As we reach the end of the year, Chelsea Harper looks back on the most momentous, surprising, and downright weird moments of football from 2019. From spectacular Champions League comebacks to VAR madness, the drama of the Lionesses’ WWC semi-final to Marcelo Bielsa’s ‘Spygate’, there’s plenty to reflect on…
Jose Mourinho to Tottenham Hotspur
Not only was Tottenham’s sacking of Mauricio Pochettino surprising, but the man who succeeded him sent shock waves across the footballing world. Yes, Pochettino was having a terrible start to the 19/20 campaign, knocking up just three wins in 12 league games, but supporters still considered him one of the most successful managers to take over their club, taking them all the way to the Champions League final this spring.
Nevertheless, the Argentine was sacked on 21 November, after spending five years with the North London side. Just 11 hours after the confirmation of his departure, Mourinho was brought in as the new head coach. The Portuguese manager, known for his defensive style of play and big-money spending, went against everything the club stood for. The 56-year-old also won three titles with arch rivals Chelsea as well as managing fellow league side Manchester United, making his move to Spurs even more shocking. However, since his arrival, Tottenham Hotspur have rediscovered their potential, climbing to sixth place in the table.
The Comeback Kings: Liverpool & Tottenham
English teams completely dominated European football in 2019. The Champions League final saw Liverpool take on Spurs at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid — but it’s how they got there that makes this story worthwhile. Liverpool were 3-0 down on aggregate when they went into the second leg of the semi-final, having been thrashed by Barcelona at Camp Nou the previous week. Jürgen Klopp would need a miracle to send his team to the final. And a miracle is exactly what he got. Divock Origi scored early in the first half, before Georginio Wijnaldum got two back with 35 minutes left on the clock. Trent Alexander-Arnold then produced that corner, allowing Origi to find the back of the net once more — with the Reds winning 4-3 on aggregate.
As for Spurs, they managed to come back from a 1-0 loss to Ajax, after a Lucas Moura hat-trick in the second leg of the semi-finals. After the Dutch side went 2-0 up with goals from Matthijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech, it looked as though Tottenham’s impressive journey in the Champions League was coming to an end. However, Moura managed to get one back as he charged through the Ajax defence. With the comeback well and truly on, the winger scored another just four minutes later, giving the Tottenham fans the belief that they could turn this game on its head. Time ticked on and the Lilywhites could feel the final slowly slipping away — but a goal in the fifth minute of added time caused the Johan Cruijff ArenA to explode, leaving the Ajax players on the ground in absolute disbelief.
That’s it. That’s the shocking moment of 2019: the introduction of VAR and the drama that’s surrounded it since it arrived in the Premier League this season.
From disallowed goals to overturned penalties, VAR has become the main talking point of the 19/20 campaign. The officials have been blamed for failing to use the technology efficiently, resulting in a set of angry fans across the footballing scene. Not only is VAR attacked for its questionable decisions, but these decisions can also take a fair amount of time too — with fans at the grounds often left in confusion regarding the time-consuming process. There are opposing opinions about VAR, yet a great deal of fans claim it is ‘ruining football’, with many feeling unable to celebrate goals until the long-awaited check is done and dusted.
However, whether you love it or hate it, it looks like the video assistant referee is here to stay…
The Lionesses’ World Cup Journey
2019 was a huge year for women’s football. When the Women’s World Cup came onto the scene in early June, the Lionesses stole the hearts of the nation. For many viewers who watched the tournament, it was the first time they had witnessed the women’s game on the big screen — and they haven’t looked back since.
England went into the competition with a huge amount of pressure on their shoulders, following some bold statements from manager Phil Neville. The Lionesses started well — winning three consecutive games in the group stage against Scotland, Argentina and Japan. A comfortable yet controversial 3-0 win against Cameroon then followed, sending them into the quarter-finals of the competition. England then secured an impressive 3-0 victory against Norway — but their real test was waiting for them in the semi-final. During their game against the United States, the Americans got the ball rolling with Christen Press scoring after 10 minutes.
Ellen White then came to the rescue for England as she found the net, before Alex Morgan sent the Unites States ahead once more. Then the real drama commenced: White scored again but the goal was disallowed after the striker was found offside. She was then fouled inside the box, securing a penalty for England but captain Steph Houghton missed from the spot. Mille Bright was then sent off following a dangerous challenge — and the Lionesses were knocked out of the competition.
However, the reaction back home couldn’t have been better with fans up and down the country completely mesmerised by the World Cup. As a result, attendances through the WSL in the 19/20 season have rocketed — with the Lionesses also securing a record attendance of 77,768 during a friendly at Wembley.
Back in January a fairly weird, but equally shocking incident occurred when Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa sent officials to spy on fellow Championship side Derby County. The Argentinian openly admitted to the ‘spygate’ incident earlier this year, resulting in a £200,000 fine for the club.
A member of staff was caught at the Derby training ground prior to the clash, which resulted in a 2-0 victory to Leeds. His spying shocked the footballing world as many accused the manager of cheating. However, this wasn’t the first time the coach had taken part in such activity, with the 64-year-old claiming to have watched many of his past opponents. Bielsa has provided us with many weird and wonderful moments over the past 12 months and we’re sure we won’t see the last of his drama anytime soon.
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