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By London24 sportsdesk
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
With the final curtain now pulled on 2012, London24 looks back on the ups and downs of a dramatic year of sport. There have been thrills and spills, ecstasy and agony and our sports team have taken a look at their best and worst moments of the year.
Most entertaining game
Tom Moore: It has to be Reading 5 Arsenal 7. I, like many people, thought it was all over after 40 minutes when the Royals were 4-0 up. However, the Gunners’ comeback was sensational, although extra time meant it was a long journey home. The re-match in the Premier League was quite something as well with the north Londoners winning 5-2. An honourable mention goes to Brentford 3 MK Dons 2, as the Bees went behind twice but came back to win in the last minute.
Nick Wright: Crystal Palace 3 Cardiff City 2. Arsenal’s 3-3 draw with Fulham at the Emirates comes a close second but this game was arguably the turning point in Palace’s season. They looked dead and buried at half-time, trudging in at 2-0 down. But Glenn Murray fired a hat-trick in a remarkable second half turnaround. They won their next three games in a row as they began their climb up the table.
James Cunliffe: London Wasps 40 Harlequins 42. As adverts for Premiership rugby go I think this opening day of the season clash at Rugby HQ (Twickenham) will never be bettered. Champions Quins were staring down the barrell of defeat after an hour when they were 40-13 down. Wasps had been scintillating in their attacking play up to then and a rusty defence simply couldn’t cope with the pace and power of Tom Varndell and Christian Wade. But this was the oval-balled game’s equivalent of Arsenal’s cup comeback against Reading, as Quins fought back in the final 20 minutes with a breathtaking points chase. Tries from Tom Guest, Nick Evans and a brilliant brace from England fullback Mike Brown put them within kicking distance of victory and it was fitting, on his 100th appearance for the club, that fly-half Nick Evans booted the winning goal late on.
Least entertaining game
TM: Brentford 0 Shrewsbury 0. There were two controversial decisions in two minutes when the Shrews were awarded a penalty for a Tony Craig handball only for the referee to change his mind. The Bees went down the other end and scored, only for that to be disallowed for offside. Aside from that, nothing of note happened in the entire match.
NW: Charlton 0 Hull City 0. A miserable stalemate played out in the pouring rain in late August. A half time thunderstorm was the only highlight as conditions made for a dire lack of quality... I’m getting bored at the very thought of it!
JC: Watford 0 Millwall 0. The Lions have been nothing but entertaining this season but this contest was as drab as it gets. If Watford’s Almen Abdi hadn’t hit the Millwall woodwork late on, this retelling would have been one-word long - awful.
Best individual performance
TM: I was impressed with Simon Mignolet for Sunderland against Tottenham but the award goes to Pavel Pogrebnyak for his hat-trick against Wolves. The Russian was clinical and every time he had a shot, he scored.
NW: Adel Taarabt for QPR against Fulham. The Moroccan single-handedly masterminded QPR’s first and only win of the season. He was at his skilful best in the 2-1 victory and his second goal was beautifully struck with the outside of his foot after a nice piece of trickery in the build up. Harry Redknapp described him as a “genius” afterwards, while Martin Jol opted for “wizard”.
JC: Luis Suarez for Liverpool against QPR. The Uruguayan only needed half an hour to dismantle the R’s. Say what you like about his other attributes but his ability to beat a man has to up their with the likes of Paul Gascoigne in his pomp as he embarrased Clint Hill for his first goal and then bagged a quick second on the way to a 3-0 thrashing for Rangers. The Reds striker just pipped Merseyside rival Marouane Fellaini who was utterly destructive against Fulham where somehow the Whites snatched a point.
Worst individual performance
TM: Carlos Cuellar had a nightmare for Sunderland against Spurs, heading an own goal and was also partially to blame for the second but he doesn’t claim the award. A similar performance happened for Tony Craig when Brentford were beaten by Yeovil in August. A pass across his own area led to the Glovers opening the scoring and he completed a nightmare game by scoring an own goal to seal Yeovil’s win.
NW: Michael Turner for Norwich in their 5-0 opening day defeat to Fulham
The worst debut by any player I have ever seen. The former Sunderland centre back was torn apart at Craven Cottage as Fulham ran riot. He was duly dropped by manager Chris Hughton. It’s remarkable how Norwich and Turner have turned things around this season after such a terrible start.
Best team performance
TM: Brentford take this award for their display in their 2-0 win over Sheffield United. The Bees were all over the Blades in this promotion six-pointer and led through Clayton Donaldson and a Harry Forrester wonder strike. Although the Yorkshire side battled hard in the second half, they couldn’t breach Simon Moore’s goal.
JC: Brentford are my choice too for their 5-1 rout of Crewe Alexandra. Strikers Clayton Donaldson and Farid El Alagui were unplayable on the day and both scored twice, while Harry Forrester and Sam Saunders provided the amunition. Crewe could not get out of their half in the opening period and it was purely down to the incisive play from the Bees that pulled the apart.
Worst team performance
TM: Wolves were absolutely abysmal as they were thrashed 5-0 by Fulham last season. They didn’t look like scoring and that performance was nowhere near Premier League standard. League Two sides could have beaten Terry Connor’s side that day.
JC: QPR saved their worst defeat of the year until last with their 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool on December 30. Luis Suarez was unplayable but the rest of Liverpool’s squad are hardly world beaters these days yet Harry Redknapp said the Reds were just too good. But, to a man, his players exhibited all the quality of the Championship side they are destined to be unless he can buy well in the January transfer window and inspire the fight that was non-existent here. Contrary to the manager’s belief that Rangers tightened things up after half time, once the three goals had been scored, the only reason the Anfield side didn’t put more past them was not down to better play from the west Londoners but more because Liverpool had already switched off.
