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Friday Feedback - The Best Match of the Past Year

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Trying to come up with an Aston Villa-related question for this post every week can be a difficult affair. That's why, every now and again, I try to encourage you all to drop a question for us in the comments. The big problem is, I know that some questions will provoke pretty much the same response from all of the writers here, and I don't think anyone really wants to read that.

So every once in a while, you're going to see Friday Feedback take a break from Aston Villa. Heck, if I can find the right question, it may take a break from football entirely at times. But this week marks the first of the season in which Aston Villa are not the featured subject. And once you read the question, I think you'll understand why.

This week's question: What's been the most fun match you've watched in the past year?

See? Villa are pretty much disqualified there. Maaaaybe if you were in attendance at the Swansea match last weekend. That would have been neat. But otherwise, I can't think of any of theirs that would qualify.

Anyhow, you'll find our answers below, and we - as always - hope to find yours in the comments!

Kirsten: Typically my favorite matches are those I see live, but, oddly enough, this past year I haven't been to a single live match (hint hint organizations -- send me to a match!). On that note, one of my favorites was watching Chelsea - Barca in a Dutch bar, because the Dutch men didn't believe I knew football, and were obliged to buy me drinks when Chelsea won.

But the most fun match I watched in the past year had to be Napoli - Manchester City in the Champions League. The San Paolo was deafening, even on TV, and the partenopei were absolutely on fire. Edinson Cavani opened the scoring, but Mario Balotelli managed to get one back before the break. That, of course, went into the "terrifying" rather than "fun" category. But when Napoli came back after the break, you just sensed they'd manage to pull it off. Sure enough, El Matador bagged a brace, and although City threatened, Napoli held them off. It was the match that more or less put the side through to the group stages, and also sent City down to Europa. It would've been perfection if we hadn't drawn Chelsea for the next stage :(

Aaron: This one is actually a lot easier than I initially thought it was going to be. August 5th of this year, the LA Galaxy came to Seattle to take on the Sounders in a game that looked to have pretty massive playoff implications. The Galaxy started the season horribly, but they'd turned things around completely and were making a charge up the table with the Sounders within their sights. Seattle was in a good run of form, but they weren't too far removed from a stretch of nine league games without a win that had very nearly canceled out the best start in club history. I'd regained confidence in the team as their horrible stretch coincided with a pretty nasty rash of injuries and their quality returned with their missing key players, but a loss in this game would have been a pretty major blow to both their place in the standings and their. I was nervous.

I shouldn't have been. The Sounders took the lead in the 6th minute thanks to an Eddie Johnson header from a glorious Mauro Rosales cross. Seattle continued to dominate the run of play, but they didn't score again until Fredy Montero's stunner in the 52nd minute. Everyone in the stadium was feeling pretty confident at that point, but when Alex Caskey did this just ten minutes later, all 61,000 in attendance (give or take a few dejected glory-hunters in Beckham shirts) collectively lost their minds. It remains one of my favorite ever goals that I've seen live, A) because I've been a rather outspoken critic of Alex Caskey for quite awhile and I enjoy being made to look like an idiot by those guys, B) because you could see it coming as soon as the ball came flying out and C) because it made Beckham and Keane sad. (Yes, I know Keane was a huge part of Villa staying up last season. I'm thankful for that. But he was a Villa player for three months and in MLS he plays for one of the Sounders biggest rivals and is an entitled and tempestuous prick, so I can't stand him.)
Seattle tacked on another, David Beckham was visibly annoyed at the "Who Are Ya'" chants, and I was well and truly convinced that the Sounders were very much back to being one of the best teams in MLS. As great a night as you could ask for.

Matt: My game is going to be one from this season. As some people may know, I've adopted SC Bastia in France this season. They have a pretty cool history, and this is their first season in Ligue 1 since 04-05. I have legitatemly fallen in love with them since, because while they've slowed down a little bit, their first three games were pants-on-head crazy. Specifically the second one agaist Stade de Reims.

In their first home game in Ligue 1 since 2005, almost immediately Bastia fell behind. In the fifth minute, Reims scored thanks to some fairly terrible goalkeeping. Bastia then spent most of the first half and second half dominating play, but couldn't score. (The final match stats ended up being 27 shots to 4 in favor of Bastia, for refrence.) Finally in 59th minute, a Reims player fouled Florian Thauvan in the area, and was sent off. Antonhy Modeste scored the penalty to even the match at 1. About 20 minutes later, another Reims player was sent off. Despite having a two man advantage, Bastia still found new and creative ways to miss chances. But then in the 95th minute, after two more almost comical misses, Ilan Aruajo managed to score to give Bastia the win. Find the highlights, because I'm probably not doing this game justice. [Robert's note: here are the highlights] It was nuts.

