Football in 2012: a review of the year gone by - Part I
2012 has been perhaps one of the most eventful and exhilarating footballing years of recent times: City’s last day win, Spain’s record 2nd consecutive European Cup, Muamba’s near-death experience. If you’ve been hibernating through the year, you’ve come to the right place. So here we go, SportsKeeda’s top headlines of 2012!
Fairytale Return for the King
January saw the return of club legend Thierry Henry to the Emirates Stadium, as he spent the American off-season, training with his former club, later signing on loan for 2 months. He scored two goals, the winner against Leeds in the FA Cup 3rd Round and a stoppage time vintage Henry winner against Sunderland in his last game on loan.
Zambia win AFCON
Zambia emerged winners in the African Cup Of Nations, playing the final against hot favourites Cote d’Ivoire, winning on penalties a dramatic 8-7, after the match ended goalless after extra time. They dedicated their win to the victims of the 1993 Zambian national football team air disaster.
Liverpool break trophy drought
Liverpool won a major trophy for the first time in nearly 6 years, the last being their FA Cup triumph in 2006. They beat Cardiff 3-2 on penalties after the match ended 2-2 after extra time. Stewart Downing was named the official Man Of The Match.
Fabrice Muamba’s near-death experience
The FA Cup quarter-final between Spurs and Bolton ended prematurely on a horrifying note as Bolton midfielder Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest in the middle of the match. After receiving lengthy on-field treatment from both club doctors as well as a fan who happened to be a cardiologist, Muamba was taken to the London Chest Hospital. It caused a big stir among the football community, with a lot of debates re-ignited about players’ safety. He recovered fully in May, going on to attend Bolton’s home game vs Spurs and the FA Cup Final.
The Blues had won the home tie 1-0, thanks to a quick counter after Lionel Messi was dispossessed by Frank Lampard. The second leg couldn’t have started in a worse way for Chelsea – an injury to Cahill, followed by an equaliser by Busquets, after which came the straight red shown to Terry and then the Chelsea heart breaker, Iniesta putting the Catalans ahead. All seemed improbable but on the brink of half-time, Ramires gave the Chelsea fans hope after scoring a wonder goal. The 2nd half saw Messi miss a penalty and then Torres score a goal good enough for Gary Neville to go orgasmic. Following this defeat, Pep Guardiola announced that he will hand over the reins to Tito Vilanova while he takes an indefinite sabbatical from football itself.
City complete ‘Derby Double’
Three weeks after trailing their neighbours by 8 points at the top, Vincent Kompany’s header on the stroke of halftime won City the game and arguably the title itself, as they went ahead on goal difference, although United still had a fair shot at the title if City slipped up. This match, though it wasn’t the most exciting, set the ball rolling for the most exhilarating finales to a Premier League season.
Atletico Madrid win Europa League
Atletico Madrid emerged champions of Europe’s 2nd most prestigious competition after beating Bilbao 3-0 in an all-Spanish final. Radamel Falcao scored a double and became the first to score in 2 Europa finals with 2 different teams. He picked up his second winners’ medal and Top Scorer accolade in just 357 days.
Juventus win Serie A after 9 years
The Bianconieri picked up their 30th scudetto, going the whole season unbeaten, becoming the first team to emerge victorious after not having been defeated at all during the season. Also in attendance was the re-emergence of Andrea Pirlo, who had been blacked out at Milan, topping the assists table with 13 while also notching up 3 goals. It was quite a wonderful sight to see the Old Lady with her head held high, as Del Piero held aloft the scudetto, just 5 seasons after their relegation to Serie B.
The most exhilarating, adrenaline-overflowing, blood-pressure-rise inciting season had the most fitting finale ever, living up to its billing of the best Premier League season ever. The last matchday saw United and City tied on top, City leading on goal difference. Neither could slip up, though their victory was in the hands of the other. United finished the job handed to them, beating Sunderland comfortably as attention turned to the Etihad. The Premier League would go down to the last few seconds. QPR had taken the lead, 1-2, and in stoppage time, goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero(oOoOoOoOoOoO) meant that City would fend off their Red rivals to win their first domestic championship after 44 years. It left everyone catching their breath after perhaps the greatest season of English domestic football ever.
Real Madrid emerge Champions of Spain
Los Blancos won a their 32nd La Liga title, fending off fierce rivals Barcelona, and extending their record of La Liga titles. Mourinho’s team did it in style too, beating a whole load of records, with 100 points in one season, a goal difference of +89, 121 goals scored and 32 overall wins. This was the first time Barcelona, under Guardiola had failed to win the La Liga and Pep decided it was time to take a holiday.
Chelsea beat Bayern in their own backyard
Chelsea emerged Champions of Europe, just months after they were facing elimination at the hands of Napoli. In a brilliant turnaround of fortunes, the English team conceded on 83 minutes to Thomas Mueller’s header, though Didier Drogba equalised with a thumping header of his own 5 minutes later. It would go to a shootout after ex-Blue Arjen Robben missed a penalty in extra time. A German missed a penalty (cue shocked face), Didier Drogba buried his and an English team had just beaten a German team, ON PENALTIES. (cue extremely shocked face). A big debate would follow on whether Chelsea’s use of ultra-defensive tactics to win was justified or not, but all the Blues cared about was that they’d won the Big-Ears after years of heartbreak, becoming the first London team to do so and Di Matteo, becoming the first interim manager to win it.
As the club football season came to a close, Euro 2012 began, with club mates going against each other for their countries. The shock of the group stages was the elimination of the Netherlands, who with Europe’s two domestic top scorers were hot favourites for the title. England faced Italy in the quarterfinals in what was a game dominated well and truly by the Italians. It went to penalties, as it always does with England, and the English could simply not master the technique and ability to keep a cool head and score from 12 yards. The Italians won 4-2, with Pirlo mentally crushing Joe Hart with a beautiful Panenka penalty, setting up the stage for Alessandro Diamanti to slot home and send Italy to the semis.
The Eden Hazard Saga
Eden Hazard was the epicentre of a transfer earthquake that unfolded. Initial reports claimed that Arsene Wenger had already struck up a deal for him, while a few weeks later it was ‘confirmed’ he will be heading to one of the Manchester clubs, reports then alleged Chelsea had become the sudden favourites after their Champions League victory, especially with ex-Blue Joe Cole also at Lille during that time. All we can do is pity the guy, blamed for being arrogant when all the stories were coined by the media. Hazard made history with the very announcement of his next club; he became the first ever footballer to announce which club he’d be heading to, through social-networking site Twitter. He did end up going to Chelsea, for 32 million pounds, becoming their 2nd most expensive buy. (We all know who the first is.)
Spain win the Euro again, Torres wins Golden Boot
This team was made to break records. They shred the Italian defence – not something you hear everyday – with Silva and Alba putting the Spaniards ahead in the first 45, while Torres and Juan Mata finished the job at the end of the 2nd. By doing so, Spain became the first team to win two consecutive Euros and three consecutive international tournaments, and it was also the greatest winning margin ever in the history of the Euros. Fernando Torres won the Golden Boot, though he was tied on 3 goals with 6 other players, but he had one assist to his name too, the final goal in the finals. Mario Gomez also had 3 goals and a goal but he’d played 281 minutes, compared to Torres’ 189 minutes on pitch.