Substitutions can change games, but some subs have more impact than others. We look across arguably the 10 most important goals scored by substitutes in Premier League history.

Gianluca Vialli
Chelsea vs Bolton Wanderers – 10 May 1998

In just the sixth Premier League season following its 1992 inception, Everton were deep in relegation trouble coming into the final matchday. Before the final Sunday of action, Howard Kendall’s side sat in the relegation zone and a point from safety. Bolton Wanderers occupied the final safe spot in 17th and hosted fourth-placed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to end the season. They would have had high hopes following back-to-back victories over Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.

Everton had been members of the English top flight for every season since 1954 and had already survived relegation on the final day of the 1993-94 season. This time around, they had Gianluca Vialli to thank for their survival.

The Toffees needed to better Bolton’s result on the final day to survive and had put themselves in a good position to do just that thanks to Gareth Farrelly’s early strike. However, an 89th-minute Dion Dublin equaliser meant that only a Bolton defeat would keep Everton in the Premier League.

Some say that if you want a job done properly, do it yourself. Vialli was Chelsea player-manager at the time and brought himself off the subs bench at half-time to score the eventual match-winning goal 17 minutes from time, before Jody Morris sealed all three points and confirmed Bolton’s relegation on goal difference.

Three days later, Vialli started himself in the 1998 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final against VfB Stuttgart, leading them to European glory following a 1-0 victory in Stockholm.

Gianluca Vialli Chelsea Premier League

Wayne Rooney
Everton vs Arsenal – 19 October 2002

Wayne Rooney had only played 346 minutes of Premier League football for Everton before his appearance off the bench against reigning top-flight champions Arsenal at Goodison Park in October 2002. Despite this, he’d already built up a reputation as potentially one of the most exciting English prospects in decades. That was accelerated following his first Premier League goal to win this game.

The 16-year-old’s exceptional long-range strike past David Seaman saw Everton win 2-1 and end Arsenal’s 30-match unbeaten run as well as their 23-game unbeaten away streak. He’d only entered the pitch in the 80th minute, replacing Tomasz Radzinski – who’d scored Everton’s equaliser earlier in the match.

It was Arsenal’s first league defeat since December 2001 and showed that this edition of Arsène Wenger’s side wasn’t invincible – they went on to lose three of their next seven games and ended up losing out on the 2002-03 title to Manchester United.  

For Rooney, this was the first of 208 Premier League goals and set him on the way to becoming one of the all-time English greats. At the time, this goal made him the youngest scorer in the competition’s history (16 years, 360 days old), but that record was beaten two months later by James Milner and eventually broken again by…

James Vaughan
Everton vs Crystal Palace – 10 April 2005

James Vaughan’s goal on his Premier League debut in April 2005 saw him become the youngest scorer in Premier League history at just 16 years and 270 days old – 90 days younger than Rooney when he netted against Arsenal.

Vaughan was handed his Premier League debut by David Moyes as a 74th-minute substitute, and he put the icing on the cake in a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park.

The forward had also become Everton’s youngest post-war player with this substitute appearance, but he went on to play just 51 more matches in the Premier League and score only six more goals.

While Vaughan didn’t go on to have nearly as strong a career as Rooney, this goal remains an important moment in Premier League history for breaking a record that still stands today.

Geoff Horsfield
West Bromwich Albion vs Portsmouth – 15 May 2005

The 2004-05 Premier League season remains the only campaign in which no side had already been relegated going into the final day. ‘Survival Sunday’ saw four teams battling it out for survival – West Brom, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Norwich City.

Bryan Robson’s West Brom were the only one of these four teams to win on the final day, thanks to a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth. Second-half goals from Geoff Horsfield and Kieran Richardson led to pandemonium on the Hawthorns pitch at full-time. Horsfield came on as a sub in the 58th minute before scoring the opening goal of the match less than a minute later.

West Brom were bottom on Christmas Day and Horsfield’s strike helped them become the first team in Premier League history to avoid relegation after being at the foot of the table on 25 December.

Federico Macheda
Manchester United vs Aston Villa – 5 April 2009

Manchester United came into this meeting with Aston Villa two points behind league leaders Liverpool, but with two games in hand. However, the momentum in the title race had shifted in Liverpool’s favour following their 4-1 win at Old Trafford a month earlier and Man Utd’s 2-0 defeat at Fulham in their next game.

Things were looking like they could get even worse for Alex Ferguson’s side when they trailed Aston Villa 2-1 with just 10 minutes remaining. Cristiano Ronaldo equalised, but it looked like more points dropped… until they eventually found a winner via an unlikely source.

After coming on as a substitute in the 61st minute, 17-year-old Federico Macheda scored with his first shot in Premier League football to win the game for United in added time. His goal was timed at 92:04 and was United’s latest goal in the Premier League that season.