Gareth: Manchester City 3 - Queen's Park Rangers 2 from the end of last season takes it in an absolute cakewalk. On an insane day of football that decided the title, the Champions League entrants, and the last relegation place, my eyes never left the spectacle at the City of Manchester Stadium for a second. The game had everything:

  • Stakes: Manchester City had not won the league since 1968, and possessed a historic proclivity for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. Their cross-town rivals could not have been more different, cruising to an easy win of Sunderland and waiting to receive the title by acclamation. On the other end, Queen's Park Rangers were still not at all assured of their Premier League safety. QPR, despite being a shambles all season, still had a squad full of internationals and a Champions League winner up front. They could, on their day, prove a challenge.
  • Goals: Five goals of genuine quality. While Sergio Aguero's masterfully dextrous winner will always be remembered (include Mario Balotelli setting him up while seated on the pitch), my personal favourite was Jamie Mackie's diving header off a blistering counterattack. In a matter of seconds, the ball went from Paddy Kenny to Armand Traore to Mackie's head to the back of the net. Exhilarating, and totally unexpected.
  • Joey Barton. I happen to be of the opinion that, whatever you think of him as a person, Joey Barton's presence is guaranteed to improve any football game he plays in. Joey Barton would have improved the 1974 World Cup final, had he been of age and qualified to start for either Holland or Germany (but given his temperament, it would have been Holland.) So of course, Barton had to grab a bit of the focus on this occasion, by dramatically losing his head. He kicked out at Carlos Tevez, then went after Sergio Aguero, and tried to square up to Mario Balotelli (which is a fight I would empty my bank account to witness.)

All in all, the most memorable 90 minutes of football I can think of in a year that's featured several incredible matches.

Robert: I already know that this upsets Gareth, but my favorite match of the past year absolutely has to be USA-Canada in the Olympic Women's tournament semifinals. I fell desperately in love with the USWNT during last summer's World Cup, and I was so excited when I realized that - unlike in the men's tournament - the women were allowed to field a real, honest-to-goodness team. I'd be watching essentially the same group all over again.

They breezed through the group stage and the quarterfinals, winning those four matches by an aggregate score of 10-2. Those numbers are more impressive when you consider that the two goals they gave up came against France before they scored their first. Once they began finding the net, they did so 10 times before another team would respond.

But the team that ended the streak was Canada. In the semifinals, Christine Sinclair turned in a monumental performance, beating Hope Solo three times. Unfortunately for her - and her team - the US found a way to respond every single time. Admittedly, the refereeing was terrible. Both sides received some bad calls, but it seemed as if Canada got all the worst ones called against them. The keeper holding the ball too long? An inverse Hand of God moment? Man, sucks to be them.

Whatever. The US managed to capitalize on those moments with three goals of astounding quality and one competent penalty. (Note: is there ever a penalty that's really amazing? Aren't they all pretty binary? Either fine or failure.) Megan Rapinoe's second goal and Alex Morgan's 123rd minute clincher in particular were amazing. You can watch the highlights here. But what I really loved about this match was how invested in it I got. I was watching at work and for a little more than 120 minutes, I hated Canada. Christine Sinclair's performance was amazing, and I should have seen that. But nope. Hated her. And every time the US scored, I jumped around like a stinking idiot. Thanks heavens I had an office to myself. This match was everything that makes football fun. And oddly, it's the second year in a row the USWNT have had my favorite match of the year.

Andrew: Since I'm still kind of out of it from transatlantic travel I'm going to go with a match I just watched because I can't think of anything else right now and I want to contribute. I thought the Real Madrid-Manchester City Champions League match was absolutely incredible. When you consider the amount of talent on that field at the same time it's staggering.

While the match was scoreless after the first half it was clear that Madrid was bossing it. Joe Hart was arguably the only reason City weren't down by at least a couple of goals as Ronaldo had some very good shots that he turned aside. Naturally, City took the lead after Yaya Toure found himself in all kinds of space and just took off from his own end as Yaya Toure does keeping the ball and running away from what looked like 43 white shirted men only to lay it off to Edin Dzeko who neatly bundled away a shot for a 1-0 lead. It didn't last long.

Madrid tied it rather quickly on a wonderful shot from Marcelo. Of course City regained the lead with five minutes left on a Kolarov free kick that evaded almost everyone (except Xabi Alonso) and it seemed like it was over. But Real continued dominating on the ball and in chances. Benzema scored off a beautiful turn and then Ronaldo finally got his most deserved goal sending a dipping rocket past a bewildered Joe Hart.

Sure City had a victory snatched from them before they even knew what hit them but it's hard to argue that Real Madrid didn't deserve to win that match. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I can't wait to see the rematch.