2012 in Football Part 1: Drama and dramatics

Records were broken, handshakes refused, and a certain Fabrice Muamba came back from the dead. 2012 has been one extraordinary year for football.

Football News: Spain
Alison Chin

By Alison Chin

Here, in the first of two parts, we bring you the most memorable moments on and off the pitch.

January

Timeless and classy, the Premier League veterans return

From the archives

Scholes makes Man United return

Scholes, problem solver

Wenger hails Henry's dream return

Henry answers Arsenal prayers

After finishing the season empty-handed, Manchester United fans are unlikely to look upon the 2011/12 campaign in favourable light, but they just might remember the 3-2 win over neighbours Manchester City in January.

While a victorious derby encounter is an event every Red Devils supporter appreciates, it was the return of one Paul Scholes that got the club's fans on their feet.

Then 37-years of age, the Englishman retired at the end of the previous season, but decided to lace up his boots once more in the wake of the first-team's injury crisis. Those who mocked Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to reintroduce his aging soldier back into the starting 11 were silenced at the end of the campaign, after Scholes' class inspired a United resurgence that pushed the title race down to the wire. 

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also pulled out a card of his own when he signed former captain Thierry Henry on loan from the New York Red Bulls. 

Brought in to ease the burden on Robin van Persie, after the loss of Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh to the African Cup of Nations, the Frenchman proved an invaluable source of experience, chipping in with two strikes in seven appearances and taking Gunners' fans on a nostalgic walk down memory lane.

February

The Suarez-Evra saga continues

From the archives

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool

Ferguson: Suarez a disgrace to Reds

Dalglish defends Suarez actions

Luis Suarez protested his innocence after being handed an eight-match ban for calling Patrice Evra "Negrito" during a Premier League game between Liverpool and United in October 2011.

Nevertheless, the Reds forward grudgingly served his time and the incident was forgotten in a flurry of action on the football pitch.

That was until February came around, and the two came face to face in the return fixture. Despite both Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish's efforts to centre the spotlight on the football, Suarez made sure he let observers know he was not ready to put the issue to bed by refusing Evra's pre-match handshake. 

Ferguson labelled the Uruguayan a disgrace in the post-match furore while Dalglish's man-management skills were called into question after the Reds boss admitted he had no inkling his player would refuse the pre-game gesture. 

March

The Muamba miracle

From the archives

Muamba collapse ends FA Cup tie

Experts praise Muamba treatment

Football family united behind Muamba

March looked set to be remembered as the month Carlos Tevez returned to the football pitch after months of acrimony with Manchester City and manager Roberto Mancini.

That was, however, before the football world was shocked by the events of March 17. Fabrice Muamba, playing for Bolton Wanderers against Tottenham in an FA Cup quarter-final, collapsed on the pitch after suffering a cardiac arrest.

According to the doctors who treated him, the player's heart stopped for a total of 78 minutes and medical personnel feared the worst by the time he arrived at the hospital.

The world watched and prayed as Muamba was kept in the intensive care unit for two days, but on a miraculous third, he displayed signs of limb movement. 

A photograph of Muamba sitting up in his hospital bed was released to the public two weeks later, completing an astounding recovery for the Englishman.

The passion football evokes tends to be hugely divisive most of the time, but as the 24-year-old battled for his life and then began taking small steps towards recovery, the entire community united in support of one of their own.

Riven by claims of racism and cheating so often, football healed just a bit along with Muamba.

April 

El Clasico Champions League final dream a bust

From the archives

Magnificent Chelsea stun Barca

Chelsea concoct the great escpae at Camp Nou

Bayern bask in Madrid penalty misery

Casillas: Big blow to lose to 'great' Bayern

When the draw for the 2011/12 Champions League semi-finals paired Chelsea with Barcelona and Real Madrid with Bayern Munich, La Liga fans salivated at the prospect of an El Clasico final.
However, this was the underdogs' time.