Best quality game
TM: Fulham 1 Chelsea 1 on Easter Monday was an entertaining affair but also was played at a high level. Both sides were adventurous and the Whites kept on knocking on the Blues’ door until Clint Dempsey cancelled out Frank Lampard’s opener.
JC: I have to say the Wembley-based NFL American Football match between New England Patriots and St Louis Rams, but that’s a decision influenced by all the extra trimmings that the US sports offer. They really know how to put on a show.
Worst quality game
TM: Barnet 1 Hereford 1 was just appalling on a Friday night in April. Delroy Facey gave the Bulls the lead before Ben May equalised. The home side dominated after that but never looked like scoring. It was no surprise that the Bees only just stayed up, while Hereford were relegated.
JC: Sarcens 9 Leicester Tigers 9 at Wembley. The occasion - at the home of football - got the better of both and it was error-strewn, turgid and attritional kicking game that we associated with northern hemisphere rugby in deep mid-winter, not a mild September day.
TM: It’s so difficult to pick an individual moment. There have been so many magic moments this year. Sir Chris Hoy’s record breaking gold medal, Arun Harinath and Rory Burns scoring their maiden Championship hundred were contenders. Even Fabrice Muamba’s recovery from cardiac arrest was fantastic and his return to the Reebok for Bolton’s game with Spurs. But I’m going to go with Mo Farah’s win in the 10,000metres, purely because of what had gone on before on ‘Super Saturday’. The men’s rowing four won at Eton Dorney to claim the first gold of the day before Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland claimed the lightweight double sculls gold. It got better in the evening at the cycling velodrome as Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell claimed the women’s team pursuit. Then came the most magnificent sporting minutes of British sport. Jessica Ennis claims heptathlon gold by winning the 800m before Greg Rutherford grabs high jump gold just minutes later, during Farah’s race. The long distance runner sprinted home and grabbed the third medal of the hour and the sixth of the day to round off Saturday, August 4.
NW: Thierry Henry scoring on Arsenal comeback against Leeds. Arsenal fan or not, this was an unforgettable moment for a true legend of English football. The Frenchman came on for his second Arsenal debut with the score at 0-0 in the FA Cup third round tie at the Emirates. His 227th goal for the club won Arsenal the game and was a fairytale moment that will live long in the memory.
JC: It has to be the Paralympics’ equivalent of Super Saturday in the Olympics. I was in the stadium as a fan rather than working, to see Jonnie Peacock annihilate a field including boyhood hero and face of Paralympic sport Oscar Pistorius in the 100 metres final. David Weir bagged gold in the 800m for his third gold of the Games, while Hannah Cockroft won the 200m final in a Paralympic record of 31.90sec. It was a real watershed moment where Paralympic sport took its place on the same pedestal as able-bodied sport. The atmosphere in the stadium rivaled any football match I’ve been to and it really epitomised the way London took the Games to its heart. I still miss that marvellous month.
TM: Seeing Fabrice Muamba dead on the pitch at White Hart Lane is up there but the death of cricketer Tom Maynard was tragic. I had interviewed the young batsman only a few weeks previously and to receive the news of his death was terrible. Tom came across in those few minutes as a funny, pleasant man and it was awful to know that he is now no longer with us. Dirk Nannes sums it up, better than I can.
“The day of his funeral was one of the worst days I have had, I reckon,” he explained.
“That was terrible to be part of and to be a parent of young kids.
“I don’t understand how you can bury your own. It was so hard.
“It made me go home and hug the children.
“It’s been a terrible time for the club and for the Maynard family.”
NW: Fabrice Muamba’s collapse at White Hart Lane.
JC: I can’t argue with that. It put sport into perspective and full credit to everyone who worked so hard to keep him with us.
Heroes of 2012
TM: It’s a difficult category with so many deserving candidates. I’ll give honourable mentions to those that made the Olympic games such a success from the games makers to the athletes, to the organisers. However, for me, the award goes to the medical team that saved the life of Fabrice Muamba, including the likes of Dr Andrew Deaner, Dr Jonathan Tobin and others.
NW: Take your pick from Great Britain’s medal-winning Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah, Johnnie Peacock and David Weir for a start.
JC: I’ve never known a summer or a year of sport like 2012 and that has to go down to everyone involved with the Olympics - competitors, staff, organiser, games makers, everyone. I was fairly cynical at the start of the year, as I think a lot of people were, but to have that assumption completely dashed was one of the few times I’ve been happy to be proved wrong.
Villains of 2012
TM: The tube workers who decided to strike on Boxing Day deserve an honourable mention after causing a lot of problems for football fans and Arsenal called their game off with West Ham. However, the football authorities’ weak punishments on racism deserve the gong. I am aware that Uefa have challenged the decision to fine the Serbia £65,000 after Nicklas Bendtner was fined more for displaying sponsored underwear at Euro 2012.
NW: Tony Fernandes. His stewardship of QPR, from the mad summer spending to his obsession with hogging the media spotlight, has been nothing short of a disaster. The club will surely pay for it with relegation to the Championship.
JC: Football in general. The Olympics really put into perspective what sport should be and the humble way in which the competitors dealt with victory and defeat should be an example to every footballer that cheats, fights and moans about only earning £50,000 a week. Worst of all has been the re-emergence of crowd trouble and racism. I was too young to fully remember the dark old days of discrimination and hooliganism, so it’s not something I associate with the game. This is not helped, as Tom says above, by governing bodies dishing out paltry fines and really dealing with it in the most inadequate of fashions. Football’s New Year’s resolution has to be to clean up its act and I really hope it does.