December is awards season so the Cutter is dutifully donning its least smelliest tux, printing up some fancy invites and hosting a virtual ceremony to celebrate the best of 2011.
Ladies and gents, welcome to the inaugural Daisies! (If you could make a fanfare noise as you read that last bit it would be much appreciated)
The 2011 Daisies has six different categories and we will be running one per day this week. Simply click on your favourite on the link provided on the homepage and the votes will be collated. The winners will be announced on Dec 28th and each will be sent a £20 meat voucher for Aldi.
Today we highlight five breathtaking matches from this year. But which deserves the gong?
Newcastle United 4 Arsenal 4 Premier League 5th February
If ever there was a game of two halves it was this surreal February encounter at St James Park. The Toon pressed the self-destruct button in the opening half an hour shipping in four goals but whatever was in the half-time oranges worked wonders as they produced a truly stunning comeback which gobsmacked the entire nation. The fightback was completed by a late master-blast by Cheik Tiote and its hard not to feel some sympathy for the locals who left dejected after the opening forty-five.
The collapse affected Arsenal to such a degree they never really recovered and their season – with months remaining – was all-but-over.
Chelsea 3 Aston Villa 3 Premier League 3rd January
What a way to kick-start a new year and all credit must go to Villa for their adventurous spirit against a side seemingly unbeaten at the Bridge since the days of Osgood and Harris. In direct contrast to their current tepid spirit propagated by McLeish Gerard Houllier’s side went at Terry and co from the off and after a penalty apiece kept them level at half time the Villains nudged ahead early in the second period. Then disaster struck as Chelsea – somewhat predictably – banged in two late close-range efforts to apparently win out. Not so, as youngster Ciaran Clark silenced the Shed End with an injury-time equaliser.
Manchester United 1 Manchester City 6 Premier League 23rd October
Words fail me even now. As a blue I used to indulge myself in a childhood daydream similar to this game, conjured up to help pass away a boring maths lesson. I used to stop at five so it at least bordered on the outer limits of realism. It was a day when all the years of hurt evaporated into thin air. A day when a very ordinary United side came up against an extraordinary performance from an extraordinary side and slunk away reeling from a thorough and humiliating home-turf whipping.
Rarely does a league fixture make the front pages based upon the scoreline alone.
Napoli 4 Lazio 3 Serie A 2nd April
The Nepalese took Serie A by storm last season but at every step doubts were raised. Could they maintain their excellence and secure a Champion’s League berth? Or would their inexperience at such heights prove costly. In the event Napoli’s splendid side, garnished with the devastating front trio of Cavani, Hamsik and the prowling maestro Lavezzi, ran Inter close for second spot.
It was this encounter in early April that proved beyond any doubts that they were indeed the real deal. Not only did their quality shine through but also their indelible spirit after falling between and seemingly out of it on two separate occasions only to fightback and triumph in an enthralling classic.
Fittingly it was Cavani – their figurehead – who was the hero of Sicily.
Stoke City 5 Bolton Wanderers 0 FA Cup semi-final 17th April
With both Manchester clubs duking it out in the other semi this was billed as the battle of the underdogs with Stoke looking to reach their first ever cup final while Bolton had not experienced the twin towers for over half a century.
In the event only side turned up but that is not to diminish the Potter’s feat in what was an outstanding and memorable performance. In one of the biggest days in their long history Stoke absolutely battered their opponents, grabbed the spoils with both hands and had neutrals shaking their heads in disbelief.
Inter Milan 2 Schalke 5 Champion’s League Quarter-Final first-leg 5th April
It’s exceedingly rare that Inter – historically renowned for catenaccio and nicking goals then shutting up shop by any means – get turned over by such a scoreline. What made this result all the more breathtaking was the importance of the fixture – a Champion’s League quarter-final first leg and even more bizarrely the Italians grabbed the opening goal within the first minute.
Instead of 89 minutes of watertight defending however they were tore apart by an exhillerating Schalke that included tournament institution Raul. This has to go down as one of the greatest German displays in recent times. The fact that they then rolled over and had their belly tickled in the semis against United is a separate matter entirely and who am I to try and sway voters?