Manchester City host Liverpool on Sunday as two of the world's finest club sides face off once again. The latest edition of Pep v Klopp and tiki-taka v gegenpress is, these days, the Premier League's glittering showpiece fixture - a game that will be watched by millions around the world.

But it wasn't always like this.

Back in 1996, Liverpool travelled to City's beloved but disintegrating Maine Road on the final day of the season with all to play for. But for Alan Ball's faltering team, it was the issue of survival or relegation that needed to be settled, with City starting the day in the bottom three on goal difference and staring into the abyss.


The mission was simple - or so it seemed: the Blues had to better the result of their manager's old club Southampton, who hosted Wimbledon at the Dell.

Liverpool raced into an early two goal lead, seemingly consigning the blue half of Manchester to relegation (while neighbours United celebrated another title triumph).

But the unlikely suddenly looked possible when Uwe Rosler and Kit Symons clawed City back into the reckoning.

And here is where the chaos ensues.

As the clocked ticked towards 90 minutes, Southampton and Wimbledon remained goalless, meaning City needed a winner to avoid the drop.

Remember, these were the days before smartphones and the kind of instant communications we all take for granted now. Instead, fans clasped pocket radios to their ears for score updates - and it was one such supporter, seated close to the City bench, who got his maths horribly wrong, shouting to manager Ball that a point would do.

The hapless Steve Lomas, who had already steered in an own goal earlier in the afternoon, was promptly ordered by his boss to get the ball and keep it near the corner flag.

The loyal midfielder did just that, desperately and gallantly wasting time to save his precious City.

The only problem was his team needed a third goal. Niall Quinn, who had just been subbed off, was by now watching events on television. As he realised what was happening, he sprinted from the dressing room to warn Lomas of the materialising cluster fuck.

But it was too late.

City were down. And they'd managed it by wasting precious minutes that they could have used trying to score.



These days, midfielder Lomas can see the funny side.

"If it wasn’t so serious there was great comic value in seeing big Niall running half-dressed down the touchline to say a draw wasn't enough.

"Alan had received false information because he thought Southampton were losing and I was taking the ball into the corner flag to kill time."

For City, relegation to the second tier was only the start of their problems, as they soon after plunged into the old third division.

Those days probably feel like a lifetime ago to City fans - although any who were in Maine Road that May afternoon will forever wince when they remember their team timewasting their way to relegation.





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