A week later, Macheda did it again, coming on as a sub at Sunderland with Manchester United drawing 1-1 with 15 minutes left to play. He scored the winner 47 seconds after coming off the bench.

These two goals turned two draws into wins and gained Manchester United four points – ultimately the exact gap between themselves and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table come the end of 2008-09.

Macheda Goal vs Aston Villa

Edin Dzeko
Manchester City vs Queens Park Rangers – 13 May 2012

Everybody remembers Sergio Agüero’s title-winning goal for Manchester City against QPR, but that moment only became possible after substitute Edin Dzeko has equalised in the second minute of added time.

Dzeko’s header tied the scores at 2-2, with City still needing another goal to win their first Premier League title. We all know what happened next.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina striker came on in the 69th minute and was arguably Roberto Mancini’s most important substitution during his reign as manager. That is if you discount Mario Balotelli in the same match. The Italian was subbed on seven minutes after Dzeko and assisted Agüero’s match-winner – it was the Italian’s only assist in 70 Premier League appearances.

Chelsea vs Liverpool – 27 April 2014

Had Liverpool won this match, they might have been just a single win away from their first-ever Premier League title. However, in an encounter remembered for Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip after he’d just told his teammates to “not let this slip,” Liverpool fell to a defeat that left the title race out of their hands.

Demba Ba had capitalised on Gerrard’s misfortune in the first half to put Chelsea ahead, before Liverpool turned the game into one of attack versus defence after half-time. A stubborn Chelsea defence held out and extended their lead against the run of play in added time.

José Mourinho’s first substitution of the day saw Willian replace Mohamed Salah (what happened to him?) on the hour mark. Four minutes into added time, former Liverpool fan favourite Fernando Torres broke clear and unselfishly passed to the Brazilian to fire home their second goal and break Liverpool hearts.

Michy Batshuayi
Chelsea vs West Bromwich Albion – 12 May 2017

The 2016-17 Premier League season saw Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side win the title despite the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Man City.

At the core of Chelsea’s triumph was a heady three-month spell between October and December when they were untouchable. In this time, they went on a 13-game winning streak, equalling the then-record run of consecutive top-flight wins in a single season.

It came after an indifferent opening to the season and a tactical switch from Conte at half-time in a defeat against Arsenal with his team 3-0 down. Moving to a back three, Chelsea then went on to win 27 of their subsequent 32 Premier League matches and became the first team in a 38-game Premier League season to win 30 matches.

Michy Batshuayi only scored five goals for Chelsea that season, with four coming as a substitute. The most important of those was his winner in the 1-0 victory at West Brom on 12 May just six minutes after he came off the bench to replace Pedro. The strike sealed the Premier League title for his side – Chelsea’s fifth and, so far, last.

Batshuayi Goal vs West Brom

Gabriel Jesus
Manchester City vs Southampton – 13 May 2018

With the title wrapped up on 15 April, by which point City had been knocked out of both the Champions League and FA Cup, their only motivation for the last month of the 2017-18 campaign was chasing down a record 100 points in a Premier League season.

A surprise goalless draw at home to relegation-threatened Huddersfield in their third-from-last game of the campaign left City needing six points from their final two matches – at home to Brighton and away to Southampton to hit the three-figure milestone. A 3-1 win over Brighton meant they headed to the south coast on the last day of the season knowing that the 100-point mark was still within reach.

Southampton were as good as safe, but not quite mathematically guaranteed of survival, so there was reason for them to want to avoid defeat.

City dominated the ball but weren’t at their fluent best and struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities. That was until Kevin De Bruyne (who else?) dropped between the centre-backs in the 93rd minute to get on the ball, and sent a long, raking ball behind the Southampton defence for substitute Gabriel Jesus to race through on goal. He took one touch to control the ball before lifting the ball over Alex McCarthy to send the away end into raptures and ensure City made it to triple figures.

Ilkay Gündogan
Manchester City vs Aston Villa – 22 May 2022

City went into the final day of the 2021-22 season one point ahead of Liverpool in the table and therefore needing to match the Reds’ result against Wolves to win the fourth title of Pep Guardiola’s reign. Standing in their way were Aston Villa, led by a certain Liverpool legend in Steven Gerrard.

Things didn’t go to plan at the start at all… from City’s perspective at least. Matty Cash fired Villa into a shock first-half lead, before former Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho doubled their lead on 69 minutes. Meanwhile at Anfield, Liverpool were drawing 1-1, meaning they were level on points with City, who were clinging on to top spot on goal difference.

Ilkay Gündogan had come off the bench and would go on tip the title race in his team’s favour in a remarkable five-minute blitz. He rose high at the back post to nod home Raheem Sterling’s cross, before Rodri drilled home an equaliser from the edge of the box. Moments later, Gündogan stole in at the back post to tap home De Bruyne’s low cross and win City the title once again.

Liverpool scored two late goals of their own to ensure that Gündogan’s contribution was very much needed.

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