Five Times Promoted Teams Shocked the Champions

On Saturday evening, Norwich, having already succumbed to defeat away to European champions Liverpool and at home to Chelsea now perhaps face their sternest test from the league’s top-6 sides thus far, when they welcome reigning champions Manchester City to Carrow Road.

To compound matters further, Daniel Farke’s men will have to take on Guardiola’s marauding City side with a severely depleted squad, as a startling eleven first-team players are on the sideline with various injuries.

Can Norwich withstand City’s formidable attacking juggernaut and somehow emerge with an improbable draw, or grab a win against all odds?

It wouldn’t be the first time a newly-promoted side has managed to topple the reigning Premier League champions. Here are the five most notable matches where the defending champions have fallen at the hands of a newly-promoted side.

1. Manchester United 2 Derby 3 – 5th April 1997

United came into this match three points clear at the top of the league; well-positioned to capture their fourth Premier League title in five seasons and continue their dominance over English football. In truth, a home fixture against relegation-battling Derby County at that time would have appeared a formality on paper.

Alas, this was to prove anything but straightforward as United they found themselves 2-0 down at half time, albeit against the run of play. The Rams opened the scoring at Old Trafford, thanks to Ashley Ward’s fortuitous effort looping into the net over Peter Schmeichel.

New signing Paolo Wanchope then produced a sublime goal, embarking on a mazy dribble from the halfway line, striding past a throng of United players into the box before slotting the ball into the bottom corner.

After the break, Eric Cantona halved the deficit with a well-taken goal to rouse the home crowd back into life but a calamitous defensive mix-up between Schmeichel and Gary Pallister gifted Dean Sturridge with a tap-in for what transpired to be a crucial third goal for the visitors.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pulled one back for United, but Derby were able to hold on, despite a late United onslaught to secure an unforgettable victory at Old Trafford.

2. Manchester United 1 Bolton 2 – 20th October 2001

Sam Allardyce’s Bolton side had splendidly reacquainted themselves with the Premier League after the club’s three-year absence, even snatching an unexpected 2-1 home win against Liverpool in August.

United, on the other hand after three consecutive Premier League titles were off to a below-par start during this campaign, most likely due to Sir Alex Ferguson announcing his plans to retire at the end of the season.

Even with consideration to the Red Devils’ recent form, Bolton were still not expected to take any points from the defending champions when they met at Old Trafford. The visitors’ task became all the more onerous when Juan Sebastian Veron, curled in a wonderful free-kick from 30 or so yards to open the scoring.

Just ten minutes on though, the Trotters responded with a beautifully executed goal of their own when Michael Ricketts nodded down the ball into the path of Kevin Nolan, who struck a brilliant half-volley, that teasingly curled away from Fabien Barthez into the side-netting for the equaliser.

Jussi Jaaskelainen’s superb double save to thwart both Paul Scholes and Andy Cole stunned the Old Trafford crowd, but shock around the stadium transformed into sheer disbelief when Ricketts pounced on a poor defensive clearance and dispatched the ball high above Barthez’s reach. The strike sealed an incredible victory for Bolton, their first at United’s ground for over 22 years.

3. Burnley 1 Manchester United 0 – 19th August 2009

How special would it be to clinch promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs, through which you are then treated to your club’s first top-flight campaign in 33 years?

Burnley fans were brimming with anticipation upon United’s visit to Turf Moor, who despite selling star player Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid still boasted some exceptional talent within their ranks.

Ironically, the game’s stand-out moment came from the right foot of Burnley striker Robbie Blake. The forward struck a thunderous volley past Ben Foster to give the Clarets the lead and send the home supporters into raptures.

As expected, United responded with a barrage of attacks, laying siege to the Burnley goal but Clarets keeper Brian Jensen produced an inspired display including a vital first-half penalty save from Michael Carrick’s effort to help his side pull off a famous upset at Turf Moor.

4. Chelsea 0 Bournemouth 1 – 5th December 2015

At one point in time, José Mourinho as Chelsea manager had amazingly gone 78 league games unbeaten at Stamford Bridge before Sunderland surprisingly brought this impressive statistic to an end in April 2014.

Even then, Mourinho proceeded to lose none of his home games the following season as he masterminded the Blues to their fourth Premier League triumph.

Therefore, for the Portuguese’s last-ever home game as Chelsea manager to end in a tepid 1-0 defeat against newly-promoted Bournemouth demonstrates just how disastrous the Blues’ title defence turned out to be back in 2015/16.

Bournemouth, who that season were competing in the top-flight for the very first time had only managed two wins from their first 14 league matches and were winless in their previous eight league games coming into this match.

Yet astoundingly, the Cherries arrived in West London and were able to impose their style of play upon the home side without encountering any significant resistance. So, by the time striker Glenn Murray’s close-range header gave Bournemouth the lead eight minutes from time, hardly anyone could argue this was unmerited.

Unbeknownst to many at the time, the final whistle at Stamford Bridge drew the curtain on Mourinho’s illustrious time at Chelsea over two spells but also may have been the catalyst for Bournemouth attaining the belief that is imperative in order to remain in the Premier League, as they have done up to this point at present. A pertinent result for more reasons than one.

5. Hull 2 Leicester 1 – 13th August 2016

Quite frankly, Leicester’s fairy-tale Premier League triumph back in 2015/2016 almost felt too good to be true at the time and it seemed everyone was simply awaiting a cruel twist of fate to befall Claudio Ranieri’s men. This ultimately never arrived and the Foxes were able to seize their moment of glory.

Move forward to the opening day of the following season, however, and it felt brutally apparent from the get-go that there would be no repeat of their heroics.

Hull City, coming into the opening game of the season were the season’s early favourites for relegation and had seen manager Steve Bruce resign from his post several weeks before the start of the season, with just 13 fit first-team players at the time.

Despite these major setbacks, Hull produced a brilliant performance to outshine Leicester at the KCOM Stadium. Adama Diomande’s overhead kick and Robert Snodgrass’ low driven shot, giving the Tigers a much-needed win. Incidentally, this was the first time in Premier League history that the defending champions had lost on the opening day.

About the author


Joel Mians

Journalism student at Uni of Sheffield. Writer of football blog called 'All things Football. Also a massive Arsenal fan.

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