Ronaldo and Kaka missed their penalties for Real after the tie had finished 2-2 on aggregate to send Bayern through to the final on their own turf.

The other result was the more astounding of the two as Chelsea produced a defensive performance for the ages to deny defending champions and the masters of possession football Barcelona.

Didier Drogba gave them a 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, a negligible advantage going into the second-leg at the Camp Nou. When John Terry was sent off and the hosts raced into a 2-0 lead, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Roberto di Matteo's men.  

But Ramires levelled the scores just before the interval and the Blues emerged intent on one thing, and one thing only. Defence, defence and more defence.

What followed was a barrage of Barcelona attacks; every single one of them repelled by a Chelsea backline that simply refused to be breached. And when Fernando Torres scored deep into injury-time after hitting Barcelona on the counter, the impossible had become possible. Chelsea were through to the final of the continent's premier competition.

May 

A month of history making

From the archives

City win title on day of high drama in BPL

Mancini: Never seen a finale like this

Hundred-up Real create La Liga history

Mourinho hails record-breaking Real

Juventus complete 'invincibles' season

Chelsea crowned champions of Europe

RDM savours Champs League victory

It was a Premier League promoter's dream. With literally seconds to go in the season and Manchester United looking set for their 20th title, Sergio Aguero hammered home the winner against QPR to take City above Alex Ferguson's men on goal difference and take the trophy.

Even by the enthralling standards of the Premier League, this was the stuff of legends.

It was a much smoother sail to domestic glory for Antonio Conte's Juventus, as the squad wrote their names in the history books by becoming the first side to finish the 38-game Serie A season unbeaten. 

In Spain, Jose Mourinho joined the likes of Ernst Happel and Giovanni Trapattoni to become the first coach to win league titles in four different countries when his Real side put an end to Barcelona's domestic domination. 

Riding on the red-hot form of leading scorer Ronaldo, Los Blancos broke the 100 point barrier and achieved an incredible goal-difference of +89 on their way to lifting the trophy.

On the European front, Roman Abramovich finally got his heart's desire as Chelsea got their hands on the Champions League trophy for the first time. And just like against Barcelona, they did it with some heroic defending that thwarted a rampant Bayern Munich side.

Didier Drogba's pulled his side level in the final after Bayern had taken the lead to take the match into extra-time and then penalties. With millions of eyes on him and the ghosts of 2008 floating in the Bavarian air, the man from Ivory Coast then slotted away the match-winning penalty to send the Chelsea camp into jubilant hysteria.

That was to be Drogba's last act before leaving for Shanghai Shenhua while coach Roberto di Matteo was unceremoniously sacked by Abramovich a few months later. Irresesptective of subsequent developments though, May 19, 2012 will be etched in golden letters when the history of Chelsea football club is written.

June 

No end in sight to La Roja domination

From the archives

Spain make history with Euro triumph

Del Bosque hails vital first-half strikes

Prandelli backs Italy to learn from defeat

Having done away with the label of perennial underachievers by winning Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010, Spain were unsurprisingly labelled favourites for Euro 2012.

Their signature style of possession football gave them an air of invincibility heading into the tournament, although dark horses Germany and Holland were expected to give La Roja a run for their money.

Not so it seemed, as Vicente Del Bosque's men progressed into the Euro 2012 finals with ease, their only hiccup coming against Italy during their opening group game. In the meantime, the Dutch self-destructed in the competition's group of death, while a Mario Balotelli double in the semi-finals killed any chance of Germany lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy.

A galvanised Italy side led by Andrea Pirlo stood in Spain's way in a final built up to be a battle of midfield maestros.

However, the game did not turn out to be yet another display of Spanish superiority, as La Roja steamrolled the Italians 4-0. After recording the highest scoring final match in European Championship history, Iker Casillas held aloft the cup in an all too familiar sight, furthering Spain's dominion on the international stage. 



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