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EUROPEAN FOOTBALL: THE SEASON OF SURPRISES

Kenyan men can ‘temporarily’ start going home early and spending more time with their families as the break from the popular European club football season is back with us after an entertaining 10 months of action. Even as we sit wondering what we’ll be doing for about two months before the start of a new season, we can reflect back on what have been a very interesting season marked by unpredictability and surprises.

We noted some of the incidents that made this season very interesting with some billing the English Premier League 2011/12 season as the best.

Humili8ted

Surprises started very early in the season when Manchester United first played Arsenal at Old Trafford. Arsenal came into the game with a huge list of first team playersmissing due to injury and as a result they were demolished with an embarrassing 8-2 loss. Being a top club and with huge following across the globe, that was a very surprising result with which many though Arsenal’s season was pretty much over before it began.

Six and the City

The 8-2 dust had hardly settled when another surprise was witnessed. The humili8ters became the humili8ees and they were thrashed by their local rivals on their own turf 6-1. Manchester City who have always been second to Manchester United taught the most successful club in Britain a football lesson. It is with this result that City was seen as the favorites to win the Barclays Premier League after 44 years of waiting. City became a force after a takeover by the Oil rich owners which has seen them spend approx $1.6m in buying world class players.

Five across the Bridge

In October Arsenal too got themselves on the list of big game thrashers by beating their London rivals Chelsea. Chelsea scored threegoals but conceded five at home for the first time in a league match since Liverpool beat them 5-2 in 1989.

Arsenal resurgence

Having started their campaign on position 17 in the month of August 2011, Arsenal looked like a team capable of being relegated for the first time in their history. Somehow during the campaign they were able to pull some results here and there despite their long list of injuries. It was the win against their North London rivals Tottenham that literally turned their season around producing successive wins and few dropped points lead by their captain and EPL player of the year Robin Van Persie. What was seen as relegation bound team in the early stages of the campaign ended up 3rd when the season closed.

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United lose eight point lead

Traditionally with an eight point lead and few games to go, Man United would easily see the season through and go on to win the championship but this wasn’t the case this time. Historyand experience failed to help United as they surprisingly lost an eight point lead to tie with Man City after losing to Wigan, City and shockingly giving up their winning position to Everton by drawing 4-4.

There’s nothing like favorites

There were more surprises in the Champions League when the Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid who were considered the favorites to win the coveted trophy were kicked out by ‘underdogs’.

Chelsea’s defensive tactics worked against the stylish and dangerous Barcelona with Chelsea winning both legs and booking there place in the finals. In the other end Real Madrid could not handle the composer of Bayern Munich side and bowed out through penalties after great saves from their goal keeper Neuer.

Pep quits Barcelona

Pep Guardiola

After four years of dominance with Barcelona, Pep Guardiola made an announcement that he would quit the Catalans at the end of theseason. Though there were speculations already roaming around, it came as a surprise to many considering how successful he has been with the club and being named among the best coaches in the world. “Four years is an eternity as Barca coach… I have given everything and I have nothing left and need to recharge my batteries,” said the Spaniard. This announcement came after they bowed out of the two main competitions.

League won in the last minute by goal difference

It was the dramatic ending to the EPL season that backed its claim as being the best season ever. Manchester United and their neighbours Manchester City were tied on

Devon Loch 1956

same point going to the last day with City having the advantage of a stronger goal difference. City looked like doing a (or rather replacing) Devon Loch (a horse that led the 1956 Grand National by four lengths near the winning post before attempting to jump an imaginary hurdle and falling flat on its stomach). They were down 2-1 to QPR while United held on to their 1-0 lead at Sunderland only for them to equalize and go on to winning by 3-2 through Sergio Aguero in the last minute of the game denying United their 20th title.

The Champions League Trophy finally in London

It was the season when Chelsea became the first London club to win the coveted UEFA Champions League on penalties against the hosts Bayern Munich. It was against all odds as Chelsea was generally very poor during the season and nobody could bet on them reaching the finals and winning the trophy.

It was indeed an exciting campaign and the Forum hopes that we can have such excitement in our own Kenya Premier League which is still going on.

President Kenyatta declared winner.

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