Premier League's 10 Craziest Matches of 2011

Tony MabertContributor IDecember 21, 2011

Premier League's 10 Craziest Matches of 2011

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    This year has been another vintage one for the Premier League. 

    We have seen Manchester United win a record 19th title, the emergence of Manchester City as a genuine force, two founding members of the Premier League return to the top flight and the first Welsh team to grace the competition since its inception almost two decades ago.

    Along the way there have been some thrilling games and some truly eye-popping scorelines too.

    Here are 10 of the craziest matches of the past year

Blackpool 2-3 Manchester United (January 25)

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    Blackpool may have only lasted one year in the Premier League but they certainly left their mark. The Tangerines grabbed wins over Liverpool and Tottenham among others with their fearless attacking style which was essentially their eccentric manager Ian Holloway sounded to horn and crying charge.

    Their fate was sealed on the final day of the season at Old Trafford, where they lost 4-2 having gone in at halftime leading 2-1.

    But before that memorable match there was this fixture at the ramshackle seaside ground of Bloomfield Road, in which Blackpool also lead at the break thanks to goals from Craig Cathcart and DJ Campbell.

    United were lackluster in the first half but they were not unbeaten in 27 league games that season for nothing. On came Ryan Giggs for the ineffectual Darron Gibson and the wily veteran engineered a thrilling comeback. Dimitar Berbatov pulled one back on 73 minutes before Giggs sent Javier Hernandez away two minutes later to score the equaliser. 

    Berbatov then netted the winner with two minutes of normal time remaining to help his team to a record 19th league title and himself to end the season as joint-top scorer in the league. How quickly things can change: now the Bulgarian can barely get a game.

Newcastle United 4-4 Arsenal (February 5)

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    Arsenal travelled up to St James' Park on a run of six straight wins in all competitions, and when they were 3-0 up inside 10 minutes, courtesy of goals from Theo Walcott, Johan Djourou and Robin van Persie, it looked as though a seventh consecutive victory was a foregone conclusion.

    Van Persie scored his second and the Gunners' fourth with something of a rarity, an Arsenal headed goal, to put the visitors into a seemingly unassailable lead at half-time. But then, something remarkable happened.

    Abou Diaby was sent off five minutes after the break for manhandling both Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan, but Arsenal still entered the final quarter of the game with a clean sheet.

    However, Barton then scored a penalty, Leon Best drilled home and Barton netted from the spot for a second time to set up a thrilling finale.

    With 87 minutes on the clock the ball fell perfectly for Cheik Tiote to hammer home a volley from all of 30 yards to mark the first time a team had come from four goals down to claim a result in Premier League history.

West Ham United 2-4 Manchester United (April 2)

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    United's title surge had taken a hit in the run-up to their trip to Upton Park following back-to-back defeats at Chelsea and Liverpool, while West Ham were battling against an increasingly-certain looking relegation.

    The Hammers' hopes were given a major boost when they took a 2-0 lead via two penalties from Mark Noble, and the Londoners went into the break daring the dream of a famous victory.

    That was when Wayne Rooney stepped up to the plate and gave further proof that he had finally put his terrible year-long run of form behind him.

    Following a tactical reshuffle which saw Ryan Giggs moved to left-back, Rooney began the fightback with a exquisitely-curled free-kick on 65 minutes before lashing home a crisp strike past Robert Green eight minutes later to equalise. He then completed the overhaul by scoring from the penalty spot before substitute Javier Hernandez added a fourth.

    However, the following day's headlines were not filled with praise for his match-winning brilliance, but instead condemnation for him celebrating his third goal by looking straight into a pitchside camera and shouting a profanity that was clearly heard by the millions of live viewers at home, an outburst which would eventually get him suspended for two games.

Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (April 30

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    This match was one of the final nails in the coffin of Heurelho Gomes' time as Tottenham's first-choice goalkeeper. The hapless Brazilian's flashes of brilliance had for long enough given him many reprieves, but his costly error proved to be one of his last as Spurs' number one, even if he was rather unfortunate in this case.

    Champions League-chasing Spurs went ahead at Stamford Bridge on 19 minutes via Sandro's first and so far only Premier League for the club. The Brazilian midfielder ignored his instruction to sit deeper and powered forward to smash an unstoppable strike into the top left corner. He ran over to the bench to celebrate with Harry Redknapp, who he looked genuinely angry with for refusing to heed his instructions.

    Spurs looked as though they were going to go in at half-time with that lead intact until Frank Lampard's speculative shot from range was clumsily spilled by Gomes. The keeper managed to recover and leapt back just in time to claw the ball off of the line but the linesman viewed the incident differently and, on his advise, referee Andre Marriner gave the goal.

    Tottenham's frustration was compounded when Salomon Kalou was well-placed to turn in Didier Drogba's wayward shot at the far post with just a minute of normal time to play. 

Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (August 28)

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    The first of two sensational results on the same crazy Sunday happened before the season was even a month old.

