Week in, week out in football, teams thrive for excellence with a view to claiming a piece of silverware or two at the end of the season and leaving their mark over the references of that season in the annals of history. However, in the longer run, the significance of the titles won is reduced only to bragging rights for the respective set of fans. A complete football season, in retrospect, is remembered for the majestic moments it produced, the artistry players offered on show and several nerve-wracking episodes that later defined the nature of the season that was.
We, at TheHardTackle, completely understand the sentimental attachment the several matches played this season will hold in football memoirs yet to be written. Hence with this category of awards, we present the five nominations for the match of the season.
1. Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona (UEFA Champions League, Round of 16, First Leg)
The world was left stunned on the 16th of February, 2011 when Arsene Wenger’s merry men accomplished the unthinkable. The Gunners dared to take the game to Pep Guardiola’s mighty Barcelona juggernaut and offered them a taste of their own medicine. With a place in the last eight on Europe’s most elite platform at stake, Barcelona were all guns blazing from the word go and exploited Arsenal’s high held defensive line constructing one goal-scoring move after another. However, the on-field havoc by Catalan outfit seldom translated on the scoreboard as they were leading by only a goal to nil at half time after a dubious call over a Lionel Messi goal denied the visitors the chance to take complete control of the game.
The hosts reclaimed their self in the latter portion of the second half and two absolutely thrilling strikes from Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin sealed a remarkable victory for Wenger’s boys in front of the home crowd. A certain 18-year old Jack Wilshere announced his arrival with his industrious performance against the likes of Xavi and his emergence would unfortunately be listed as the only felicitous note in a season that rather ended dreadfully for the Londoners.
2. Newcastle United 4-4 Arsenal (Barclays Premier League)
What’s common between the rumours of Avram Grant’s sacking and Arsenal’s disasters? Well, they happen every weekend. Facing the promoted Newcastle United at St James’ Park during the early days of February, Arsene Wenger’s boys reaffirmed their status as the also-rans for half a decade by once again advertising unprecedented mediocrity. At the stroke of half-time, the Gunners led the scoreline 4-0 leaving the home crowd in utter despair. However, the Magpies had saved their best for the upcoming 45 minutes. Abou Diaby exemplified naivete in the early moments of the second half which effectively staged the comeback as the hosts made the most of a ten-man Gunners unit.
With hardly 22 minutes to go, Joey Barton opened the scoring from the spot and he was soon followed by Leon Best in the 75th minute. Barton added another in the 83rd minute that gave his team realistic chances of earning at least a point out of the game. Four minutes later Cheik Tiote opened his goal account in the Premiership with a scintillating shot that beat everyone. Newcastle missed out on hammering the final nail Arsenal’s coffin as Kevin Nolan missed a chance to win the battle by a whisker, which could have well seen Arsene Wenger off the managerial helm with immediate effect. A few debatable decisions, a clutch of cards and unimaginable drama to top it all, simply mark it as one of the most entertaining games of the season.
3. Bayern Munich 2-3 Internazionale (UEFA Champions League, Round of 16, Second Leg)
After sealing a narrow away win at the San Siro, the German champions were downright favourites to exact revenge of last season’s finals over the Italians as they entered the Allianz Arena to compete in the second leg for a spot into the last eight of the competition. Samuel Eto’o’s trademark goal levelled the teams pretty early into the game only for Mario Gomez to tilt the game back into the hosts’ favour. At the half time, Bayern led Inter 2-1 but the frailties in their defence that has defined the season for the Bavarians would come back to haunt them. Inter exploited the weaknesses in the centre defence of the home team courtesy two moments of brilliance from Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev during the second half. A certain Andrea Ranocchia made his presence felt in the Inter colours for the first time – both for the right and the wrong reasons.
4. Genoa 4-3 AS Roma (Serie A)
Post the humiliation handed at home by the Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of Champions League knock-out round, Claudio Ranieri had a herculean task at hand to salvage a sinking ship. Only four days after the defeat at Olimpico, Roma travelled to Stadio Luigi Ferraris to meet the hosts Genoa. Breaking expectation, The Giallorossi scaled to a three-goal lead as the clock read 51 minutes in time courtesy goals from Mexes, Burdisso and Totti.
Immense drama was to follow from that point on as double strikes from Rodrigo Palacio and Milan academy product Alberto Paloschi put Genoa in front at the 85th minute leaving no room to make a comeback for the visitors. Genoa were reduced to ten men in the final minute of the game but it was too late for Ranieri’s men to make the numerical advantage count. The end result saw Claudio Ranieri resign from his position hours after the game to be replaced by Vincenzo Montella.
5. Wolfsburg 3-4 Mainz (Bundes Liga)
It took Wolfsburg a second-half miracle act on the final day of the season to maintain a place in Germany’s top most league but the unpredictable nature of their campaign became evident as early as the second round of the league. After being defeated by Bayern Munich, the Volkswagen sponsored team played their first home match against FSV Mainz and immediately stamped their authority through a brace from Bosnian sensation Edin Dzeko which was soon followed by Diego’s first goal for his new team.
Morten Rasmussen responded with one in the first half for the visitors. Elkin Soto, Andre Schurrle and Adam Szalai scored one apiece in the second half as the Wolfsburg supporters in the stands witnessed a debacle of epic proportions. Mainz pronounced their supremacy in the league in the most astounding fashion and topped the table for some weeks before the Dortmund revolution happened; whereas Wolfsburg kept hurtling down levels and barely managed to survive in the league.
THT readers have voted the match between two of the most attractive teams as the best match of the season. “Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona” was a joy to watch for any football lover and Arsenal’s come-from-behind victory against the mighty Catalans has been rewarded by our readers. The match at The Emirates just beat Newcastle’s sensational comeback at St James’ Park.