Against The Odds: The Biggest Upsets of the Football Season
We’ve seen glorious cup runs, Champions League epics, and most certainly the odd upset.
The upset is a bookmakers nightmare. They often come in just fleeting moments, against the odds, giving fans pure ecstasy on the terraces and those lucky few a nice payout.
We’ve seen these moments more than usual this season, from the elite of Barcelona to the butchers, bakers, and pie-eaters of non-league football.
With the season almost done and dusted, we take a look at some of the incredible comebacks, unimaginable moments, and complete shocks of 2016/17…
Leicester City v Sevilla
Leicester are naturally a team capable of the odd upset, last season’s 5,000/1 shot at the title proved to be bookie bashing at it’s finest. Claudio Ranieri’s men were a tight knit group, defensively solid, and were perhaps the best counter-attacking team in Europe. Fast-forward to this season and it’s a stark contrast.
Relegation candidates for much of the season, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were shadows of their former selves, and Ranieri eventually saw the chop. In the Champions League however, there was that small twinkle of hope.
Cruising into the knockout stages, the club faced Sevilla in the Round of 16. A tough ask for the Foxes, it was looking like their journey would finally come to an end. Going into the first leg Leicester were at 9.6 to win the tie over in Spain, which was no surprise given their form.
An away goal gave them hope but overcoming a 2-1 deficit looked impossible given their lack of experience in European football. The return leg at the King Power saw Leicester as high as 12/5 to win the tie and were 3/1 to qualify compared to the 1/5 most bookmakers like William Hill and Betfair were offering for the Spanish side.
What we saw was a night to remember and a return to the form that saw them lift the Premier League for the first time last season. It’ll go down in history as one of the best nights under the lights in Leicester, and saw the club once more do the unthinkable.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be for City, who then faltered in the Quarter Final against a strong Atletico Madrid side. Giving an extremely good account of themselves, they couldn’t make it over the line, losing 2-1 on aggregate.
Barcelona v PSG
It’s not often Barcelona are the underdogs. In fact, given hindsight, it was probably silly to even label them that.
Shocked by a 4-0 defeat away at PSG in the Champions League Round of 16, the media were left questioning everything the club stood for. Was tika taka dead? Was Lionel Messi over the hill?
Well, what was questioned by journalists following the first leg, was emphatically answered in the second. Before the game, bookmakers were offering odds of 10/1 for the Spanish giants to make it into the Quarter Final and by the last five minutes those odds had increased to 100/1.
5-3 down on aggregate in the 88th minute, Barca turned the screw, applied pressure and incredibly scored three goals in the final seven minutes, producing one of the greatest nights in European Cup history.
Even the 90,000 inside the Camp Nou were stunned. Back from the dead, Barcelona had done it. They had completed the biggest comeback in Champions League history, surpassing Deportivo’s 5-4 aggregate win over AC Milan back in 2004.
Arsenal v Watford
There have been some fairly big upsets in the Premier League this season, Swansea’s 3-2 win away at Liverpool is certainly up there with the Swans priced at 14/1. However, none were expecting lowly Watford to go to the Emirates and upset the applecart.
The Hornets were at 16/1 to beat the Gunners, but got off to an incredible start, knocking in two goals in the first 13 minutes of the tie. It was a far cry from their defeat to Millwall just the weekend before and Arsene Wenger’s men were in shock.
It wasn’t until the second half that Arsenal looked like scoring, eventually finding the net in the 58th minute but seemed unable to find another in the final 30 minutes. Throwing bodies in the way of everything, Watford managed to pull off the shock of the season, catapulting themselves to 13th in the Premier League and to the top of the upsets table.
Lincoln’s FA Cup Run
The FA Cup really was magic this season. In another year both Millwall and Sutton United would have been continually talked about, but instead the 2016/17 cup would belong to Lincoln City.
It’s been an incredible season for The Imps. Dan Cowley has taken his team back into the Football League, while they also reached the FA Trophy Semi-Final. Of course though, this season will be remembered for their exploits in the FA Cup.
The cup is usually remembered for a team beating the odds once. But Lincoln did it not once, not twice, but four times. Defeating Oldham in the Second Round they were handed a tie with the Championship’s Ipswich Town. Taking them to a replay at Sincil Bank, the non-leaguers managed to score a dramatic injury time goal to set them up with a home tie against Brighton, a team chasing Premier League promotion.
The away side were priced at 4/6 to win, a comfortable victory then. But it was far from that. Before the game Lincoln were being offered at 4/1 for the win and a staggering 2000/1 to win the competition.
Following a 3-1 win against the Seagulls, those odds began to get slashed and by the time they beat Burnley they’d fallen to 100/1.
Burnley’s terrific home form meant bookmakers weren’t giving the National League side a look in. Priced at 9/1 it was due to be game over for Cowley’s men. But they did it again, producing the biggest FA Cup giant-killing run of all time.
That set up the glamour tie versus Arsenal. But it wasn’t to be as the bright lights of the Emirates jaded Lincoln, while the class of the Gunners put pay to any hopes of reaching Wembley.