The last 12 months have been a rollercoaster to say the least for the footballing world, but one thing that has been consistent is the appearance of some absolutely stunning games. Whether with or without crowds, there has been plenty of absorbing action on the field, so The Sportsman has cobbled together its list of the best five matches of 2021.
There are plenty of crackers that missed out too.
5. Borussia Monchengladbach 5-0 Bayern Munich
End-to-end thrillers are generally the most enjoyable games to watch, but this one-sided game was a standout purely on the basis of how much of an upset it was. At Borussia Park in late October the league champions and 20-time cup winners Bayern Munich were stunned by Adi Hütter’s Foals in the first round of the DFB-Pokal in what was their heaviest defeat since 1978. No one would have predicted a mauling of this scale but as soon as the first goal went in inside two minutes, spectators sensed that Julian Nagelsmann’s side were in trouble. The hosts were 3-0 after 21 minutes as defender Ramy Bensebaini notched a brace before Breel Embolo completed the demolition in the second half with a brace of his own. This result is all the more bizarre for Gladbach’s results since then, with a recent four-game losing streak seeing them concede 17 goals.
4. Oldham Athletic 5-5 Forest Green Rovers
Recent years have been tough on Oldham, with constant managerial changes seeing them floundering in League Two after relegation from League One three years ago. There have been countless problems behind the scenes at Boundary Park and it has been incredibly tough on the loyal supporters who don’t ever seem to get a ray of hope. So, when the club second bottom in the table welcomed league leaders Forest Green Rovers to Boundary Park and went 4-1 down shortly after half-time, no one would have given them a hope. Cue goals from Hallam Hope and KD Davis, and even after Rovers netted a fifth Jack Stobbs made it 5-4 before Kane Wilson turned into his own net to level to the bemusement of everyone present.
3. Newcastle United 3-4 Manchester City
Maybe you would not expect to find Newcastle in this list, but this game was a cracker. The game itself was a dead rubber, with Manchester City already crowned as the champions of England when this final-day clash came along and Newcastle mathematically safe from relegation. But what followed was one of the more enthralling matches of the season with both sides leading twice. Ferran Torres was the hero of the hour for City, scoring two goals in two minutes midway through the second half just after his side had fallen behind for a second time thanks to a Joe Willock strike. It also completed a hat-trick for the striker.
2. Croatia 3-5 Spain
This delicious eight-goal thriller kicked off arguably the greatest day of international football ever. Luis Enrique’s side had a bit of a slow start to Euro 2020 but after early setbacks in the group stage they started to crank up the gears in the round of 16 against Croatia. Spain were behind in bizarre fashion when Unai Simon allowed Pedri’s back-pass from half way to roll past him, but they managed to pull one back before half-time and then went 3-1 up with 13 minutes left to play. Suddenly Croatia rallied, with Mislav Orsic and Mario Pasalic netting in the last five minutes to force extra time only for Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal to finally put the game to bed. Breathless stuff!
1. France 3-3 Switzerland
Just as fans attempted to regain their composure after watching Croatia v Spain, France and Switzerland followed immediately with another instant classic as the world champions were eliminated on penalties. The Swiss started the game brilliantly, taking the lead inside 15 minutes through Haris Seferovic, but they were undone by a quickfire brace from Karim Benzema, before a wonderous curling effort from Paul Pogba gave Les Bleus a two-goal buffer.
But, like Croatia hours earlier, the Swiss rallied. Seferovic headed home his second before Mario Gavranovic slotted into the bottom corner late on to take the game to extra time and give the neutrals an extra 30 minutes of absorbing action. When it came to the shoot-out Kylian Mbappe had his spot-kick saved by Yann Sommer to the delight of the Swiss crowd. A big upset in an absolute cracker, it was the perfect way to end an incredible day of football.