth Argyle)

    Last-minute goals to win trophies live long in the memory for good reason, but sometimes matters at the other end of the league can be just as huge and there were none bigger than this one from Carlisle's loanee goalkeeper Jimmy Glass.

    Injury-time strikes are dramatic enough at the best of times, but such goals from a goalkeeper are guaranteed to immediately take on iconic status.

    Carlisle were heading out of the Football League going into the final day of the season, sitting bottom of the old Division Three and with their fate firmly out of their own hands ahead of their meeting with Plymouth Argyle.

    The Cumbrians fell behind before drawing level at 1-1, but with relegation rivals Scarborough drawing at home to Peterborough United only a win would do.

    Four minutes of injury time were signalled, and a late corner gave Carlisle the chance to pack the box. Glass - who was only signed as an emergency loan and made just three league appearances for the club - came up for it and duly made himself one of the most unlikely heroes in football history.

    The ball broke to the goalkeeper, who bundled it home from close range to secure Carlisle's Football League status and send Scarborough down in the process.

    4. Toby Alderweireld - Royal Antwerp (vs. Genk)

    Winning a league title is special. Doing it for the first time in 66 years is even better. But to do it with virtually the last kick of the season - and for the crucial goal to be a wondergoal from a hometown boy - is the stuff of dreams.

    Antwerp enjoyed their own 'Aguero moment' at the end of the 2022-23 campaign, although their wait had been longer than Man City's, their competition had been from two teams instead of one, and the closing stages of the season were arguably even more dramatic.

    Heading into the final day, the top three teams were separated by just one point, and two of those - Genk and Antwerp - faced each other in Genk to make matters even more mouth-watering.

    There was more than one fairytale story on the line too, and up until the 89th minute it looked as though Union SG would be crowned champions for the first time in 88 years, having only ended a 48-year absence from the top flight in 2021.

    Antwerp looked out of contention at that stage, with Genk winning their match 2-1 and Union 1-0 up against Club Brugge, meaning that even Brugge's 89th-minute equaliser only succeeded in putting Genk into top spot heading into stoppage time.

    However, despite Union having been set for the title in the 89th minute, and then Genk being on course for it in the 90th minute, it was Antwerp who got the final say to wrap up the season in sensational fashion.

    Former Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld, who had returned to his boyhood club the previous summer to end his career as he had always promised he would, produced a 94th-minute thunderbolt into the top corner from outside the area to level things up at 2-2 against Genk, lifting Antwerp back above their opponents into top spot, which had incredibly changed hands three times in the closing minutes of the season.

    Union went on to suffer a stoppage-time collapse and lose 3-1 to Brugge, although that was ultimately irrelevant as Antwerp were left to celebrate their first top-flight title since 1956-57 in scarcely believable style.

    3. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - Manchester United (vs. Bayern Munich)

    Manchester United have had many great nights in their illustrious history, but none quite like the 1999 Champions League final in Barcelona.

    Sir Alex Ferguson's side were gunning for an unprecedented treble having already wrapped up the Premier League title and the FA Cup, and the best was yet to come as Bayern Munich awaited.

    The German giants led for the best part of 85 minutes courtesy of Mario Basler's early goal, with United's hope growing slimmer by the second until they won a corner just as the fourth official indicated three minutes of injury time.

    Substitute Teddy Sheringham scrambled home an equaliser to seemingly rescue extra time for United, but the drama had only just begun and Sheringham would go on to have another pivotal role moments later.

    Less than 30 seconds after that goal United forced another corner, and from this one Sheringham nodded the ball on to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who stuck out a toe to win the club their second European crown.

    It remains the most incredible finale to a Champions League final ever, and proved to be the crowning glory of Ferguson's hugely successful time as United manager.

    2. Michael Thomas - Arsenal (vs. Liverpool)

    As incredible as United's turnaround was, a last-gasp goal at the very end of a long, hard league season will always top a one-off knockout match in cup competitions - hence our top two.

    In effect, Arsenal's visit to Anfield in 1989 was a final - the Gunners knew that victory by two or more goals would see them win the title at their opponents' expense, whereas Liverpool simply needed to avoid that fate to clinch yet another top-flight crown.

    The match was never intended to be the final game of the season, but the Hillsborough disaster just six weeks earlier had forced the contest to be postponed and rearranged for the end of the campaign.

    Arsenal had not won at Anfield in their last 15 attempts, while Liverpool had not lost a home game by two clear goals or more for three years. The Reds therefore remained clear favourites to win the title, even when Alan Smith gave the visitors the lead after 52 minutes.

    However, Michael Thomas stormed through the middle of the pitch in the 91st minute before slipping the ball past Bruce Grobbelaar to seal Arsenal's first title in 18 years.

    The two clubs had finished level on points and goal difference, meaning that only Arsenal's superior record of goals scored saw them finish above Kenny Dalglish's side.

    The moment has since been credited with helping to spark a change in English football as the hooligan-tarnished image of the 1980s made way to a new era in the game.

    1. Sergio Aguero - Manchester City (vs. Queens Park Rangers)

    It was hard to imagine anything topping the drama of 1989 - until Manchester City's 2012 title glory.

    The 2011-12 Premier League season had already been full of twists and turns going into the final day, but Man City had a first top-flight title for 44 years within their grasp, thanks largely to victory over closest rivals Manchester United with three games to go.

    To clinch the crown Man City simply needed to beat struggling QPR at home on the final day, while Manchester United faced Sunderland. The Red Devils held up their end of the bargain with a 1-0 victory over the Black Cats, but City appeared to have thrown it away when they trailed QPR 2-1 heading into injury time.

    Only a win would do for Roberto Mancini's side, but the task looked so big that there were tears amongst the fans at the Etihad Stadium while United's supporters - and some players - celebrated at the Stadium of Light.

    Edin Dzeko put the title party on hold with a goal back in the 91st minute, though, paving the way for the most remarkable finale ever seen in football.

    Mario Balotelli, while on the floor, managed to nudge the ball into the path of Aguero, who somehow kept his composure to fire home and spark scenes of delirium, while their biggest rivals United were left devastated.

    Both Manchester clubs finished level on points, meaning that for the first time ever the season was decided on goal difference as City were crowned champions of England for the first time since 1968.

    The best moments are often accompanied by iconic commentary too, and the prolonged roar of Aguero's name is right up there with "Solskjaer has won it!" and "It's up for grabs now!"

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