TEAMtalk Soccers - Game of the Year
TEAMtalk Deputy Editor James Marshment ends week one of our Soccers ceremony by handing out the award for Game of the Year. The 2009-10 season has arguably been the most dramatic ever. The race for the title went right down to the wire, while the battle to avoid the drop and the fight for a Champions League place also enjoyed nerve-jangling finales. But it's not just in the top flight where great entertainment can be found, with some tension-strewn matches witnessed throughout the Football League. Given more time, we could easily have compiled a list of cracking encounters for all four divisions. But it's the Premier League and in European competition where the cream really rises to the top, so we've restricted our search for Game of the Season to these competitions only. 5 - Barcelona 4 Arsenal 1: After only managing a 2-2 draw in the first leg of this Champions League quarter-final tie at Emirates Stadium, it seemed the Gunners had a mountain to climb if they were to reach the last four in the backyard of the reigning champions. But when the much-lambasted Nicklas Bendtner tucked home a scrappy opener at the second (or was it third?) time of asking, the impossible, all of a sudden, seemed possible. For two minutes in the Nou Camp, Arsenal dared to dream. But those dreams were soon turned to dust when Lionel Messi capitalised on a mistake by Mikael Silvestre to lash an unsavable effort into the top corner. It was a strike of genuine quality, and any misgivings Arsenal may have had about the young Argentinian's talent were soon blown away when he scored not once, not twice, not three times, but four devastating times in total. Every goal had something a little different, but all four were laced with absolute star quality to not only underline the Gunners' shortcomings, but also Messi's status as the world's best player. 4 - Wigan 3 Arsenal 2: Gunners fans can be forgiven for thinking we have a vendetta against them (I can assure them we don't) after our fourth top game of the year also featured an Arsenal defeat. Just 12 days after their Nou Camp humbling, Arsenal travelled to Wigan hoping for a win that would keep their faint title hopes alive. And three minutes into the second half it all looked plain sailing for the Gunners when a rare Silvestre strike put the visitors 2-0 up. Wigan had already shown several times over this term that they have a soft centre so at this stage, it was just a question of how many the Gunners would score. But Wigan had other ideas and three goals in the final 11 minutes turned both the game on its head - and ended any lingering title ambitions Arsene Wenger's troops may have had. Ben Watson set the ball rolling after 80 minutes and when a Lukasz Fabianski gaffe allowed Titus Brambles an equaliser, it seemed things could not get any worse for Arsenal. But in added-on time Charles N'Zogbia curled home a wonderful left-footed strike which flew in off the upright to cap a remarkable turnaround and earn 4th spot in our Game of the Season honours. 3 - Chelsea 8 Wigan 0: The Blues needed to only better Manchester United's result on the final day of the season to secure their first Premier League title since 2006. Latics, despite having inflicted a rare defeat on Chelsea earlier in the season, were expected to put up little resistance, especially given their 9-1 tonking down at White Hart Lane earlier in the season. Chelsea started the match tentatively, but soon took the lead when Nicolas Anelka fired home. But when Gary Caldwell was sent off and Frank Lampard wrestled penalty duties off a belligerent Didier Drogba, there was no way back for Wigan. That said, there was nothing to suggest at the interval just what sort of a show the champions would put on in the second period, with a Drogba treble - to seal the Golden Boot award - the notable highlight. It was a fitting end to a fine league campaign for Carlo Ancelotti's side and their eight-star display was very much worthy of the champions. 2 - Man United 4 Man City 3: City had already served notice of their top-four hopes by putting Arsenal to the sword just a week earlier, so headed to Old Trafford in high spirits. The game was quite rightly chosen for live TV coverage but no-one could quite have expected the high-octane drama which was about to unfold. United took an early lead through Wayne Rooney, but City were soon back on level pegging when Carlos Tevez pressured Ben Foster into an error which was eventually punished by Gareth Barry. Darren Fletcher then put United ahead before Craig Bellamy conjured up a Goal of the Season contender to level the scores. In the 80th minute Fletcher made it 3-2 with his second header of the game but in the 90th minute a woeful Rio Ferdinand error was punished to maximum effect by a rapid City break as a jubilant Bellamy bagged his second to seemingly snare a share of the points. But deep, deep, deep into added-on time Ryan Giggs played a superb throughball to Michael Owen, who planted a well-placed shot into the corner of Shay Given's net to send Old Trafford delirious and cap what many have tagged the greatest Manchester derby of all-time. 1 - Fulham 4 Juventus 1: The Cottagers' run to the Europa League final will forever live in club legend. Although they fell just short of a sensational victory in the Hamburg-staged final, the club will quite rightly look back on a memorable season on the big stage. Hamburg, Shakhtar Donestsk and Wolfsburg were among the big names to feel the might of the Cottagers - but it was undoubtedly the second leg of their round of 16 tie against Juventus which will live longest in the memory. After finding themselves 3-1 down from the first leg, Roy Hodgson's side needed to ensure they made a good start in the return leg. But a second-minute goal from David Trezeguet appeared to end their hopes of progressing any further. However, Fulham refused to lie down and within seven minutes, Bobby Zamora volleyed in a fine leveller. However, it still looked like a mountain to climb for the Cottagers and they needed some divine intervention to help them along their way. And their prayers were answered in the 27th minute when Fabio Cannavaro collided with Zoltan Gera and received his marching orders to leave the Old Lady a man light. That was the incentive Fulham needed and when they struck the woodwork twice, it seemed only a matter of time before they took the lead on the night. And the breakthrough came when Gera fired high into the roof of the net to make it 3-4 on aggregate. Suddenly the impossible seemed possible. Buoyed by their first-half performance, Fulham continued to pile on the pressure after the break and it soon paid off when Diego was adjudged to have handled Damien Duff's cross in his own box and Gera kept his cool to slot home the penalty to make it 4-4 on aggregate. That gave the Cottagers around 40 minutes to conjure up what would surely be a winner. But they had to wait until eight minutes from time when Clint Dempsey drifted a sublime chip past keeper Antonio Chimenti to seal a historic 5-4 aggregate win for the Cottagers. It was a goal fitting to win any match but one which also assured Dempsey's place in Cottagers folklore. And to add to Dempsey's satisfaction, the goal also allowed the Cottagers to take pride of place in the number one slot in the TEAMtalk Soccers Game of the Year.
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