High-quality football was played all around Europe in the season just concluded. It was a season that saw the mighty Barcelona become the first team in history to lift a second European treble, when the Scudetti fell agonizingly short, nonetheless with heads held high, as Juventus brought back Italian football to its former European glory. Several fresh footballing philosophies were practiced on the pitch and a host of other young, dynamic, bold managers earned the due recognition in the European football circuit.
However, years later when a particular season is being referred to in retrospect, the primary talking point more often than not is some of the most memorable games the season had to offer. There are a number of parameters to judge a game of football. While we all love to see exciting, scintillating pieces of action on the field, there are several other considerations too that one must not neglect while judging the quality of a game. Managerial battles, tactical innovations, strategies and counter-strategies all makeup for a wonderful football experience that the fans derive from the 90 minutes invested.
We, at TheHardTackle, in our attempt to find out which game managed to enthrall the viewers the most this season, put forward our five nominations for the category presenting a strong case for each one of them. Vote for the one you found the most enticing affaira
Bayer Leverkusen 4-5 VfL Wolfsburg
VfL Wolfsburg may have finished 10 points behind champions FC Bayern Munich, but Dieter Hecking’s voracious wolf-pack were in a league of their own for much of 2014/15. After an incredible effort and overcoming the tragic loss of Junior Malanda, the DFB Cup winnersa season should be held in high esteem.
Even though the 4-1 victory over Bayern, which soon came after the shocking death of Malanda, would be the perfect example to showcase the emotional strength of Die W lfe; the much entertaining game against rivals Bayer Leverkusen is what makes the cut in our list of nominations for the Best Match of the Season.
The completely awful, completely mad, completely amazing Bundesliga thriller that finished Bayer Leverkusen 4-5 VfL Wolfsburg showcased everything great and terrible about the German League in a single match. The match featured two of Bundesligaa s best teams, who last season were separated by a single point in the battle for the final Champions League place, Leverkusen just beating out Wolfsburg. In the end, the game featured nine goals, several missed chances, and three controversial refereeing decisions.
Striker Bas Dost scored four goals including a stoppage-time winner for Wolfsburg as Leverkusena s Son Hueng-min hat trick came in vain; but of the nine goals scored, only two of them were down more to attacking quality than defensive competence. Yet a thrilling match and a great advertisement for Bundesliga, at least as far as entertainment value goes.
Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United
With the Blues of Chelsea all but sealing the title, and the Sky Blues the second place, only two spots were left for grabs among the European elite, in a three-way battle between Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. It was clear that this crucial fixture at Anfield would prove critical for these bitter rivals, in the hunt for a place among the continenta s lite. Liverpool basking in their best form, taking 33 points from a possible 39, since losing in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford and United on the back of a massive comeback, thrashing Tottenham 4-1, after the disheartening FA Cup bow out at the hands of the Gunners; this match had all the makings of something special.
The 192nd fixture between the two sides did indeed prove special as Juan Mata played the match of his United career, scoring two fabulous goals and Steven Gerrard playing in his last match at Anfield against United, seeing red within 38 seconds of coming on as a half-time substitution. Juan Mata scored one on each side of the pitch, the first a sublime across the post finish from a peach of a pass by Ander Herrera. The second an acrobatic scissor kick, which probably was the moment of the season for The Red Devils, as Daniel Sturridge’s late goal proved futile and Louis van Gaala s men did a league double over the Scousers. A sweet revenge after the embarrassing David Moyes era and a result that left the Scousers stunned, earning United a fourth place finish, with a comfortable eight-point lead in the end.
Napoli 2-4 Lazio
A season in which a club advances to the semi-finals of two domestic competitions and competes for a Champions League playoff position until the final match day, would on its surface appear a successful run, but it is unlikely youa ll find many Napoli fans recounting the 2014/15 campaign as anything but an unmitigated disaster.
The final day of the Italian Serie A was do or die for the Partenopei as Rafael Benitez needed a win in his last game to take Napoli above their opponents Lazio, to finish third and qualify for Champions League. The sheer intensity of this remarkable Serie A finale, which would decide the fates of these two clubs in the upcoming season, clinched it a spot in our list of nominations.
Both sides finished the phenomenal game with 10 men as the match exceeded neutral viewing expectations, a drama heavily laid with unexpected twists and turns. Napoli 2-0 down at half-time, posed a thrilling fight back with Gonzalo Higuain scoring twice, but then missing a penalty, as Lazio substitutes Ogenyi Onazi and Miroslav Klose scored afterwards to win it, Napoli 2-4 Lazio.
Rafael Benitez is off to the Bernabeu where Champions League football awaits and club president Aurelio De Laurentiis is once again left with the daunting task of rebuilding a Napoli side, whose long wait for glory continues.
Real Madrid 3-4 FC Schalke
Barcelona lifted the Champions League this year beating Juventus in the finals and disposing the likes of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich along the way, with ease. Totally deserving of the European treble, the Catalan giants, but the best match of the competition belonged to their rivals Real Madrid, when the Los Blancos almost crashed out of the competition in an embarrassing home defeat against a surprisingly resurgent FC Schalke, in the Round of 16.
Trailing 2-0 after the first leg, Schalke led twice through Christian Fuchs and ex-Madridista Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but Christiano Ronaldo leveled each time with a header. After the break, Karim Benzema gave the Bernabeu crowd some comfort, as the French forward smartly finished from inside the area after a weaving run through the Schalke defense, to clinch the lead. The lead didna t last long though as 19-year old substitute Leroy San curled in from 20 yards to level the score once again.
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti already under scrutiny then, after four defeats since the turn of the year and losing the La Liga top spot to Barcelona, probably signed his resignation letter unknowingly that night, as the already tense evening became even more dramatic with Huntelaara s 18-yard strike sealing a victory, Real Madrid 3-4 FC Schalke.
Tottenham Hotspurs Chelsea 5-3
This New Year saw one of the most majestic performances by an English side, in a long while. Tottenham Hotspurs surprised everyone by dismantling the Champion side, Chelsea 5-3. Yes, five past Jose Mourinhoa s Chelsea. Five past John Terry and the man mountains surrounding him. Five past the mean defensive wall that Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United just couldna t break down.
The New Year humdinger also announced to the world the coming of a new English super striker, who after his breakout first season is already being compared to the likes of the legendary Alan Shearer. Harry Kane at 21 years old showcased superior maturity, as he single-handedly broke apart, something none of the other top-tier strikers in the Premier League could manage, scoring two goals, an assist and also setting up a penalty; against the Bluesa mammoth defense.
After Diego Costa broke the stalemate, scoring in the 18th minute against the run of play, Kane with the help of the excellent Nacer Chadli reversed the momentum, and before first half whistle blew, Spurs were leading 3-1. Out of nothing, Kane evaded three challenges, cutting in from the left to fire low past a diving Thibaut Courtois, outside the penalty box. Then Danny Rose put in a deflected shot from Chadli and Andros Townsend slotted in from the spot, when a sluggish Gary Cahill brought down Kane inside the box. Kane scored yet again soon after the half and even though Eden Hazarda s low shot gave Chelsea hope taking the score to 4-2, Chadlia s much deserved deflected goal meant Terrya s late header was nothing but consolation as it finished Tottenham Hotspurs Chelsea 5-3.