It is incredibly difficult to choose five games from a list of games that have enthralled us in this calender year. The column decided to make a list of games that appealed most to the neutrals watching them and those in which the viewers were enthralled by the quality of football and in which it was difficult to predict the winner as the game progressed. If you feel we have missed any, feel free to use the comments section.

Newcastle 4 – 4 Arsenal , Premier League, St.James’ Park

It was ten minutes at St.Jamesai??i?? Park, considered to be the home of some of the most passionate supporters in the world, and you could actually see people in shock, may be on the verge on even leaving the stadium. Arsenal, chasing Manchester United for the title were in cruise control with three goals in ten minutes and scoring another one before half time.

Newcastle had lost the previous four matches and having sold Andy Carroll, were destined to to be crushed to defeat until the second half kicked off. With the fans cheering, Newcastle United set out to play- what their manager later described- Ai??ai???like lionsai??i??. Diaby decided to start the ball rolling by getting sent off in a ludicrous manner allowing Newcastle to rise to a crescendo with a breathtakingly magical volley by Tiote in the 87th minute to send the Geordies into raptures.

ai???It will not be a great advert internationally; people who see that will not agree with what happened,ai??? said Arsene Wenger.

Well, we donai??i??t agree.

“Our fans will remember this for a long time,” said Alan Pardew.

This, we definitely agree.

Napoli 4-3 Lazio, Serie A,Ai??Stadio San Paolo

Napoli had their fair share of outstanding games in the calender year and this is the one of many. At their home, Napoli got of to a slow start and had their chances on goal but Lazio drew first blood thanks to a cool finish by Mauri, who also missed a golden chance to double the lead. Neither of the teams looked very convincing but the game was going good.

As the second half began, the game exploded to life. Everything was happening, literally. Napoli came out of the blocks and went for the kill but it was Lazio again who scored making it 0-2 and it looked as if Napoli were going down. But, Lazaio seemed to have forgotten the art of marking and Napoli duly capitalized with Cavani scoring his first and Napoli’s second and the crowd went crazy with joy. And then controversies decided to play their part as well as on the 68th minuteAi??Cristian Brocchiai??i??s thunderbolt was wrongly disallowed. But, Lazio went ahead thanks to Napoli’s bad defending but the game was nowhere over.

Giuseppe Biava received a harsh red card for his challenge on Cavani and El Matador coolly slotted the penalty to make it 3-3. Then in the dying minutes, Edinson Cavani provided a fitting finale by chesting down the ball and dinking it over the goal keeper for his hat trick sending the crowd into orgasmic joy.

In-cre-dib-ley ! In-cre-dib-ley!‘ was the reaction of the commentator. Just perfect for the occasion.

Arsenal 2 ai??i?? 1 Barcelona, Champions League, Emirates Stadium

It was termed as ‘the beautiful derby’ and it turned out just to be. With teams sorting to defensive techniques against the Catalan giants, it was refreshing to see Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal fight Barcelona in a beautiful display of open football. Theo Walcott set the tone for the evening wriggling his way into the box and laying the ball to Fabregas who chipped it delightfully for Van Persie, who managed to shoot straight at Valdes.

Then Messi went close and close again at one end before Arsenal counter attacked and Fabregas could not find Persie. The next moment Barca attacked and Villa beat the offside trap to put the Catalans ahead. Then Arsenal attacked but van Persie shot wide while at the other end Messi scored but was flagged offside. It was end-to-end stuff with both sides looking to score and Arsenal remained solid even after letting in a goal.

With more than ten minutes to go, Robin van Persie, beat Victor Valdes at the near post. And then, Wilshere passed the ball to Fabregas who split the Barca defence with an insanely brilliant through ball and Nasri cut it inside to Arshavin to finish an incredible move and bring up the Emirates to its feet. Barca refused to give in and through the kitchen sink but nothing could worked. Messi was brilliant but lacked the finishing while Wilshere stood out for the Gunners on a night described by Arsene Wenger as “special” and left the neutrals asking for more.

Robin van Persie speaking about the game with fond memories recalled an incident after the game.

ai???I remember the day after that game, an older guy, who was about 75-years-old, came up to me in the village where I live.

ai???He said to me ai???I donai??i??t want your autograph, I donai??i??t want my photo with you, all I want to say to you is that I have been an Arsenal fan all my life, and last night’s game against Barcelona was the best Arsenal game ever.’

ai???He said it was the best Arsenal evening of his life, and when you can give people something like that, it really is something special.ai???

