Share of the spoils: 10 of the most entertaining draws in football history

Share of the spoils: 10 of the most entertaining draws in football history

When Manchester City and Liverpool went toe-to-toe in a gripping encounter in April, the game finished as a 2 – 2 draw.

And yet, even though the two sides were ultimately evenly matched, it was a thrilling and tense game that shows just how entertaining a share of the spoils can be.

Here are 10 more of the greatest draws in football history.

1. Hull City 1 – 1 Manchester United, 1970

The Watney Cup won’t be too well remembered as a competition, but it did produce a fascinating piece of history in a match between Hull City and Manchester United in 1970: the first penalty shootout in English football.

Goals from Chris Chilton for Hull and Denis Law for United had set up a thrilling semi-final in the competition at Boothferry Park in Hull, with the game finishing level.

With nothing between the two sides after extra time, the game was decided by the first spot kicks in a competitive English match.

Denis Law now holds the rather unfortunate record of being the first player to ever miss a spot kick. But ultimately, Hull keeper Ian McKechnie turned out to be the unluckiest man in the ground, smashing his penalty kick against the bar to give United the win.

United went on to lose 4 – 1 in the final to Brian Clough’s Derby County.

2. Brighton & Hove Albion 2 – 2 Manchester United, 1983

Manchester United were the clear favourites heading into the 1983 FA Cup Final. Ron Atkinson’s side had finished third in the First Division that season, while Jimmy Melia’s Brighton had been relegated from the top league and were playing in their very first cup final as a club.

Yet even so, Brighton took the lead in the 14th minute when Gordon Smith put the Seagulls ahead.

United then equalised through Frank Stapleton, and thought they had won the game when a rare screamer from midfielder Ray Wilkins put them ahead in the 72nd minute.

But a late goal from Brighton’s Gary Stevens forced a draw in front of nearly 100,000 people at Wembley.

Just five days later, United would demolish Brighton 4 – 0 in the replay. But what a moment it must have been for Albion fans to believe, even just for a moment.

3. Hereford United 1 – 1 Brighton & Hove Albion, 1997

The score may be underwhelming in this particular match, but Hereford United’s 1 – 1 draw with Brighton in 1997 had huge repercussions for both clubs.

Hereford and Brighton went into the match level on points at the bottom of Division Three, with Brighton on a superior goal difference. Only a win would keep Hereford in the Football League, but obviously at the expense of their opponents on the day.

Hereford led after 20 minutes through a Kerry Mayo own goal. But, on the hour mark, Robbie Reinelt swept home to drag the Seagulls level. And, despite pressure from United, the game finished a draw, condemning the Bulls to relegation.

Of course, Brighton is currently a Premier League team and will continue to be so in the 2022/23 season.

Meanwhile, Hereford United was ultimately wound up in 2014, and the club’s spiritual successors, Hereford FC, lies in the National League North, the sixth tier of the English football pyramid.

A real “sliding doors” moment.

4. Argentina 2 – 2 England, 1998

Look away, England fans, because this one won’t feel great to remember.

In the first knockout game of the 1998 World Cup for Argentina and England, a rivalry that had festered over the years became even more bitter.

Goals from Alan Shearer and Michael Owen between two Argentinian strikes from Gabriel Batistuta and Javier Zanetti saw the scores level at the break.

Then, on the 47th minute, the red mist descended for David Beckham, whose careless kick on Diego Simeone earned the England maestro a red card – and arguably cost his side the game.

With honours even at full time, the game was ultimately decided on penalties. Argentina keeper Carlos Roa saved two of England’s spot kicks and the Three Lions were knocked out once again.

Entertaining? Certainly. Heart stopping? For sure. Heart-breaking? Undoubtedly.

5. Genk 6 – 6 Westerlo, 1999

This game is thought to hold the joint-record for the highest-scoring match in a top-flight game. It comes from the top Belgian league, for a match between Genk and Westerlo.

