In the years to come, when asked about 2020, chances are you won’t immediately think about the football that has taken place in these most, ahem, memorable years.
But luckily we have had a few.
And it was also good. In abundance.
Whether it was matches that took place in front of fans or the mysterious new normal that is behind closed doors, there were some thrilling matches that got us out of our seats and ensured we could ignore what was happening in the news for a little
What were your favorite games though?
Here, in no particular order, are 10 of ours.
Aston Villa – Liverpool 7-2 – Premier League, 4th October
This was a game where Jamie Carragher, a man who knew a thing or two about defending for Liverpool, was exasperatingly asking “what’s going on here ?!” to a live Sky Sports audience of millions of people, who found it horrible or funny. There was no middle ground.
In the midst of all the chaos, however, there was a certain symmetry with the Reds’ winning 2019/20 Premier League season.
Because even champions Jurgen Klopp had conceded their seventh league away goal that season in their first defeat, except then it came from Watford’s Ismaila Sarr in their 28th game on February 29.
Here it was scored by Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish about an hour and a half after Ollie Watkins scored the first, with goals two through six, including three wild detours that added even more comedy to the Sunday night drama.
It was carnage, and on an evening when everything went wrong for Klopp, decision makers felt we should all be charged more for this type of water cooling event.
Real Madrid 1-2 Manchester City – Champions League, February 26th
City have been invited for quite some time – though not necessarily over-received – to the highest tables in Europe, so much so that we don’t really need to say hello every time they win a big game as some sort of establishment gatecrash. , although perhaps they still want us to.
This was a textbook European heavyweight victory.
Pep Guardiola’s squad was in play and held out until Isco hit the hour, but you can throw all the boxing analogies you want the way City took the hit and came out fighting.
Gabriel Jesus equalized and then Kevin De Bruyne held his nerve from 12 yards as the game was reversed.
The 75,000 spectators at the Bernabeu could make this look like a game from a bygone era, and it should be one with a prominent place in the city’s history.
Tottenham 3-3 West Ham – Premier League, 18 October
At 3-0 and with 18 minutes left to make a cameo the circumstances could hardly have been better for Gareth Bale to get his Spurs back, despite the lack of fans.
What happened next cannot be attributed to him, even though he missed a great chance to score at 3-2, but the alarming way the Spurs have fallen in the last eight minutes is yet to be burned in Jose Mourinho’s brain.
Fabian Balbuena, an own goal by Davinson Sanchez and then Manuel Lanzini, brilliantly, changed things for a West Ham team that seemed as shocked as anyone else at what was going on.
Well, not as shocked as Bale admits.
Sevilla 3-2 Inter – Europa League final, 21 August
Sevilla’s victory in the Europa League was a welcome dash of normality in 2020, and it did so quite dramatically.
Inter had been favored despite the opponents’ absolute devotion to this competition, and Romelu Lukaku’s penalty put Antonio Conte’s team on the road to victory in Cologne, only for Luuk de Jong’s brace to overturn the game and then Diego Godin at the head of the Italian level again.
So, 2-2 now, and a chance for the game to snake through the kind of tactical and close competition we usually associate with the European Finals. It just didn’t happen.
It was resolved in the 74th minute when central defender Diego Carlos, who had suffered the initial penalty for a foul on Lukaku, launched into an extravagant high shot which, when connected to the ball, sent him straight to Lukaku, who could only transform him into his network.
A sixth Europa League title since 2006 for Sevilla, which they had not previously won and now have twice as much as anyone else.
Torquay United 5-6 Crawley Town – FA Cup, 8 November
Are you comfortably seated? Let’s start.
National League Torquay went 2-0 after 24 minutes, and remained that way until 83 when Crawley retired one.
After a long hiatus due to injury to visiting goalkeeper Tom McGill, Crawley leveled in the 14th minute of added time, then Torquay took the lead in 18th, but Crawley leveled again in 21st.
Then, extra time and Torquay go up 5-3 in the 107th minute with a double penalty from Asa Hall, only for Crawley’s Tom Nichols scoring twice, completing his hat-trick, and then Ashley Nadesan to win it for League Two at the 118th minute.
5-6. We think.
Backa Topola 6-6 Steaua Bucharest (Steaua win 5-4 on penalties) – Europa League, 17 September
Beat it? Alright then.
This Europa League qualification in Serbia was 3-3 in injury time when Bojan Balaz’s own goal in the 94th minute seemed to have won it for the visitors, only captain Sasa Tomanovic immediately saved his teammate from other party.
Two more goals were traded in the dying embers of the first half of extra time, and just as substitute Adrian Petre looked to have won it for Steaua in the second period, the fantastic captain Tomanovic jumped 6-6 again.
His superhuman effort extended to penalty kicks when he scored again, but Steaua’s Dennis Man resolved from the spot when he followed his hat-trick into the game by scoring the winner.
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City v Premier League, 25 June
Eight days after the resumption of a season, some wanted to scrap – for reasons of their own – there were champions.
A 30-year wait was cut short as all Liverpool persuasion crowded around the screens and screamed and screamed as Fernandinho ran the line and Willian shot home from the spot.
The Reds had, for all intents and purposes, sewn the title long ago, with the 2-0 victory over Manchester United in January, the moment when the Kop finally came out to declare that it was all over but the screams.
People kept screaming, though, as an unprecedented three-month hiatus poured contempt on anyone even discussing football and led some to wonder if they would ever be released.
This was that release, though, and the night Liverpool were finally able to celebrate a delayed relief.
Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham – Premier League, 4th October
Jose Mourinho does not forget.
The Portuguese had just taken office a few weeks ago at Spurs when his team lost 2-1 to Manchester United last December, after which his United successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave him a strange pat on the head that could be interpreted as more than a little condescending.
Safe to say Mourinho took it that way.
As the full-time whistle blew on this heartbreaking afternoon for the hosts, Mourinho made sure to echo the gesture, hiding the smirk of a man who had just walked into his old hometown and left it looking like a wreck on fire.
It’s not the only time this year that Solskjaer will be grateful to Old Trafford for being without disillusioned home fans.
Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal – Premier League, 21 January
A London derby, a full house, an early red card, a goal in the final. We will come back to all of this one day.
David Luiz had been sent off in the first half for a very moment David Luiz on ground where he had few, but Arsenal refused to give up despite being left behind on Jorginho’s penalty.
Gabriel Martinelli equalized after a race in the hearts of the hosts, but after regaining their calm they seemed to have won with Cesar Azpilicueta’s final goal.
The 10 men bounced back and Hector Bellerin shot with a little effort that stunned Chelsea and put the cherry on … not quite a Premier League classic, but what now serves as a reminder of what we miss most .
Barcelona 2-8 Bayern Munich – Champions League, 14 August
It was the game, the shame and the result that brought Lionel Messi’s career down the road in Barcelona.
If one result underscored the strangeness of pandemic football it is perhaps this, as Barcelona completely lost control over normality in the face of Bayern that kept going back and forth.
It was 4-1 after half an hour, and then the relentless nature of the Germans sacking three goals in the last eight minutes – two of which came from a Barca player, Philippe Coutinho – all seemed to be a bit too much.
Barca was broken, and probably still is, with images of a trampled Messi soon to be scattered everywhere as he began his public attempts to leave the club.
That relationship has healed for now, albeit not overly convincing.
You can expect to see developments on that front in 2021, but will you ever see something like this again?
What was your favorite game of 2020? Have your say in the comments below
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