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4 April 2020 | 10 min read

11 Historic Football Matches You Can Rewatch During The Lockdown

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It is a terrible time for anybody, but especially a sports fan, with all of the sporting action around the globe nearly suspended for eternity. But the good thing about sports fans is that they have a way of perceiving the greatest of defeats. I was controlling my tears during the 2013 Round of 16 against Bayern Munich, when we, Arsenal, held the score-line at 3-3 after two legs but lost out on away goals. But that changed our season completely, as we somehow managed to cling on to the 4th position and still qualify for next year’s Champions League. That game was the turning point. We are here in the middle of a pandemic, trying to take away silver linings and root for nostalgia than for what’s beyond.

So, here are my favourite eleven matches to watch in the current lockdown, which you can stream on YouTube.

Arsenal’s Unreal Comeback

Reading 5-7 Arsenal, League Cup 2012-13

I will never forget this game. Eleven minutes into the game, a sublime cross from the left-wing setup Roberts for a shocking opener. Arsenal, like it was during the rest of the season, went a goal down in the very first minutes of the game. As the game progressed, Reading scored three more critical goals as Arsenal looked extremely frustrated at the backline, with our star defender Laurent Koscielny scoring an own goal. Heading into the half-time, it was Reading 4-1 Arsenal, as Walcott scored one for us in the dying end of the half.

Coming from the half, Arsenal looked back in winning mentality, dominating possession, winning set pieces, all the good things. And then came a crucial performance from the same man, Theo Walcott, as he forced the game to extra time. Oh, did I forget, Koscielny redeemed us for the own goal cost by heading a bullet into the opposition’s net in the 88th minute. Once we went to extra time, you know what happened.

Beckham’s Redemption Game

England 1-0 Argentina, FIFA World Cup 2002

England and Argentina have history and bad blood when it comes to football. One created the game, and the other revived it. But Argentina isn’t that flamboyant like they are with Lionel Messi at the helm. They can be Beauty or the Beast based on what is the team they are going to face. When Maradona faced England in the Quarter Finals of 1986, the legendary hand-ball incident, aka Hand of God paved the way for the Argentines to the Semis. When they met in 1998, the legend of Michael Own, a teenage prodigy was born, with an exceptional individual goal. However, the other young prodigy, David Beckham fouled the Argentine midfielder Diego Simeone, and kicked him in front of the referees, leading to a straight red card, during the same game. From dominating that game, England went on to lose it on penalties, and eventually got kicked out of that World Cup too.

In the next World Cup, as fate would have it, England faced Argentina in their Group, in a match that would decide who will go to the Quarters and who will disappear. If you rewatch the game, you’ll know it isn’t much about goals as it is about passion and Beckham’s private plot. He had his killer instinct on throughout the game and wrote his name as the owner of one of the most important penalties in the sport. England won the first-ever World Cup game against Argentina, since they last won it in England in 1966, controversially.

Karma Is A Blue

Chelsea 3-2 Barcelona (on aggregate), UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals 2012

Talking about history, nothing can wipe out the 2009 Champions League semi-final clash between Chelsea and FC Barcelona. A controversial match that saw many decisions going against the London based club and a final remark made by their star forward Didier Drogba to the camera after the game was over.

In 2012, they met again in another Semi-Final. Throughout the semis, it was unnerving to see the reigning champions FC Barcelona hit the crossbar or miss the target by inches, multiple times. When Drogba gave the Blues a thin 1-0 lead going into the second leg, despite Chelsea having ball possession of just 27% in the game, all they had to do was hold on to the lead while playing away at Camp Nou, Barca’s fortress. The night began with two misses for Cesc Fabregas and complete midfield domination by Pep Guardiola’s most loyal – Xavi and Iniesta. John Terry was shown the red card in the 37th minute, and Barca scored twice immediately after to take the lead in the series. Ramires scored an exceptional chip shot over Victor Valdes to regain the lead (with an away goal benefit), and it seemed like Chelsea soaked up most of the Barcelona attack, despite being down one man and Gary Cahill out injured early on. In the 80th minute, Drogba was substituted for a decaying Fernando Torres, who seemed to have a unique scoring record against the Spanish team. And the rest, as you know it, is history.

Arshavin Shows Four!

Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal, English Premier League 2008-09

Liverpool has been very close to breaking the 30-year Premier League Championship drought in recent years. They were about to be crowned the champions this year with a historical lead, but then came the coronavirus. Years before this, we can safely assume that Gerrard slipped it up. But in 2009, they were on the brink of breaking that spell, as Ronaldo-Rooney’s United were at par with Liverpool’s duo of Torres and Gerrard, the PFA Player of the Year. And then came Andrei Arshavin, the then Arsenal’s most expensive signing, and with bare minimum impact yet.

