There was some great, playoff-esque football played here in the world’s melting pot last weekend. But there was an even more eventful weekend of futbol in the United Kingdom, specifically England. The world’s most popular soccer league, the Barclays Premier League, saw some of its most storied powerhouses fall in upsets that would match the caliber of Indiana beating Kentucky, Appalachian State beating Michigan, or the Browns beating the Patriots. Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United all lost matches to teams that their second squads would normally beat on any given day.
Arsenal was on the road against an underachieving Fulham squad. About midway through the first half, Arsenal found the back of the net and it seemed that they would hand the host a shutout loss until one of Arsenal’s defenders was given a red card with about fifteen minutes left in the game. Eight minutes later, Fulham leveled the score and stole the momentum. Seven minutes after that, in stoppage time, Fulham took the lead and three points for the victory. The loss knocks Arsenal out of the top four in the league, which means that if the season ended today they would not be in the Champions League tournament, something they are not accustomed to missing. The season is barely halfway through, however. Arsenal plays Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs within the next month, two teams they trail and hope to make up some ground by getting positive results.
Manchester City fell to Sunderland 1-0 by way of Sunderland’s super-sub, Dong-Won Ji, who scored the winning goal in the waning moments of second half stoppage time. The match was held at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland’s home field in front of 40,000+ home supporters. They would have been thrilled with a tie, but a last-second victory was just icing on the cake to kick off 2012 (no pun intended). However, Manchester City bounced right back from the heartbreaking loss on Tuesday by throttling Liverpool 3-0 to stay atop of the league table.
But the biggest upset of the year–in any sport–happened on New Year’s Eve when the Blackburn Rovers defeated the world’s most popular soccer team, Manchester United at Old Trafford in Manchester. One of the world’s most historic sports franchises fell 3-2 to the last place team in the league. Blackburn took the lead into half-time thanks to their best scorer, Ayegbeni Yakubu, tucking away a penalty kick fifteen minutes after the first whistle. Yakubu added to his and Blackburn’s tally shortly into the second half only to have Dimitar Berbatov score for Manchester United less than two minutes later. United seemed to be back on track when Berbatov finished his second goal of the day with less than thirty minutes to play. Grant Hanley thought differently as he headed in a corner kick in the eightieth minute to give the Rovers the lead once and for all. Hanley’s header put a sour taste in the mouths of the 75,000 fans in the stadium and millions more around the world watching hoping to see Man. U come away with an easy victory. The colossal upset may spark the momentum needed to steer Blackburn clear of relegation at the end of the season. The loss for Manchester United, however, may have started a snowball effect after losing Wednesday to Newcastle 3-0 on the road. It will be interesting to see if they can bounce back in the second half of the season. Even after these two horrid losses, they only trail Manchester City by three points.
These clubs may want to take a look at how the Red Sox and Braves finished their seasons and be sure not to mirror their epic collapses. Only time will tell if these outcomes will affect a league title, a spot in the Champions League Tournament, or worse both. When the season is all said and done one, two, or all three of the teams upset this weekend may look back and wonder, “what the heck happened?”
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