What a BPL weekend that was

This weekend's sensational action in the Barclays Premier League provided proof positive that football's underdogs should never be discounted.

Ian Griffiths

Ian Griffiths

Every now and then football can still give me one heck of a pleasant surprise.

From Liverpool's remarkable resurrection during the 2005 Champions League final, to Japan's defeat of Australia in the 2011 Asian Cup, the beautiful game keeps producing magical moments, sublime examples of a job well done that leave me purring like a kitten.

At the risk of appearing greedy, I can't get enough of these footballing delights. The upbeat stories keep me going, reminders that hidden amongst a mass of nonsense, there are treasures, little gems that reaffirm why football is the greatest sport ever.

All of which leads to me to the magnificent goings-on in the Barclays Premier League this weekend, a turn of events that rocked the footballing world and put a rather large spring in this particular correspondent's step.

In the space of some 48 hours or so, Manchester United's loss to Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa's win at Chelsea and Sunderland's last gasp victory over Manchester City have only served to reinforce my belief that, from time to time, the Beautiful Game truly is a wonderful sight to behold.

Forget the tribalism; forget the ramifications for the title race, the trio of shock results underlined exactly why millions of people around the planet are besotted by football, why we all tune in on a weekly basis to watch the drama unfold. They were proof, if any were needed, that amid the highs and lows, amid the multitude of adrenalin rushes, any dog can have its day.

Of course, and in the cold light of day, it can be argued that David de Gea's dire goalkeeping display undermined England's reigning champions against Blackburn, that David Luiz's poor positional play was the turning point for Chelsea, and that shameful profligacy in the final third proved to be City's downfall. They are, indeed, solid arguments that certainly hold water, but which, in all honesty, are for another time.

For this is not dissection of tactics or defensive inadequacies, it is instead a tribute to those players who for the most part ply their trade away from the 'Big Four' glare, to those professionals who rarely stare a Goliath in the face and survive. It is a tribute to triumph overcoming adversity.

Ahead of kick-off at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Stadium of Light, few, if any, gave the eventual winners any chance of upsetting the proverbial applecart.

In the shadow of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand, pundits reminded of us of Blackburn's 7-1 thrashing at the Theatre of Dreams last season. Down in London, observers saw Villa's visit as an ideal opportunity for John Terry and his band of brothers to end 2011 on a distinct high, while at Sunderland, many thought City simply had to turn up and the victory was theirs. How wrong they were.

Instead, heroic defending, battling midfield performances, several slices of good fortune and deadeye finishing helped what many view as three of the Premier League's lesser lights, emerge from the fray with all three points. Cue furrowed brows for the league's elite.

Rather than surrender meekly, the likes of Grant Hanley, Stephen Ireland and Lee Cattermole, with never-say-die attitudes to the fore, rolled up their sleeves, fought like Trojans and played as is if their lives depended on it.

Having been viewed as sacrificial lambs to the BPL altar, Blackburn, Villa and Sunderland played as one and battled ferociously, hassling and harrying their more illustrious opponents in packs, content to soak up the pressure and then hit back on the counter. It may not always have been pretty, but for the neutral, it was wonderful, edge of the seat stuff. Stunning with a big fat capital S.

In an instant, the footballing world was turned on its head, the once mighty had, albeit temporarily, fallen. No wonder, for example, Blackburn's beleaguered boss Steve Kean hailed his side's win as the greatest of his brief and turbulent managerial career.

He has a point, but then again, Kean and his counterparts at Villa and Sunderland should enjoy their moments in the spotlight.

We all know football is a cruel beast and that, as sure as night follows day, normal service will surely be resumed sooner rather than later. United, City and Chelsea are simply too good to keep down, while this weekend's successful trio have many more uphill battles ahead of them this campaign.

That said, and in the wake of a weekend when England's top-flight once again put forward a strong argument for being the best in the world, we can only hope that 2012 brings us a host of similar, headline-making moments. Those rare occasions when in the true spirit of football, and despite our allegiances, we stand as one to applaud.

These special times are, after all, what every football fan lives for. Long may they continue.



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