Mexico 4-2 United States, CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, Rose Bowl

USA had reached the finals of the last four Gold Cups while Mexico were the defending champions. Mexico started well but United States scored as early as the eighth minute when Michael Bradley Ai??headed into the net. Mexico were still in control of the game but United States scored again when Donovon scored off a Dempsey assist. Mexico now had their work cut out. Chicharito was in fine form but had hit the post already and he redeemed himself with a fine through ball for Barrera to make it 2-1. And then Mexico equalized on the 35h minute and then never looked up. USA had blown their lead. They were back to square one.

As the second half started Mexico deservedly took the lead courtesy another superb Barrera finish. And 30 minutes into the second half the ball reached Chicharito who brilliantly kept it under pressure on the right corner but the American defenders manged to snatch the ball which landed at Torrado’s feet who spotted Dos Santos’ run.

With 93,420 people watching at the legendary Rose Bowl, Dos Santos produced the piece of skill that would remain with the spectators lives forever. As Tim Howard rushed forward to close down the angle, Dos Santos teased Howard and as the American keeper kept flapping his hands, Dos Santos kept taking the ball away from him and finding space for himself, chipped the ball into the far corner with his left leg with unbelievable precision leaving the goal keeper and defenders in absolute disbelief. A moment of skill and a goal worth the entry ticket alone. Mexico then cruised to win the match comfortably.

Santos 4-5 Ai??Flamengo,Ai??Campeonato Brasileiro,Ai??EstA?dio Vila Belmiro

This was billed as the battle between two of Brazil’s finest footballers, one past his prime and the other the future of Brazil – Ronaldinho and Neymar and neither disappointed. Borges scored as early as in the fourth minute brilliantly controlling the cross with his feet and slamming the ball into the net. And in the 15th minute, Neymar, with only the keeper to beat failed to do so and the ball rebounded and the Brazilian fell to the ground attempting a bicycle kick. He could not connect but lying on the ground, Neymar crossed the ball to Borges waiting at the far corner who gleefully guided it in to make it 2-0 to Santos. The show had just begun.

And on 25th minute, Neymar produced the moment that took everybody’s breath away, the moment which everybody was waiting for.Ai??The forward received the ball near the half-way line before waltzing past a couple of Flamengo players. He then played a neat one-two. What followed next was an unbelievable, outrageous dummy which left the defender stunned and one that would have made the likes of Pele, Maradone and Zidane smile with pride, before slotting the ball into the net. Santos were 3-0 up.

Ronaldinho then capitalized on a defensive error and made it 3-1. Three minutes later Thiago Neves scored another for Flamengo making it 3-2. Flamengo were clawing their way back into the game. At the stroke of half time, Neymar won a soft penalty but Elano made it sure that he be awarded he worst penalty of the year as he chipped it straight to Felipe who did not even have to make an effort to save. At the other end, Deivid scored off a Ronaldinho corner to make it 3-3. The game was on.

In the early stages of the second half, Neymar shrugged off his marker before coolly slotting the ball into the net to make it 4-3 in favor of Santos. Neymar had stamped his authority on the game thus far. It was time for the Ronaldinho show to start. On the 65th minute, Ronaldinho received the ball near the box and as the defender went for the tackle he evaded by pulling the ball back and then slithering across another defender reminding us of the vintage Ronaldinho before being brought down by the defender at the edge of the box. With a cheeky free kick shot from under the ball, Ronaldinho made it 4-4. He was not finished.On the 81st minute, Ronaldinho scored again making it 4-5 in favor of Flamengo and then a little jig to celebrate his wonderful hat trick. Ai??Flamengo won the game 4-5.

Brazilian portal Globoesporte have described the Campeonato Brasileiro match as an ai???Ode to Footballai??? and in their match report explain that ai???it is hard to find an adjective to describe the match. Was it a concert or a show? A historic game that will be remembered for a long time.ai???

Games which narrowly missed out

Real Madrid 2- 2 Barcelona, Spanish Supercup, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Athletic Bilbao 2 – 2 Barcelona, La Liga, San Mames

Dynamo Dresden 4-3 Bayer Leverkusen, DFB -Pokal,Ai??GlA?cksgas Stadion

Napoli 3 ai??i?? 3 Juventus, Serie A, Stadio San Paolo

Barcelona 2 – 2 AC Milan, Champions League, Camp Nou

 

TheHardTackle wishes its readers a very happy new year.

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4 Responses to “High Five : Best Matches Of The Year 2011”

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  1. DanD says:

    in fairness, the penalties awarded to newcastle in the 4-4 draw were never penalties, especially the 2nd one. the game itself is more indicative of how human referees are, easily swayed by the crowds. i agree with wenger, and im not even an arsenal fan. surely in the gunners defence though, the 5-3 game at chelsea was better; better teams, better quality, better goals.. just saying

  2. Jishnu says:

    Well Manchester united 1-6 lose should have been there

  3. justin says:

    best match of the year. only match of the year that had a true european atmosphere was Napoli hosting Man City…..best game ive seen in a long time