Boxing day has traditionally been that one day of the season when all 20 teams are on display on the same day. With Premier League being the only league active during the Christmas period, the boxing day fixtures often have far-reaching repercussions. With most teams playing 3 games in a week during this festive period, there are higher chances of an upset. This is the period of the season when the will to win is more important than the tactics.
26th December, every year, has often some of the most exciting games of the season. Here we look at the top 5 games that have been played on Premier League Boxing day:
5. Sheffield Wednesday 3-3 Manchester United, 1992
Before Manchester United went on to dominate the English football, they were without a league title for 26 years. In the 1992-93 league season, Sir Alex Ferguson finally seemed to have got most of the things right. But they were missing that one player, capable of turning things on its head and win points on his own. At the start of December 1992, Sir Alex signed Eric Cantona.
While Cantona signing was a huge news for the Red Devils, he was still settling in the team when the Boxing day arrived. They were going to face Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough in a tricky fixture that could make or break their season.
With an hour gone, Sheffield Wednesday were already leading 3-0 and gloom had set up in the United camp. The away fans were weary and it seemed like they were going to witness another season of disappointment. Little did they know, they were about to see a historic comeback that would set the bar for the United teams of the modern era.
Less than 30 minutes to go, Brian McClair scored twice in 13 minutes to set up a wild finale. In the last 10 minutes, the visitors spent the whole time with the ball at their feet, 10 men in the opposition half and treated every duel like a war. Eric Cantona rose to the occasion and punished Sheffield’s comical defending by scoring the equaliser in the final few minutes. This game set the foundations for future of Man Utd and Eric Cantona as they went on to win the league and never looked back again.
4. Coventry City 3-2 Arsenal, 1999
After Manchester United’s historic treble-winning season, the onus was on Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal to make a comeback and win back the title. Although there was a 7 point difference between Arsenal and Manchester United by Christmas, Arsenal had come back from a 13 point deficit to win the league only 2 years ago.
Arsenal were up against Coventry City who were struggling to stay up in the division. Coventry quickly built up a 2 goal lead but Freddie Ljungberg fired up a comeback goal in 67th minute. Coventry’s Robbie Keane doubled their lead only 5 minutes later. David Suker’s goal resulted in tense final minutes but some heroic defending saved the day for Coventry.
Arsenal never really recovered from this upset that season. Manchester United won the league by a record 18 points against the second-placed Gunners.
3. Manchester United 4-3 Newcastle, 2012
Sir Alex’s United were always known for their comebacks. But his final season was something else altogether. Manchester United got a whopping 29 points that season after conceding the lead.
Their exploits reached their pinnacle during the boxing day fixture against Newcastle United. James Perch first got Newcastle the lead but three minutes of Jonny Evans show resulted in him scoring the equaliser and then an own goal! Patrice Evra, who had scored 2 times in 7 seasons before 2012-13, scored the equaliser. Papiss Cisse soon gave Newcastle the lead again but Robin Van Persie equalised as pushed on for the winner.
After a flurry of attacks and end to end display of football, Carrick provided a brilliant lob for Javier Hernandez who scored the winner in the 94th minute. Manchester City lost 1-0 against Sunderland on the same day as the Red Devils opened up a 5 point lead.
This paved the way for Man Utd’s 20th and Sir Alex’s 13th and the last league title.
2. Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa, 2007
After sacking ‘The Special One’ for the first time in September, Chelsea had settled and looked like one of the favourites for the league title under Avram Grant. Having won the league title comfortably only a season ago, Chelsea had a squad full of winners and team that was the hardest to score against in the league.
Jose Mourinho was always dismissive of the big scores in football, often ridiculing other teams for high scoring games. This game was one of the first signs that Chelsea were moving away from his tenure.
Aston Villa made a rapid start and got a 2-0 lead before Chelsea could reply. However, Villa’s Zat Knight received a red card which resulted in a rare brace from Shevchenko. Chelsea had equalised by the 50th minute and had the momentum to go for the win. Alex put the Blues ahead but Villa pulled one back quickly. The scoreline read 3-3 with 18 minutes to go.
In a ridiculous turn of events, Chelsea’s Ricardo Carvalho was sent off but Michael Ballack scored a brilliant free kick with 2 mins to go on the clock as Chelsea seemed to have clinched it. However, there was one more twist yet to arrive. Ashley Cole received a red card for a last minute handball which also gave Aston Villa a penalty. Gareth Barry scored from the spot and Aston Villa somehow rescued a point. These two dropped points turned out to be extremely crucial as Chelsea ended up two points behind the eventual winners, Manchester United.
1. The Boxing day of 1963
No boxing day piece is complete without the mention of this insane display of attacking football on 26th December 1963. It would be unfair to choose a match among all 10 fixtures that occurred on this day. "What happened on Boxing Day 1963 was bewildering," recalled Liverpool striker Ian St John. "It was as if the clubs were making up for the total lack of games the previous season."
The defenders seemed to have enjoyed the Christmas a bit too much. A staggering 66 goals were scored in a single day, 7 players scored hat tricks and 4 players were sent off. To-be champions, Liverpool, won 6-1 against Stoke while to be runners-up lost against Burnley by the same margin. Blackburn beat West Ham 8-2, West Brom and Spurs drew 4-4 and Chelsea defeated Blackpool 1-5. Ipswich were defeated by Fulham in a record 10-1 win.Published 22 Dec 2016, 15:15 IST