It was April 21, and Liverpool needed to win one game to go on top of a rock-solid Manchester United squad. Arsenal raised the game at Anfield with a lead in the 35th minute, thanks to the Russian talisman, Andrei Arshavin. Arsenal went into the second half with the same lead, only to be nullified by a header from the forward that was tearing the game up the whole night, Fernando Torres. From then on, it was Arshavin bringing the lead back and Liverpool somehow managing to keep it neutral. Arshavin scored a hattrick in the 70th minute, and the away crowd went mad. As the injury time crept in, Arshavin struck another one, his fourth, as Arsenal was up 4-3. It took a calm Yossi Benayoun to finally close the game with another strike for Liverpool, as the match ended 4-4, denying Liverpool the rights to close in the top position.

Two Of A Kind

Real Madrid 2-2 FC Barcelona, La Liga 2012-13

Whenever there’s an El Clasico on the TV, the world slows down for the evening. For the longest time, two household names have redefined the grit of El Clasico games – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. In this particular game in 2012, the banter between Mourinho and Guardiola was born, as the season was heavily tipped in favour of the Catalunya team. As the El Clasico seemed even more important when the two teams headed to Camp Nou.

Real Madrid showed their venom at the beginning of the game, applying no brakes to their pace driven midfield of Ronaldo-Ozil-Di Maria. Ronaldo unlocked scoring for the game in the 23rd minute, with a brilliant left-footed shot that tore through Victor Valdes’ low post. And thus the ‘Calm Down, I’m Ronaldo’ celebration was born. Just 5 minutes later, due to a mistake made by the veteran Xabi Alonso, Messi equalized for Barcelona with a strike that he would like to forget. The half time couldn’t separate the two sides. 15 minutes after the game resumed, Messi scored an absolute stunner from a free-kick to give Barca the lead. Five minutes after that strike, Ronaldo returned the favour with a perfect peach of a pass from Ozil. The scoreline read 2-2. Throughout the game, you could sense that Messi and Ronaldo were both exchanging dialogues between them about who is the greatest.

When The Foxes Jumped Over The great United

 Leicester City 5-3 Manchester United, English Premier League 2014-15

There is no better script to write than the 2015-16 Championship run made by Leicester City. A team that finished 14th in the league table last season staged one of the biggest shocks in the history of the game. And it all started with the game, wherein they dismantled a strong United team that recruited the likes of Di Maria and Radamel Falcao to lead the front.

Just one season before they clinched the title, Leicester played United at home in the first quarter of the season. The two haven’t faced each other in a decade or so. Di Maria was lethal in the beginning few minutes, and so was Falcao, who set up the first goal for United with a chip to the in-form Van Persie. Di Maria was next, as he chipped Kasper Schmeichel, son of a United legend, with a South American finesse goal. From there on started the Jamie Vardy show, who showed both power and speed in his attacks. His pace was too much to control for the United full-backs, as they fouled him twice. They were leading to two converted penalties. Vardy scored a brilliant solo goal also. As United lost a game that they should’ve won instead. Ranieri took notes from the game and used it to create the blueprint for the season to come, which changed the club’s stature forever.

Oranje is the new Black

Spain 1-5 Netherlands, FIFA World Cup 2014

Spain was almost unbeatable by the end of 2013, dismantling every single national team with pure possession dominance and their reformed version of the Barca tiki-taka. When the FIFA World Cup took place in Brazil in 2014, people were pretty confident that the Spanish side will win it again, especially with the powerful addition of Diego Costa to the front-line.

The Netherlands, led by Louis Van Gaal, looked quite unlike their 2010 FIFA World Cup Runner-Up version in the early minutes of the game. They gifted Diego Costa an easy penalty that was converted by the ever-dependable Xabi Alonso. But what happened afterward can be best summed up by two names – Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben. Van Persie scored an unforgettable header, just before the halftime, and ran to the other corner of the ground to celebrate with his coach. When the match resumed after half-time, Robben showed his class, with a super controlled goal, to give the Oranje a one-goal lead. After that, Van Persie and Stefan De Vrij scored two crucial goals to take the match away from the Spaniards. The game was far from being over, as Robben made an iconic dash in the 80th minute, dribbling his way through, to score the final and most Robben-Esque goal of his career. While people will remember the 7-1 incident from this World Cup, my favorite match will always be this game.

