Festive football matches are a bit like the last day of term, the office Christmas party and a night out with mates all rolled into one and let’s face it, quite often with similar results. Then Boxing Day comes along and we get to do it all over again as football appears once more after what seems like an eternity.
So anyone who is in favour of a winter break read on, as here are some of the most exciting and memorable yuletide games that are still talked about today in the same light as Dirty Den giving Angie her divorce papers or Del Boy and Rodney running through Peckham dressed as Batman and Robin.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 SOUTHAMPTON 4, DECEMBER 26, 1980
White Hart Lane witnessed a real Christmas cracker that saw Southampton twice come from two goals down to snatch a point on Boxing Day, 1980. Lawrie McMenemy’s side were two goals down inside the first 20 minutes as goals from Steve Archibald and Gary Brooke looked to have given Spurs the points.
Amazingly the visitors were back level by the break thanks to strikes from Graham Baker and Arsenal old boy Charlie George, only for Spurs to restore their two-goal advantage with 20 minutes remaining and appeared to have the win in the bag (or should that be sack?). But the Saints had other ideas and came roaring back once again with Steve Moran grabbing two quick goals to ensure another memorable yuletide clash.
MANCHESTER UNITED 3 LIVERPOOL 1, JANUARY 1, 1989
United were showing patchy form as the New Year approached while Liverpool were embroiled in something of a ding-dong battle with Arsenal at the top which we now know would go right to the wire. So when John Barnes guided a shot past Jim Leighton from the corner of the box with just 20 minutes to go, it seemed that was that, especially in an era when late United comebacks were pretty much unheard of.
But 90 seconds later Russell Beardsmore’s cross was acrobatically volleyed past Mike Hooper by Brian McClair and before anyone could catch their breath Hughes drove the ball into the net to make it 2-1.To crown the most unlikely of comebacks Russell Beardsmore volleyed in the third after some great work on the left from Sharpe to seal what would be Liverpool’s last defeat until a certain game against Arsenal at Anfield on the night of May 26th 1989.
LEEDS 3 MANCHESTER UNITED 1, DECEMBER 24, 1995
This Christmas Eve encounter came about during one of the greatest title races for years as Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United set about chasing down Kevin Keegan’s easy-on-the-eye Newcastle side who were surging ahead at the top of the table. Gary McAllister opened the scoring for Leeds from the spot after Nicky Butt was penalised for a handball but United’s reply was swift as Andy Cole swept them level on the half hour.
Tony Yeboah then put Leeds ahead once more just before the break and with less than 20 minutes on the clock Thomas Brolin’s neat chip fell sweetly onto the head of Brian Deane who made it 3-1 to seal the points; even so, the defeat didn’t prevent United from chasing down Keegan’s Magpies to clinch the title in the most thrilling of finishes.
CELTIC 2 RANGERS 4, JANUARY 1, 1994
This was the last Old Firm match to be played on New Year's Day for 17 years, and not without good reason as things threatened to get ugly both on and off the pitch. Rangers sensationally took a two goal lead after just three minutes and when Alexei Mikhailichenko added his second and Celtic’s third after half an hour tensions began to spill with a pitch invader having to be apprehended by police as he tried to get to Rangers goalkeeper Ally Maxwell.
Meanwhile, in the stands, bottles, coins, pies and Mars bars were thrown at the director’s box in what was to be the last Old Firm match to be played before Fergus McCann bought out the discredited old board, as fans became more and more frustrated by what they were seeing happen to their club. Back on the pitch John Collins provided a little hope for the home side early in the second half, but Oleg Kuznetsov killed off any hopes of a comeback before Charlie Nicholas grabbed a late consolation; but due to the unrest during the game, the sides didn’t meet on January 1st again until 2011
CHELSEA 4 ASTON VILLA 4, DECEMBER 26, 2007
Not only was this game something of a classic it also delivered a huge blow to Chelsea’s title hopes going into the New Year. Shaun Maloney opened the scoring for Villa when he volleyed from close range before putting the claret and blues 2-0 up soon after.
But two quick strikes from Andriy Shevchenko brought the home side level before the Brazilian Alex put them in front for the first time in the game, but the joy was short lived as Martin Laursen pulled Villa level once more. Michael Ballack looked to have won it for Chelsea two minutes from the end with a well taken free-kick, only for Gareth Barry to earn a much-deserved point for Villa with a late penalty.