10 of 2020’s best games, with ups and downs for Liverpool, Man Utd & Arsenal
In years to come when you’re asked about 2020, the chances are that you’re not going to immediately think of the football that took place during this most, er, memorable of years.
But thankfully we had some.
And it was good, too. Plenty of it.
Whether they were games that took place in front of fans or in the eerie new normal that is behind-closed-doors, there were some thrilling matches which got us off our seats and ensured that we could ignore what was going on in the news for a little bit
Which were your favourite games though?
Here, in no particular order, are 10 of ours.
Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool – Premier League, October 4
This was a game that had Jamie Carragher, a man who knew a thing or two about defending for Liverpool, exasperatedly asking “what’s going on here?!” to a live Sky Sports audience of millions, all of whom found this either horrific or hilarious. There was no in between.
Amid all the chaos there was some symmetry to the Reds’ 2019/20 Premier League winning season though.
Because Jurgen Klopp’s champions had also conceded their seventh away league goal of that campaign 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 had netted the first, with goals two to six including three wild deflections that added even more comedy to the Sunday night drama.
It was carnage, and on an evening when absolutely everything went wrong for Klopp, the decision-makers felt we should all be charged more for this type of water cooler event.
Real Madrid 1-2 Manchester City – Champions League, February 26
City have been invited guests – although not necessarily overly welcomed ones – at Europe’s top table for a while now, so much so that we don’t really need to greet every time they win a big game as some sort of establishment gatecrash, even if they perhaps still want us to.
This was a textbook European heavyweight victory though.
Pep Guardiola’s side were in the game and holding their own until Isco struck on the hour, but you can throw all the boxing analogies you want at the way City took the blow and came out fighting.
Gabriel Jesus equalised and then Kevin De Bruyne held his nerve from 12 yards as the game was turned on its head.
The 75,000 crowd at the Bernabeu might make this seem like a game from a bygone era, and it should be one with a prominent place in City history.
Tottenham 3-3 West Ham – Premier League, October 18
At 3-0 up and with 18 minutes left in which to make a cameo appearance the circumstances could hardly have been better for Gareth Bale to make his Spurs return, lack of fans not withstanding.
What happened next can’t be put down to him, although he did miss a great chance to score at 3-2, but the alarming manner in which Spurs fell apart in the final eight minutes must still be burned on Jose Mourinho’s brain.
Fabian Balbuena, a Davinson Sanchez own goal and then Manuel Lanzini, brilliantly, turned things around for a West Ham side that looked as shocked as anyone at what was going on.
Well, not as shocked as Bale admittedly.
Sevilla 3-2 Inter Milan – Europa League final, August 21
Sevilla winning the Europa League was a welcome dash of normality in 2020, and they did so in fairly dramatic fashion.
Inter had been favourites despite their opponents’ sheer devotion to this competition, and Romelu Lukaku’s penalty put Antonio Conte’s side on the way to victory in Cologne, only for Luuk de Jong’s brace to turn the match around and then Diego Godin to head the Italians level again.
So, 2-2 now, and a chance for the game to meander into the kind of tight, tactical contest we usually associate with European finals. Except that didn’t happen.
It was settled in the 74th minute when centre-back Diego Carlos, who had conceded the early penalty for a foul on Lukaku, launched into an extravagantly high overhead kick which, when he connected with the ball, sent it directly at Lukaku, who could only turn it into his own net.
A sixth Europa League title since 2006 for Sevilla, who hadn’t won any before then and now have double the amount of anyone else.
Torquay United 5-6 Crawley Town – FA Cup, November 8
Are you sitting comfortably? Let us begin.
National League Torquay go 2-0 up after 24 minutes, and it stays that way until 83 when Crawley pull one back.
After a lengthy stoppage due to an injury to visiting goalkeeper Tom McGill, Crawley equalise in the 14th minute of added time, then Torquay go back in front in the 18th, but Crawley equalise again in the 21st.
So, extra-time, and Torquay go 5-3 up by the 107th minute with a brace of penalties from Asa Hall, only for Crawley’s Tom Nichols to score twice, completing his hat-trick, and then Ashley Nadesan to win it for the League Two side in the 118th minute.
5-6. We think.
Backa Topola 6-6 Steaua Bucharest (Steaua win 5-4 on pens) – Europa League, September 17
Beat that? Okay then.
This Europa League qualifier in Serbia stood at 3-3 in stoppage time when Bojan Balaz’s 94th minute own goal looked to have won it for the visitors, only for captain Sasa Tomanovic to immediately bail out his teammate at the other end.
Two more goals were traded in the dying embers of the first half of extra-time, and just when substitute Adrian Petre looked to have won it for Steaua in the second period, up popped captain fantastic Tomanovic to level again at 6-6.
His superhuman effort extended to the penalty shootout when he netted again, but Steaua’s Dennis Man settled it from the spot when he followed up his hat-trick in the game by scoring the winner.
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City – Premier League, June 25
Eight days after the restart of a season some wanted scrapped – for reasons all of their own – there were champions.
A 30-year wait was ended as all of a Liverpool persuasion crowded around screens and yelled and screamed when Fernandinho handled on the line and Willian fired home from the penalty spot.
The Reds had, to all intents and purposes, sewn up the title long ago, with the 2-0 win over Manchester United in January the moment when the Kop finally came out to declare that it was all over bar the shouting.
People still shouted though, as an unprecedented three month hiatus poured scorn on anyone even discussing football and led to some to wonder if they’d ever get their release.
This was that release though, and the night Liverpool could finally celebrate a delayed relief.
Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham – Premier League, October 4
Jose Mourinho does not forget.
The Portuguese was just a few weeks into his Spurs tenure when his side lost 2-1 at Manchester United last December, after which his United successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave him an odd pat on the head that could be construed as more than a little patronising.
Safe to say Mourinho took it that way.
As the full-time whistle blew on this excruciating afternoon for the hosts, Mourinho made sure to echo the gesture, hiding the smirk of a man who had just rode into his old home town and left it looking like a burning wreckage.
It isn’t the only time this year that Solskjaer will have been grateful for Old Trafford being without disillusioned home fans.
Chelsea 2-2 Arsenal – Premier League, January 21
A London derby, a full house, an early red card, late goals. We’ll get back to all of this one day.
David Luiz had been sent off in the first half for a very David Luiz moment back at a ground where he’s had a few, but Arsenal refused to buckle despite falling behind to Jorginho’s penalty.
Gabriel Martinelli equalised after a driving run through the heart of the home side, but after they regained their composure they looked to have won it with Cesar Azpilicueta’s late strike.
The 10 men rallied again and Hector Bellerin fired in a low effort that stunned Chelsea and put the cherry on… not quite a Premier League classic, but what now serves as a reminder to what we miss most.
Barcelona 2-8 Bayern Munich – Champions League, August 14
It was the game, the shame and the scoreline that almost brought Lionel Messi’s Barcelona career crashing down.
If any result underscored the oddness of pandemic football it is perhaps this one, as Barcelona completely lost their grip on normality in the face of a Bayern side that just kept going and going.
It was 4-1 after half an hour, and then the relentless nature of the Germans plundering three goals in the final eight minutes – two of which came from a Barca player, Philippe Coutinho – all just seemed to be a little too much.
Barca were broken, and probably still are, with images of a downtrodden Messi soon to be scattered everywhere as he began his very public attempts to leave the club.
That relationship has mended for now, although not overly convincingly.
You can expect to see developments on that front in 2021, but will you ever see something like this again?
What’s been your favourite game of 2020? Have your say in the comments below
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