Soccer / fifa 2018
The Most Thrilling Football Matches of 2018 (Best of the Year Series)
We shall remember 2018 as one of the most jam-packed football years due to the occurrence of the mighty FIFA World Cup, English Premier League 2017/18, UEFA Champions League and currently progressing EPL 2018/19. There were a huge number of exciting matches to pick from that would fit perfectly with the ‘Best of 2018 series (by tales)’ theme, however, to comply with the ‘recap’ nature of the initiative, only the most amazing fixtures out of many are being presented. The best of football 2018 (Source) FIFA World Cup 2018: 1 vs 11, The man with a hat-trick shoe set world records The audience in the Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi were the first-hand witness of something unimaginable, the memories of which would pass on to their generations. It was the second day of the WC 2018 when one of the most awaited match-up took place with Portugal facing Spain in the Group stage. The nations have one of the oldest rivalries dating back to about 1921 because of which, none of their fixtures conclude without drama, excitement, and exchange of harsh words. The match had barely begun when none other than Ronaldo was found charging into Spain’s goal area and was dangerously intercepted by the Spanish defenseman Nacho. Portugal was instantly awarded a penalty kick which was efficiently converted into a goal by the legend CR7 who had gifted his team an early lead. Spain vs Portugal (Source) Spainish dragons unleashed to regain control As a response, some good attempts and dangerous moves were presented by Silva and Iniesta in order to level the score but all in vain up until the 25th minute when Costa received a hop pass and being alone in the attacking position decided to take matters into his own feet. He controlled the ball with exceptional precision, dodged three Portuguese defenders and shot it in the net to level the score (1-1). Spanish attack continued and in my point of view the shot by Isco was a goal but the referee was not convinced to review it. Just before half-time CR managed to take another attempt on the goal and curse the poor judgment of De Gea who let the shot be deflected into the net giving Portugal the required lead. The second half began and Spanish side continued their demolishing attack, where a nice combination of free kick, header and a quick intercept by Costa (again) brought them a goal to level the score (2-2). Who knew that moments later, Spanish defender Nacho would charge in with an excellent screamer. A good attempt by Patricio to save the day but a deflection from the pole and the ball was into the net (3-2). Trouble for Portugal and celebration time for Spain. No one should ever mess with Ronaldo The heat was up for Ronaldo who could be seen losing his cool and not to mention the desperate attempts by the Portuguese players were just acting as a fuel. Spanish team seemed to be doing their job well as the defenders were rock solid and there was a missed hat-trick chance by Costa, however, the hat-trick was still written on that day’s timeline but probably not for them. Usually, when the match is entering the last minutes of the gameplay and the opposing team has a player like CR7, the defenders should be very careful not to give an open chance such as a foul leading to free kicks. With an over effort to stop Ronaldo’s move, Pique tripped him off just outside the penalty arc and provided him with a perfect opportunity. An electrified shot by CR7 and the Portuguese side had leveled the score with an astounding record for the legend.Oldest player to score a WC hat-trick (Age 33) The only player to score a WC hat-trick against Spain 51st hat-trick scored in the world cup along with 51st one by the legend. The hat-trick man (CR7) Match Highlights: Video Link English Premier League 2017/18 When Harry Kane met Salah (Clash of the Demigods) Even the sound of it excited you, didn’t? The sensation was at its peak when Liverpool hosted Tottenham Spurs in the jam-packed, magnificent Anfield stadium back in February 2018. The lineups of both teams were loaded with the supreme class of Salah, Milner, Arnold, Van Dijk, Firmino and Mane hailing from Liverpool side while Spurs brought their top blasters Kane, Son, Eriksen, Alli, and Trippier. And, When we talk about the fixtures with Liverpool, two things become Kloppton’s first law of motion, one that Liverpool would instantly start their attack with a high probability of scoring within 20 minutes of the game and second, Salah would be one of the scorers. Spurs or no Spurs, this match couldn’t be any different as immediately after the starting whistle Salah received a deflected ball, he instantly made a run for the goal and there it was, 1-0 with a message to the visitors ‘hold your defenses tight because this is Liverpool’. Clash of the demigods (Source) Spurs tried to push them back with some nice moves by Eriksen and Son with high shots on target but the reds were on fire and were hungry for more. They kept attacking the Spurs side and tested Spurs defense to its fullest, especially in the 10th minute of the game when Arnold hop passed the ball to Milner who made an excellent but a missed attempt on the goal instantly followed by Arnolds pass and intercept by Salah, which also landed outside the goal post. The reds seemed to be dominating the game with their exceptional performance in both defense and attack but were being unlucky for not having scored further. The pace of the game was eventually settled down even though Spurs were with one goal down but apparently that was a nice strategy to first take a grasp of the game, which was getting evident from their high possession of the ball. The first half finished with the lead for Liverpool and the major portion of the second half was also a ping pong of attacks between the two sides. As the game entered the last 15 minutes, Spurs side increased their attempts on the goal and the reds became a bit defensive as they didn’t want to let go their lead at any cost. Some nice shots by Son and Eriksen only managed to find the Karius’s chest until Spurs