Top 10 matches of the year: Part 1
2012 brought with it some truly memorable matches. In part 1, we look at some incredible action from various tournaments across Europe, which saw firm favourites being overcome in some instances, while in others, there were unbelievable comebacks from those left for dead. It would be impossible to pick a certain game as being better than another, and hence, in no particular order, here are five of the most exciting matches of 2012.
Having been recently crowned the champions of Germany for the second year in a row, Borussia Dortmund had announced their arrival with aplomb. With a young and highly talented squad put together by Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund secured the domestic double in emphatic fashion with a 5 – 2 demolition of closest rivals, Bayern Munich. Shinji Kagawa’s last goal for the club, along with one from Hummels, and a hat-trick from Lewandowski were sufficient for the Bundesliga champions to see off Bayern, who scored through Robben and Ribery.
At the turn of the year, Tottenham Hotspur were still in the title race, having an outside chance of making it past the two Manchester clubs with a little bit of luck. Thus, when they visited the Etihad on the 22nd of January, they sensed it was their time to shine, as a sensational start to the second half saw four goals scored in less than 10 minutes, with the Cockerels coming back from a 2 – 0 deficit. However, this comeback was to bear no fruit, as some excellent saves from Joe Hart kept adrift the home team, who went on to win it five minutes into injury time with a penalty. The scorer was none other than mystery man, Mario Balotelli, who effectively ended Tottenham’s title hopes and boosted that of his adopted team.
Real Madrid, who were having a fantastic season domestically, came up against traditional rivals Bayern Munich, who had been outdone in theirs. Thus, when Bayern visited the Bernabeu, few thought that their slender advantage from the first leg would hold, and these thoughts were only strengthened when Ronaldo scored an early brace, threatening a Real rout. However, Robben scored from the penalty spot halfway through the first half to create a mirror scoreline from the first leg, and that is how the score remained until the game went into penalties. Credit is due to Manuel Neuer though, for keeping his team in the game with some good saves, and two penalty stops, before he watched Sergio Ramos blast over the bar, sinking Real Madrid’s hopes of achieving a treble that season.
Trailing by four goals as early as in the 37th minute, Arsenal‘s season looked all but buried under all the weight they were carrying from the summer transfer window. Theo Walcott would come to their rescue though, with a goal in injury time for both halves, the second one coming in the sixth minute, and sending the game into extra time in thrilling fashion. Here, Arsenal would take the lead, only for Pogrebnyak to equalise, and have the game heading for penalties at the 120-minute mark. However, Walcott would score yet again in added time, and Chamakh would add another for good measure, as Arsenal completed an incredible turnaround. A turnaround that breathed life into Arsenal, who were struggling to score fluently since the departure of you-know-who, and the first of their two high-scoring fixtures against the Royals.
The first Manchester derby of the season saw early domination from the home team go to waste, as Balotelli spurned a couple of good chances, before United hit them on the break, and scored through Wayne Rooney. Yet another counterattack from United would see the same man dispatch the ball into the net, doubling their lead. Firmly in control of the game, United saw former club player Tevez introduced in the second half, and the Argentine inspired a comeback from City, who drew level, and were threatening to send United back with no points at all. That was until Tevez gave away a cheap free kick in a dangerous position, which van Persie launched goalwards, and Nasri helped into the back of the net. A scintillating first derby for the Red Devils’ new front man, and one that won’t be forgotten soon.