When 18-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho poached Manchester City's last-minute winner against Crystal Palace on Saturday to maintain their 100% record in the Premier League, it proved that Manuel Pellegrini’s men are well equipped to see out their title charge.
When top teams score in or beyond the 90th minute of a match, supporters of other clubs
tend to see it as lucky. It used to be called ‘Fergie time’, a result of Manchester United's unerring habit to steal matches at the death under manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
But as Paul Scholes, one of Old Trafford’s most distinguished alumni from that era, has pointed out, it happens too often to be mere good fortune. Better teams move the ball faster and more accurately, even in the latter stages of a game, which drains their opponents as they try to close them down.
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Eventually, a lesser team will start to tire thus becoming vulnerable to a late upset - Crystal Palace were the victims of such a trend against City, unable to keep out their talented opponents.
Bayern Munich were victims of perhaps the most famous late turnaround in football history – the
1999 European Champions League final against United. The Bavarians led 1-0 at the end of normal time, but injury-time strikes from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – just ten minutes after his introduction as a substitute – wrote their names into English folklore and brought the trophy to Manchester.
The German champions seem to have taken head of the lesson, though. With the Bundesliga season just four-games old, Saturday’s 2-1 home victory over Augsburg was already the second time Bayern have come back from a goal down to snatch all three points with a late, late winner.
Thomas Muller was the executioner this time, keeping his nerve to notch a 90th-minute penalty.
Elsewhere, Rosenborg put one hand on the Norwegian title with Sunday's 1-0 win over nearest rivals Stabaek, who now trail by 11 points with seven games left. The winner for the Trondheim club came after three added minutes.
Good teams can rack up handsome victories when they’re on form, but champions are a class apart. They can pick up three points even when they’re not at their best, or perhaps distracted
by the demands of other competitions.
Late winners are a sure sign that these sides possess the true grit, as well as the talent, to come out on top.
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