Welcome To The Kaka Show

Manchester United 3-5 AC Milan, UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals 2007 

Similar to Spain’s reign during the late 2000s to the early 2010s, Manchester United was almost unbeatable with the likes of Giggs, Ronaldo, and Rooney, all in their peaks. To stop them in the Champions League, they needed someone who was a combination of the three and thus emerged Ricardo Kaka to the stage of world football.

Kaka’s skills were known to the world, but his clinical dominance during critical situations was unknown. This semifinal set up the perfect stage for Kaka to prove just that. AC Milan had an extremely slow and aged lineup in 2007, fielding an old Inzaghi and Maldini, and the only burst of speed came from this 24-year-old. In the first leg at Old Trafford, United narrowly edged out with a 3-2 scoreline. Kaka was dominant in that game as well, scoring twice, with two exceptional runs that left the defenders colliding into each other. In the second game, in front of the home crowd, Kaka was showing his true potential, as he controlled the midfield and caused much havoc to the United midfield and defense, to the extent almost nullifying what Ronaldo and Rooney were providing. The Italian giants strolled their way to the Finals.

KOP Means Business

FC Barcelona 3-4 Liverpool, UEFA Champions League 2019

When Liverpool met FC Barcelona in the first leg of last year’s Champions League campaign, things looked grim for Liverpool. Not only were they 3-0 down in the Camp Nou encounter, thanks to a superb Messi freekick to close the game, but they were also without their star pair Firmino and Salah for the second leg match.

The game started with a sublime rebound conversion from Origi, as Liverpool put the pressure on at Anfield with the sideline theatrics of Jurgen Klopp fanning the flame. At the halftime, Liverpool was trailing 1-3, and it still seemed possible. When the second half started, Wijnaldum harnessed the spirit of Stevie G and fired two up before the 57th minute, bringing the scoreline to 3-3. In the 80th minute, Alexander-Arnold took one of the best corners in the history of the game, to set Origi up for a fantastic goal. The score-line: 4-3. The game ended with a happy Mo Salah, and a devasted Lionel Messi.

Miracle In Istanbul

AC Milan 3- 3 Liverpool (win in penalties), UEFA Champions League Final 2005

This is the game that raised the standards for Champions League football. Two top teams, one godly clash. One epic night in Istanbul. Liverpool, led by Steven Gerrard, were three goals down to an AC Milan side led by the likes of Kaka, Shevchenko, and Crespo. One goal from the club hero Maldini and two goals from Crespo made sure that AC Milan could breathe in the second half. But that was their undoing.

When the match resumed after the half, Gerrard headed one straight into the corner, as the commentator went, “Hello, hello! Here we go!” knowing what was still in store. And then came the fantastic strike of Smicer, who was left unmarked for most of the game. The score came down to 3-2. Two goals in two minutes, unreal. Another five minutes in, Gerrard was pulled and pushed inside the box, leading to a penalty. Xabi Alonso stepped up to take one, missed the penalty, but caught the rebound and swung it hard inside the box. 3-3, the miracle was awakening. Things turned worse for striker Shevchenko as he missed a sitter and missed the critical goal in the penalty shoot-out, and Dudek, the Liverpool goalie, turned into some kind of a demi-god; leading to Liverpool’s unthinkable Champions League win.

Agueroooooooooo!

Manchester City 3-2 Queens Park Rangers, English Premier League, 2011-12

Manchester has always been red, until 2012. The City club was always looked down upon as a weak replica of the great Bobby Charlton-Sir Alex driven United. For years and years, Man City tried to prove the critics wrong, but their cries went without a hearing. When Sheikh Mansoor bought the club in 2008, he was determined to make City the best version of Manchester yet.

Cut to the spring of 2012, a Premier League that was full of drama, and much poetically, the two clubs of Manchester were tied at the same points, and the last game was destined to break the deadlock and announce a winner. The two Manchester sides played at the same time. United ran riot throughout the whole match against Sunderland, winning it with ease. Man City, on the other hand, was leading by a narrow margin against Queens Park Rangers, a relegation zone team. Minutes into the second half, QPR bounced back and put City’s chances of winning the league on hold. The scoreline 2-1. Edin Dzeko played a crucial part in the dying minutes of the game, putting City right back on level. But that wasn’t enough, and even a draw would’ve ensured United winning the league on goal difference. 93rd minute, 3 minutes into the injury time, the notorious Mario Balotelli flicked a fluke pass to Kun Aguero, and you know the rest, “Aguerooooooooooooo!”

All the opinions expressed in the article belong to author. Images used are representational in nature.

by Tathagata Ray
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