defensive midfielder Wanyama was brought in the game as a substitution at the 80th minute of the match. The move started with him passing the ball to Eriksen who made an attempt on the goal from the left only to find keepers gloves. However, the ball rebounded and was straight down the 30 yards distance where Wanyama came charging in, fired a rocket that found the net with a sound that could pierce through the hearts of the Red's fans. 1-1 Just 3 minutes later, Kane was running into the D area where he was stripped off by the keeper Karius which apparently was not the keeper's fault but Spurs were awarded a penalty kick. The game had completely turned over and Spurs were in full control of it but alas, Sir Kane in an attempt to over dodge the keeper shot it straight into his body and even Lamela missed the net on rebound. The game entered the extra time where at the 91st minute, the prince of Egypt found the ball but was found surrounded with 4 of the Spurs defenders. A tough task was at hand but with complete patience, Salah dodged the first defender, second, third, keeper, hooked the ball and in it went… The unbelievable goal followed by ear-soaring cheers in the stadium. Liverpool with an astonishing last minutes lead. 2-1 Its Salah time (Source) With 2 minutes left behind in the game, Spurs were making their last attempt on the reds goal where Lamela standing inside the D on the ball-receiving end demonstrated a small drama (in my point of view) of being knocked in the back by Van Dijk and referee actually bought it. Another penalty was awarded to the Spurs and there could be no better chances for Kane if he really wished to level the score. And, he did, comfortably dodged the reds keeper, landed the ball in the net, and within minutes the well-earned lead of the reds was thrown away concluding the sensational clash with a satisfying score of 2-2. None other than Kane (Source) Match Highlights: Video Link UEFA Champions League Barcelona with a 4-1 lead against Roma In the first leg of this exciting UEFA quarter-final, Barcelona had mercilessly beaten the visitors with a three goal lead, however, Roma had something to hang on and that was an away goal. If and if only Roma could manage to level the score in the second leg, they could move forward to the quarters but that was not a piece of cake especially when they were up against a team with an attack of Messi, Suarez, Iniesta and a rock-solid defense of Pique, Alba, and Umtiti. The pressure was on Roma and they were strongly relying on every member of their team especially Rossi and Dzeko to manage a productive attack, Alisson and Manolas to keep a breach-free defense. Roma vs Barcelona (Source) With hopes and enthusiasm, Roma drew the first blood through the quick touch diving chip shot by Dzeko in the very first 5 minutes of the game. Their fans got absolutely bathing in celebrations as their legends were in the ground with a solid composure. The she-wolves seemed brave enough to open up the available ground space in order to by-pass the Barcas defense, suppress the Barcas Tiki-taka style, keep possession and it was working evidently as they managed to make numerous attempts on target especially with long passes and headers. The first half concluded with a couple of more attempts by Schick and Dzeko and Barcas were calm as they still had enough lead to defend. Time was running out fast for Roma as they had much to accomplish so right after the start of the second half, Roma continued their attack while Barca were planning to wait them out. However, in this quest, Barca’s defender Pique made a foul when he pulled down the arm of charging in Dzeko in the penalty area. After a review, referees awarded a penalty kick to Roma with their chance to be one step closer which was taken by Romas expert shooter De Rossi. Barcas goalkeeper with a slight miscalculation, let it pass by him giving Roma what they so desperately hoped for. 2-0, Aggregate 3-4 De Rossi celebrating the successful penalty (Source) There was still more time in hand but Roma was constantly facing a threat of conceding a score as Barca also started their furious attack knowing that the lead was shrinking fast. They unleashed Messi onto the Roma’s side where he started pressing them down and pushing them back with his excellent shots and volleys. Immense excitement was prevailing the ground and Barca had realized that they are facing an opponent which would not simply back down. The tension in the match was so high that by the end of the 80th minute, in total 5 players from both teams had received a yellow card including Messi, Suarez, and Pique. Roma seemed to had shattered Barcas moral completely as they returned to attack and then came the unthinkable, unimaginable moment of glory for Roma. Cengiz Under took the corner for Roma which in a blink of an eye landed in the net by a quick header by Roma’s defender Manolas.. Absolutely incredible moments for the team and their fans who celebrated this moment at its fullest. Roma had leveled the aggregate score with 4-4 and all they had to do was to keep the defensive line stronger for 10 more minutes for a confirmed ticket to the semi-finals. They did, and Barca had to leave the ground and their dream of holding the UEFA cup by giving away a huge lead. Manolas, finishing the job for the team (Source) Match Highlights: Video Link That is all for today. In order to recall the pleasant memories for everyone I attempted to include the most sensational matches which ended up in a draw, however, one of the sides still had to taste some bitterness but after all its about good sportsmanship. In a nutshell, I hope you had an amazing football year (2018) and if you are interested in other sports and wish to have a recap, then let me share the good news that numerous amazing articles have been written for the 'best of 2018' series and you can find them all here: Cricket, Formula 1, NFL, Cycling, Golf, eSports, biggest fanbase leagues, Basketball, darts, and soon there would be one for Tennis (by jodcarey). Also, let me know in comments about your most favorite games/matches from the three mega-events presented above.