- Festive Fundown
Football Matches of 2012
Christmas season is upon us, so in the build-up to the big day itself we at ESPN Towers will be picking out a host of top-five moments, and then asking YOU to vote for your favourites.
What was the goal of 2012? Who are the top five bad boys of the past 12 months? Who had years to forget? Come back each day for a new topic and cast your vote to pick the winners of each category…
Manchester United 4-4 Everton, April 22The Premier League trophy was always destined for another year in Manchester and it looked as if it would remain in the Old Trafford trophy cabinet. United were five points clear, and a win would mean they could then afford to lose to City the following week. After an early setback to a Nikica Jelavic goal, United swept into a 3-1 lead, before Marouane Fellaini scored. The Belgian's height and power were terrorising United, but they were soon leading 4-2 through Nani and should have been out of sight when Patrice Evra hit a post. Jelavic set pulses racing and nerves jangling before Steven Pienaar's goal, scored as United's anxiety-wracked defence froze, made it 4-4. There was even time for Rio Ferdinand to have a potential winner saved by Tim Howard. The look on Ferdinand's face said it all. United had choked. City had the whip in hand.
Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea, April 24Chelsea achieved Roman Abramovich's dream of winning the Champions League by pulling off what looked the impossible. Taking a one-goal lead from the first leg to the Nou Camp, hopes were fading when first Sergio Busquets and then Andres Iniesta put the overwhelming favourites into the lead. Those body blows occurred either side of John Terry's sending off for an act of absolute stupidity in lashing out at Alexis Sanchez. Yet Chelsea rallied after a breakaway goal from Ramires and the Barcelona machine faltered. Chance and after went begging, as Chelsea defended like dogs. Lionel Messi's expression was a picture of exasperation, and his pain was crystallised when sub Fernando Torres scored a breakaway goal to take Chelsea to Munich. "Unbel-ievable," said an orgasmic Gary Neville in the commentary box.
Manchester City 3-2 Queens Park Rangers, May 13It was the most exciting climax to a Premier League season ever. Only 1989's shoot-out between Liverpool and Arsenal perhaps surpasses it but this was a day of blue heaven and red faces. This was a title race that looked over. City would surely beat Rangers, while United would win at Sunderland. That meant the title was headed for Eastlands. So it proved, but the drama that took the title's destiny to that end was a breathless and stunning narrative. United won 1-0 at Sunderland, a game played at half-pace. City meanwhile had become 'typical City'. As Rangers blasted into a 2-1 lead, tears were shed, a dream had died, even though Rangers' Joey Barton had staged an act of thoughtless violence to get himself sent off. On 91 minute and 20 seconds, Edin Dzeko equalised. The whistle went at Sunderland. On 93 minutes and 18 seconds, Mario Balotelli stumbled as he played the ball. On 93 minutes and 20 seconds, Sergio Aguero scored. City were champions.
Spain 4-0 Italy, July 1Sometimes a great game does not have to be a fair contest. A great performance from a truly great team can be as entertaining as any punch-for-punch thriller. Spain had dominated international football since 2008 but were missing a keynote performance by which to remember them by. This was their Brazil 4-1 Italy at Mexico '70. They had got to Kiev under a swathe of criticism for being boring and never opening up. Many believed that the keen tactical brain of Cesare Prandelli and the creative genius of maestro Andrea Pirlo could undo Spain. Not a bit of it. Spain simply destroyed the Azzurri from the kick-off. From the moment David Silva steered in a Cesc Fabregas cross, Italy were undone, and their fate was sealed by Jordi Alba, the full-back, scoring a 41st minute goal that reminded of Carlos Alberto in 1970. Spain could resume their passing metronome, and late goals by subs Juan Mata and Fernando Torres were just reward for total dominance.
Reading 5-7 Arsenal, October 30Arsene Wenger has found himself in many tight spots of doubt in recent years, but this one looked lost beyond reason. It may have been only the League Cup, but Wenger's Arsenal were feeling the burn of that seven-years-and-counting trophy drought. Reading led 4-0 at as half-time approached. A Theo Walcott goal with 30 seconds of the half remaining gave the Gunners hope, but an Olivier Giroud strike looked like being a consolation. Yet goals from Laurent Koscielny and Walcott took Arsenal into extra-time. There the script was again torn up when Pavel Pogrebnyak cancelled out Marouane Chamakh putting Arsenal in the lead for the first time. Penalties beckoned before Walcott grabbed his hat-trick with a crashing finish. Reading were done, and Chamakh completed the agony. Arsenal could breathe again.