'It Made Me Immortal': How Does It Feel to Score a Title-Winning Goal?

Tom Williams@tomwfootballSpecial to Bleacher ReportMay 16, 2019

Bayern Muinch's Patrik Andersson, center, cries in triumph as he celebrates with his teammates, not identified, after he scored the decisive goal of the 1-1 tie during the soccer match versus Hamburger SV in Hamburg, northern Germany on Saturday, May 19, 2001. With this 1-1 draw, Bayern Muinch won the championship of the German first division soccer league. (AP Photo/Heribert Proepper)
HERIBERT PROEPPER/Associated Press

Oliver Kahn wasn't ready to give up.

It was the 90th minute of Bayern Munich's game at Hamburg on the final day of the 2000-01 Bundesliga season, and the visitors had just gone 1-0 down to a Sergej Barbarez header.

With title rivals Schalke winning 5-3 at home to SpVgg Unterhaching, the Bundesliga shield looked set to be ripped from Bayern's hands. The Bavarians needed only a point to take the title, but Barbarez's goal left Schalke top of the table on goal difference.

Haunting memories of Bayern's stoppage-time collapse against Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League final two years earlier loomed large. To lose out in such circumstances again would be devastating.

When the goal went in, the television pictures flashed to Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who stood in a state of shock on the touchline, numbly adjusting his tie and fiddling with the buttons on his suit jacket. On the Bayern bench, giant striker Carsten Jancker, who had been substituted in the 77th minute, sat with his head in his hands. General manager Uli Hoeness licked his lips nervously and stared blankly into the middle distance. In the stands, the TV cameras picked out a Bayern fan slumped over a metal support barrier in disbelief.

It fell to Kahn to shake his team-mates from their stupor. While the players around him stood with hands on hips or gazed vacantly into the stands, the Bayern goalkeeper retrieved the ball from the back of the net and trotted down the pitch in order to expedite the restart. There was still time remaining, and Bayern only needed one goal.

"Your first reaction is that you're really disappointed," former Bayern defender Patrik Andersson tells Bleacher Report. "But I remember that Oliver took the ball out of the net and ran up to the middle with it, to start again. That was a very important signal to the team."

In the third minute of stoppage time, Hamburg goalkeeper Mathias Schober inexplicably picked up a back-pass from team-mate Tomas Ujfalusi, giving Bayern an indirect free-kick inside the home penalty area, three yards outside the six-yard box and to the left of centre. A lifeline.

As Schober (who was ironically on loan from Schalke) organised his defensive wall and Kahn made a nuisance of himself, having come up for the kick, Andersson stood over the ball with Bayern captain Stefan Effenberg. Two of Bayern's regular free-kick specialists, Mehmet Scholl and Michael Tarnat, were off the pitch, and Effenberg decided that Andersson, who possessed a thunderous shot, should take it.

After an interminable delay, referee Markus Merk blew his whistle. Andersson started his run-up, Effenberg touched the ball into his path and the Sweden centre-back crashed a shot through the wall and into the bottom of the goal. Bayern were champions.

Andersson tore back down the pitch with his arms spread wide in celebration. A young Owen Hargreaves grasped vainly at the back of his shirt before the Swede was swamped by an ecstatic mass of Bayern team-mates, substitutes and staff members in front of the dugouts. It would be the first and last goal he scored for the club.

"It's like everything breaks," Andersson says. "You can't describe it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.

"The funny thing was to see all my team-mates running around in different directions. Then seeing the stand with [Bayern president Franz] Beckenbauer and [Bayern vice-president Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge, and then the bench with Hoeness, Hitzfeld and the players. Players running around the pitch, players in suits running onto the pitch. Unbelievable."

Andersson would go on to win the Champions League with Bayern four days later following a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Valencia in Milan before leaving the club to join Barcelona. He cites that Champions League triumph and Sweden's third-placed finish at the 1994 FIFA World Cup as his finest career achievements, but as an individual moment, nothing comes close to that afternoon in Hamburg.

"It made me immortal in Munich," he says. "When you speak to fans who were in the stadium or watching the game [on television], they can describe what they were doing and where they were. Because it's such a strong moment.

"Some people at Bayern—Beckenbauer, Hoeness, Hitzfeld—have achieved a lot through their lives, but this occasion, I don't think you can compare it with anything."

Along with Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, former Arsenal midfielder Michael Thomas and ex-Bordeaux winger Pascal Feindouno, Andersson is part of an elite band of professional footballers who know how it feels to score a title-winning goal in the dying moments of the season's final game.

Sergio Aguero after his iconic title-winning goal in 2012
Sergio Aguero after his iconic title-winning goal in 2012Getty

Last-gasp or not, the title-winning goal is a rare beast. As an example, since the Premier League was launched 27 years ago, there have only been eight instances of an individual player scoring the decisive goal (or goals) that took their club over the line in the title race.

Just as often, clubs that win league championships are indebted to a player from another team for producing a performance that thwarts the ambitions of their title rivals. No Blackburn Rovers fan will ever forget the role played by former West Ham United goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko in keeping Manchester United at bay on the final day of the 1994-95 campaign, while Eden Hazard's dramatic equaliser for Chelsea against Tottenham Hotspur in May 2016 means he will always have a special place in the hearts of Leicester City supporters.

Long-serving Oldham Athletic midfielder, Nicky Henry, retired from football in 2002 without having won any major honours, but a goal he scored on a sunny spring day in May 1993 helped to change the course of English football history.

Henry was a member of the Oldham team that visited Aston Villa in the third-last round of games in the Premier League's inaugural season. Villa were vying for the title with Manchester United, who were not in action, and they had to win to keep the pressure on Alex Ferguson's side. Complicating matters for Villa was the fact that Oldham had to win every one of their final three games if they were to stand any chance of avoiding relegation.

After a strong start by Villa, the visitors took the lead on the half-hour when a loose touch by Oldham striker Darren Beckford fell invitingly for the overlapping Henry, who drilled a first-time shot into the bottom-right corner with his left foot.

"The ball was going into Beckford, and I just made a run, hoping to get a pass," Henry tells Bleacher Report.

"Nine times out of 10, you wouldn't. Luckily for me, he had an unbelievable touch—well, a bad touch—and it came into my path. It was on my weaker side, but I managed to strike it in the corner past [Mark] Bosnich."

Henry's goal against Villa clinched the title for Manchester United
Henry's goal against Villa clinched the title for Manchester UnitedGetty

With the game being shown live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, United fans up and down the country spent the second half desperately willing Joe Royle's side to hold on to their slender lead. When the final whistle sounded at Villa Park, United's 26-year wait for the title came to an end, and Henry found himself the toast of Manchester.

Henry hailed from a tribe of Liverpool fans, and his goal elicited a mixed response within his own family. "They were obviously pleased, but they made it known that they wished I hadn't scored," he says. Nevertheless, his goal kept Oldham's survival hopes alive and they went on to pull off an improbable escape from the drop by beating Liverpool and Southampton in their last two games.

"I was glad I scored," Henry says. "You don't think about it at the time, but as the years go on, you think about it, and it does fill you with pride that you had a say in the title race."

United showed Henry no charity in return when their paths crossed in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium a year later. With Oldham standing on the brink of a first-ever FA Cup final appearance after taking a 1-0 lead in extra time, a goal by Mark Hughes in the last minute sent the game to a replay, which Ferguson's men won at a canter.

So had things worked out differently, would Henry have preferred to see Villa win the title?

"I'd have preferred Liverpool," he says with a laugh. "But, yeah, Villa all day. Definitely."

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