But fascinatingly, it’s not the goals that make this one worth remembering.

Rather, it’s the four red cards and five penalties in 90 minutes that turn this chaotic game into surely one of the most entertaining matches, let alone draws, that football has ever seen:

6. Liverpool 3 – 3 West Ham United, 2006

The 2004 FA Cup Final was a six-goal thriller between Liverpool and West Ham United.

A Jamie Carragher own goal and a scruffy Dean Ashton second put the Hammers 2 – 0 up, before Djibril Cissé and an emphatic finish from Steven Gerrard made it 2 – 2.

This game could be remembered for a cross-cum-shot from Paul Konchesky, whose ball into the box looped over Pepe Reina and into the net to make it 3 – 2 to West Ham.

But mostly, it will be recalled for Gerrard’s second goal of the game, a rasping 35-yard wonder strike that pulled Liverpool level in the 91st minute, sending them to extra time, penalties, and ultimately to the trophy.

7. Liverpool 4 – 4 Arsenal, 2009

This match at Anfield is surely one of the most entertaining draws that the Premier League has ever seen.

Four goals from Arsenal’s Russian forward, Andrey Arshavin, and two each for Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun for Liverpool put a huge dent in Liverpool’s title ambitions in the 2008/09 season, as the Kop witnessed an end-to-end match.

Arshavin’s fourth and final goal of the night looked to have nicked all three points for the Gunners. But, as ever, football is not that straightforward, and a last-gasp Benayoun strike saw honours even at the final whistle.

8. Motherwell 6 – 6 Hibernian, 2010

This spectacular game from the Scottish Premier League in 2010 is the other holder of the joint-record for highest-scoring match in a top-flight game.

Braces for Motherwell’s Giles Coke and John Sutton, as well as strikes from Tom Hateley and Lukas Jutkiewicz were counterbalanced by a Colin Nish hat-trick, an Anthony Stokes double, and a goal from Derek Riordan.

With both clubs vying for a Europa League qualifying spot at the time, the draw ultimately worked out better for Motherwell than Hibernian – although Hibs would ultimately finish a point above the Well come the end of the season.

9. Newcastle United 4 – 4 Arsenal, 2011

It’s somewhat remarkable that Arsenal feature in two 4 – 4 draws on this list. But Gunners fans may want to forget this belter from St. James’ Park.

Arsenal had appeared to put the game to bed in the first 10 minutes, as goals from Theo Walcott, Johan Djourou, and Robin van Persie saw the London side take a 3 – 0 lead.

Arsene Wenger’s title hopefuls then added a fourth before the break through van Persie again, seemingly an impossible mountain to climb for Alan Pardew’s Newcastle.

But 90 minutes is a long time. And, after a foolish red card for Arsenal’s Abou Diaby for a push on Joey Barton, the game entirely changed.

Newcastle pulled three goals back, a Leon Best strike sandwiched between two Joey Barton penalties, before an 87th minute stunner from Cheick Tiote pulled the Magpies all square.

You have to wonder just what Alan Pardew said in his team talk to produce such a result.

10. West Bromwich Albion 5 – 5 Manchester United, 2013

While it may not have been the defensive display he would have wanted, this 10-goal thriller was certainly a fitting send-off for English football’s most successful manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.

United probably thought they had already sealed Fergie’s final three points in his 1,500th match as a manager.

Goals from Shinji Kagawa, a Jonas Olsson own goal, Alexander Buttner, Robin van Persie, and Javier Hernandez had given the Red Devils a 5 – 2 lead, with James Morrison and a young Romelu Lukaku having pulled two back for the Baggies.

But two more goals for Lukaku with a Youssouf Mulumbu strike in between pulled West Brom level, meaning Ferguson wouldn’t have his fairy-tale ending after all.

Not that it ultimately mattered – United had already sealed the title a month before against Aston Villa at Old Trafford.