There are few things more impressive in sports than an unbeaten run. Every team can pull out the occasional win against a bigger team, but truly great teams can avoid defeat time and time again no matter the circumstances or who they are up against. They may have played just a few days ago, they may be missing a key player or they may be up against the best team in the league, but all these factors do not matter once the whistle is blown for these teams that have put together the greatest streaks in football history. It is rare, and impressive, for teams to maintain a high level of play over multiple games, as everyone has off nights where they struggle to play their best. In these times these teams have been able to pick up the slack and continue to go unbeaten, demonstrating the importance of playing as a team instead of relying on one or two players.
Arsenal famously went the entire 2003-04 campaign undefeated, going 49 games without a loss overall. This included 36 wins and 13 draws, and this is particularly impressive considering the competiveness of the Premier League. This team, nicknamed “The Invincibles”, made history in England, but it may surprise you to find out that this run fails to make it into the top 10 unbeaten runs in football history. Many of the unbeaten runs listed may be in leagues that are less competitive, but you cannot take away from how impressive these runs are as it takes a special team with an incredible drive and focus to stay undefeated for 50+ games.
All the best teams in the world will make their home stadium a fortress where travelling teams shrink the moment they step onto the pitch. All of these teams have achieved this, but impressively they have also visited grounds around the country and come away from the game with at least a point.
Here are the top 10 unbeaten runs in football history.
10 Benfica (56 games)
Guided by former Chelsea defender John Mortimore, Benfica went on a stunning 56 game unbeaten streak which lasted from 1976 through to 1978. It would be rival team Porto who eventually defeated Benfica, with a 1-0 victory in August of 1978. Porto have come agonizingly close to toppling this incredible unbeaten streak, with 2 streaks of 53 and one of 55 which was from February 2010 to January 2012. It seems unlikely that any Portuguese team will replicate this now, but both Benfica and Porto continue to top the league and have both performed well in Europe over the years too.
They and Porto are undoubtedly the two monsters of the Portuguese league, and if anybody is going to surpass this mark, it would either be Benfica or Porto.
9 Skonto Riga (58 games)
Latvian outfit Skonto Riga put together an extraordinary era of dominance where they won an astonishing 14 seasons in a row. This included a 58 game unbeaten streak which extended from October 17, 1993, right through to May 25, 1996. This included two full undefeated seasons. Whilst the Latvian league may not offer the toughest competition (Skonto once beat an opponent 15-2), it is still hugely impressive for a group of players to remain undefeated for 58 games which spread over three years. Skonto Riga have never managed much success in Europe and have endured financial difficulties in recent years, but despite this they remain the top team in Latvian football.
8 Olympiacos (58 games)
Olympiacos demonstrated their dominance in the Greek league by winning three consecutive league titles. This is impressive in any league, but to go 58 games without losing during this period makes it much more impressive. The streak started following a loss to PAOK in October 1972, and it would fittingly be PAOK again who finally stopped the run, nearly two years later in April of 1974. During the 1973-74 season, Olympiacos netted an incredible 104 times, with their star player Yves Triantafyllos chipping in 58 in just 80 matches during his three year stay.
7 A.C. Milan (58 games)
Italian giants A.C. Milan were a team to be feared throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s, earning the nickname “The Immortals” and “The Invincibles”. This highly talented team won back-to-back European titles under Arrigo Sacchi and three consecutive Italian titles, as well as a conquering 58 game unbeaten streak which lasted the 1991-92 season, under Fabio Capello. The team contained legendary players such as Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, ensuring that they were playing with style and swagger throughout this period too. They would also win the 1994 Champions League under Capello, what must now seem like an eternity ago for A.C. fans.
Milan's run came to an end on March 21, 1993 when they lost 1-0 to Parma on a 58th minute goal from Faustino Asprilla. The fans of the Rossoneri showed their appreciation for the team's unbelievable run by giving them a standing ovation despite the loss.
6 FC Pyunik (59 games)
They may not be football giants, but FC Pyunik are one of the most popular and successful clubs in Armenia, and also put together a breathtaking 59 game unbeaten streak which lasted from October 20, 2002 through to November 11, 2004, ending with a 1-0 loss to FC Kilikia. What is particularly impressive about this lengthy unbeaten streak is that Pyunik managed it under three different coaches. Changing coach can result in tough stretches for any team as they adjust to new systems and styles of play, but Pyunik did not let this hold them back as they went undefeated for just over two years. They are a decorated team with 13 Armenian championships along with seven cups and eight Supercups, and they also have 30 Champions League fixtures to their name.
5 Union Saint-Gilloise (60 games)
This run of games was so extraordinary that a cup, named after the captain of the undefeated team, is handed out to the team that has the longest unbeaten streak during the season. The Pappaert Cup is named after Jules Pappaert, who was at the heart of this team from Brussell’s 60 game unbeaten run which saw them claim three consecutive titles. This run took place between 1933 and 1935 and they were unsurprisingly the most dominant team in Belgium before World War 2. The team are now in the 3rd division, but despite this they remain one of the most successful and well known teams in the country. The club is still known as Union 60 due to this sensational undefeated run.
4 FC Levadia Tallinn (61 games)
An impressive run in the modern era, FC Levadia Tallinn managed this lengthy run between 2008 and 2009 where they went a full 61 games without defeat. Their boss at the time, Igor Prins, admitted that they managed to put together the run due to the “absence of strong opposition”, but to go so many games without one slip up is a fantastic achievement and something to behold. The run helped the Estonian team to claim their 4th consecutive league title, but despite their domestic dominance, FC Levadia Tallinn have yet to impose themselves on the European stage.
3 Celtic FC (62 games)
You will have to trawl through the record books to find it, but this run from Celtic is the UK record for most consecutive games without loss. Taking place between 1915 and 1917, the Hoops went on a phenomenal 62-game unbeaten streak under their very first manager, Willie Maley. We talk about Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run, but the Celtic players will laugh at this as they won 49 of these 62 games and drew the remaining 13. This also included playing two games on the same day, something that no modern day team would ever have to do. Celtic’s extraordinary history, including this run, is why they remain one of the most popular and respected clubs in world football.
2 FC Sheriff (63 games)
Located in Tiraspol, Transnistria, FC Sheriff are officially situated in an unrecognized state, but generally recognized as being a part of Moldova. Other teams in the Moldovan league may not be too happy about this, as Sheriff have completely dominated in recent times, winning an incredible ten straight league titles from 2001 to 2010. This included an amazing 63 game unbeaten streak, where they went the entire 2006-07 season without loss before finally falling to their arch-rivals FC Zimbru Chisanau in March the following season.
1 FC Steaua Bucuresti (106 games)
Completely overshadowing the other entries on this list (which are hugely impressive) is Romanian outfit FC Steaua Bucuresti, who went a record 106 games without defeat from 1986 to 1989. This staggering run came during a golden era for the team, who famously won the European Cup in ’86 when they beat Barcelona on penalties in the final. Their goalkeeper at the time, Helmuth Duckadam, saved all four of Barcelona’s penalty attempts to help his team become the first Easter European team to lift the trophy. The team have managed to continue to dominate domestically, and it seems unlikely that their remarkable 106 game streak will ever be topped.
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