    A goalless draw at Newcastle and a 2-0 defeat at home to Liverpool had Arsenal fans' worst fears of their team going backwards becoming reality. It was not the best time for a depleted Gunners side to travel to Old Trafford.

    With youngsters Francis Coquelin, Armand Traore and Carl Jenkinson all in the starting line-up, Arsenal were overrun. They were 3-0 down in 42 minutes and had Robin van Persie's penalty saved by David de Gea.

    Van Persie did eventually get on the scoresheet, but by the time the Dutchman registered what has become his customary goal his team had already shipped six.

    Even then, there was still time for Wayne Rooney to score the penalty which sealed his hat-trick and United new-boy Ashley Young to score his second stunning strike from range before the final whistle mercifully blew for the visitors. 

Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City (August 28)

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    Spurs endured a torrid start to the season. First their opening-day fixture was postponed due to the London riots which started just down the road from White Hart Lane, and when they finally got their league campaign underway they were humbled 3-0 at Old Trafford.

    Just six days later, however, they were on the wrong end of a five-goal shoeing by the team they had not long beforehand beaten to a Champions League place.

    Edin Dzeko was in supreme form as he scored four times. His final strike was the outstanding one, playing a one-two with Gareth Barry before curling an exquisite curling shot into the far top corner.

Blackburn Rovers 4-3 Arsenal (September 17)

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    Less than two weeks after their humbling at Old Trafford, Arsenal were beginning the painful process of rebuilding. Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri may have left, but in came Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Yossi Benayoun.

    The Gunners began September a 1-0 win over Swansea and negotiating a tricky first Champions League group game at Borussia Dortmund by securing a 1-1 draw. But a visit to Ewood Park gave their burgeoning revival a hefty jolt.

    Things looked rosy when summer signing Gervinho scored his first Premier League goal for the club after 10 minutes, only for Yakubu to equalise for Rovers on his debut.

    Arteta struck his first Arsenal goal to give the Gunners a half-time lead but after the break disastrous own goals from Alex Song and Laurent Koscielny plus a second from Yakubu gave the under-pressure Rovers boss Steve Kean the comfort of a two-goal cushion.

    Even then, when substitute Marouane Chamakh scored with five minutes remaining an Arsenal win was not necessarily out of the question, such was the nature of this match.

Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea (September 18)

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    This was another genuine classic Premier League encounter between the two sides who have dominated the league for the past decade, but it is one which will always be remembered for an infamous miss.

    Chris Smalling put the champions in front after just eight minutes with a header that should have been ruled out for offside before Nani compounded Chelsea's misery with a veritable rocket of a strike. 

    Wayne Rooney then made it 3-0 with a simple finish just before the break, but Fernando Torres gave the Blues hope when he met Nicolas Anelka's reverse pass and lifted the ball over David de Gea with a classy finish. It was the predatory Torres of old as he scored only his second ever goal for Chelsea.  

    Andre Villas-Boas' side were given a further boost when Rooney slipped and missed a penalty in a style eerily reminiscent of John Terry's miss during the shootout of the Champions League final between these two clubs three years earlier.

    Even at 3-1 the game still seemed to be in the balance, with Chelsea as likely to score twice and level the match as United were of netting twice themselves to take the game away from their opponents.

    But that all changed on 84 minutes when Torres skipped around De Gea and had the open goal gaping in front of him only to skew his left-footed shot into the Stretford End.

    Had it gone in, Chelsea might have gone on to claim a result and Torres could have rediscovered his best form. But, for now, we are all still waiting for that to happen.

Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City (October 23)

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    As far as statements of intent go, they don't come much more emphatic than this derby humiliation at Old Trafford.

    United had beaten City 3-2 in the Community Shield at the start of the season, and there was little to suggest in that Wembley showpiece that City would exact such revenge little more than two months later.

    Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko both scored twice, with City's club record signing Sergio Aguero and star playmaker David Silva adding one more each to leave the champions stunned and Darren Fletcher's 81st-minute goal a footnote.

    Balotelli celebrated his clinically side-footed opener by revealing the now iconic t-shirt bearing the question "Why Always Me?", but the pick of the bunch was Dzeko's second and City's sixth when he latched on to Silva's crisp volleyed through ball and finished past David de Gea.

Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal (October 29)

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    This truly ridiculous match was the one which saw the spotlight of media doubt swivel away from Arsene Wenger and fix squarely on to Andre Villas-Boas.

    The Blues took the lead in the opening quarter of an hour via a diving header from Frank Lampard, and they retook the lead after Robin van Persie equalised when John Terry outmuscled Per Mertesacker all too easily at a corner.

    Andre Santos pulled Arsenal level again soon after half-time before Theo Walcott's rasping effort from a quick free-kick put the Gunners into the lead for the first time in the match. 

    Juan Mata made it 3-3 with 10 minutes left via a wonderful curling effort from the edge of the box, but as Chelsea pushed for a winner they were caught on the counter as Terry stumbled on to his backside and Van Persie raced through to score. The Dutchman then sealed his hat-trick with another goal on the break to cap off a thrilling match at Stamford Bridge.