Nothing can quite match the mixture of suspense, elation, and heartbreak every player and fan feels in season-defining or tournament-deciding matches. And nothing in football brings out those exact feelings more than injury time winners.
There is plenty of injury time drama every year in every league and competition, but there are some moments that will remain firmly embedded in a fan’s memory for years to come. Read on for 10 of the most influential injury time winners in footballing history.
1. Sergio Agüero vs Queens Park Rangers, 2012
In the 2011/12 Premier League season, Manchester City and Manchester United were neck and neck in the title race heading into the final game of the season. A City win would secure the title on goal difference, but after 90 minutes of football, they trailed 2–1 against 10-man QPR.
After two minutes of extra time, a goal from Edin Dzeko drew City level, giving them mere minutes to score a third. However, four minutes into injury time, Sergio Agüero fired home a last-minute winner, and the Etihad erupted.
The moment birthed one of the most memorable and powerful lines of football commentary to date from Martin Tyler: “I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again. So, watch it. Drink it in.”
2. Ole Gunnar Solskjær vs Bayern Munich, 1999
Manchester United trailed by a goal to nil after 90 minutes of football in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final. In the dying moments, a corner from David Beckham was scrambled into the back of the net by Teddy Sheringham, and it looked as though United had forced an extra 30 minutes of football.
However, just 30 seconds after the restart, United managed to win another corner, and Ole Gunnar Solskjær buried the shot from a Sheringham header. The goal secured the Champions League title for United and completed the treble for the Red Devils that year.
3. Lucas Moura vs AFC Ajax, 2019
One of the more recent and dramatic events on this list is Tottenham’s historic win over Ajax in 2019, which guaranteed an English club winner for the Champions League that year. The first leg was held at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where Ajax came away victorious having beaten the home side 1–0.
To make matters worse, Ajax scored two goals in the first half of the second leg, meaning Spurs were already up against it. However, Lucas Moura stepped up to score a second half hat-trick against the Dutch team, the last of which came five minutes into injury time.
With an aggregate score of 3–3, Moura’s last-gasp strike meant that Tottenham progressed to their first ever Champions League final on away goals.
4. Michael Owen vs Manchester City, 2009
In the 2009 Premier League season, Manchester United welcomed derby rivals Manchester City to Old Trafford in what would be one of the most eventful matches of the year. There was a reason that injury time was dubbed “Fergie Time” in the 90s, and this match would prove it.
The matched looked like it was destined to end in a 3–3 draw, as City scored an equaliser in the final minute of normal time.
But United forward Michael Owen had other ideas. As Ryan Giggs slipped a perfect pass to the striker, Owen cleanly fired into the bottom right corner, giving United all three points well after the originally allotted injury time.
5. Ben Watson vs Manchester City, 2013
The only goal to be scored in the 2013 FA Cup final came from Wigan Athletic midfielder, Ben Watson. After receiving a corner in injury time, the Wigan players flooded the Manchester City box with the hope of scoring the deciding goal.
Watson managed to rise highest at the near post and looped a header over Joe Hart and into the net. The shock result meant that Wigan won the FA Cup for the first time in their history, becoming the first team to win the FA Cup and be relegated in the same season.
6. Emil Kostadinov vs France, 1993
In 1993, France and Bulgaria met to decide who would be attending the 1994 World Cup in the US, and who would be denied the chance to go. France were the clear favourites, and only found themselves in this position due to a shock defeat to Israel, but Bulgaria had also put in a strong showing so far in the competition.
In the final minute of injury time, just as both teams were preparing for an additional 30 minutes, France gave the ball away, and Bulgaria fired it up field. Emil Kostadinov shattered French dreams as he perfectly controlled the ball and let loose a fantastic strike that rattled the underside of the crossbar and went in.
It was later revealed that Kostadinov and the assister, Luboslav Penev, both entered the country on illegal visas and avoided border security to ensure they could play for their country.
7. Troy Deeney vs Leicester City, 2013
After winning a soft penalty in the dying moments of the Championship promotion semi-final in 2013, Anthony Knockaert stepped up to take the resulting spot kick he had won. It looked almost certain that Leicester would progress, as a goal from the penalty would mean an aggregate score of 3–2 in their favour.
However, Watford keeper Manuel Almunia made a fantastic double save, and the ball was booted up field. After some fantastic passing on the counterattack, Troy Deeney smashed the ball past Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal, and Vicarage Road switched from heartache to elation.
Deeney’s strike ensured that Watford would win the second leg in the fight between the two sides, although the Hornets missed out on promotion that year in the play-off final to Crystal Palace.
8. Michael Thomas vs Liverpool, 1989
Thomas’s strike for Arsenal at Anfield in the final match of the 1989 season was not just a game-winning goal, but rather title-winning.
The match was all but decided as Arsenal led 1–0 in injury time, but the Gunners needed to win by two goals or more to steal the title away from Liverpool.
In the final moments of the game, a swift counterattack saw the ball land at the feet of Michael Thomas, who expertly navigated past two defenders and flicked the ball past the goalkeeper. The title changed hands with seconds to spare, and Liverpool were unable to fight back with such little time on the clock.
9. Jimmy Glass vs Plymouth Argyle, 1999
On the final day of the 1998/99 season, Carlisle United had a must-win fixture against Plymouth Argyle at the very bottom of League Two. Anything but a win meant relegation from the Football League and risked the very existence of the club itself.
To this day, Carlisle United are indebted to their loanee goalkeeper, Jimmy Glass. Glass only made three appearances in his time with Carlisle, but he’s remembered fondly throughout the entire football world for a remarkable moment at the end of the match.
In the dying embers of injury time, Carlisle won a corner, and every single player made their way up the pitch, including Glass. A header on goal from the corner was parried by the Plymouth goalkeeper, with the ball landing perfectly at Glass’s feet.
The keeper showed a striker’s poise and instinct as he fired it into the bottom-left corner.
A mass-pitch invasion followed as the fans celebrated the escape, condemning Scarborough to non-league football in their place.
10. Wayne Rooney vs Arsenal, 2002
Arsenal were on a staggering 30-game unbeaten run in the league when they visited Goodison Park in October 2002. That streak was broken in spectacular fashion by the then-youngest-ever goal scorer in the Premier League, Wayne Rooney.
The 16-year-old was subbed on with 10 minutes left of normal time. In the final minute of injury time, the striker decided to go for glory, plucking a long ball out of the air with perfect control and firing a shot from well out of the box onto the underside of the crossbar, which bounced in.
This goal for Everton was just the start for one of the most prolific footballers of the 2000s. Wayne Rooney went on to become the record scorer for both club and country, scoring 253 goals for Manchester United in all competitions and 53 times for England.