Image Credit- The Telegraph
The sporting year began in spectacular fashion for England Cricket, who clinched their first Ashes win Down-Under since 1986/7 with an innings defeat of Australia in Sydney.
The result clinched a resounding 3-1 win for the touring side, which contained many notable performers. Recording breaking Alastair
Cook notched up some 766 runs at an average of 127.66.
England then became the first touring team to win three matches by an innings in a single Test series, a record that still stands today. Many consider it England cricket’s finest hour. And considering the next two offerings by England down-under, it would be difficult to disagree.
Cricket continued to take the limelight as the World Cup rolled into town. It was a six-week long party, co-hosted by Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh. India defeated Sri Lanka in the final by six wickets, becoming the first host-nation to ever lift the cricket World Cup in that same tournament. An outstanding India team won an equally fantastic World Cup to match.
It would not be a yearly review without exploring the footballs events, and what a year it was. Domestically, the Manchester clubs continued/began their dominance. Manchester United, who had drawn equal with Liverpool in 2009 on 18 titles-a-piece, went ahead of their North West rivals for the first time in their history, clinching the title with a 1-1 draw away at Blackburn Rovers.
Rather fittingly, Ryan Giggs, a player who had been at the club for Sir Alex Ferguson’s first title, scored the goal to secure his twelfth. Following the heart-break of the year before, United pipped Chelsea – the same side that had denied them only twelve months prior – to the title, with perhaps the key moment coming in a 2-1 win vs. Chelsea at Old Trafford in early May.
The season was a picture of consistency for Ferguson’s side, who did not let slip of their hold on the lead of the league table from 27 November 2010. On the blue half of Manchester, their trophy-laden decade would begin with an FA Cup.
A Yaya Toure-inspired City would beat Stoke in the final of the oldest cup competition in the world.
Elsewhere in Europe, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona confirmed themselves as quite literally untouchable. Denied by Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan the year before in the semi finals of the Champions League, they snapped and went on to win all six trophies that were on offer.
Their domestic campaign included notable wins against Mourinho’s Real Madrid side, beating them both home and away, 5-0 in the former. The league, as it had been every year since Guardiola took charge,was a formality, it was the Champions League they really coveted. With an
impressive come-from-behind aggregate win against Arsenal in the last 16,
Barcelona went on a charge to Wembley.
In the semi-finals they once again met a Mourinho side. In the first leg, away at the Bernabeu, it was the Lionel Messi Show. Having been kicked all over the pitch all game by Madrid’s players – who had Pepe sent off – Messi took the game by the scruff of the neck and scored twice. The second of which was the goal of the tournament. Picking the ball up just inside the Real Madrid half, he wriggled past six or seven Madrid players
before squeezing it past Iker Casillas.
The story was much the same in the Champions League Final at Wembley, where Barcelona met Ferguson’s United, a re-match from 2009. The result was much the same. Barcelona put in what Guardiola – and numerous others – labelled the best performance of all time, not letting the newly crowned English champions anywhere near them, bar a shock Rooney equaliser midway through the first half. It was just rewards for a team that surely remain the best we have seen this decade.
So to the rugby. New Zealand began their decade of dominance with a home World Cup win, defeating a plucky French side 7-5 in the final. It was a tournament to forget for England, who had numerous disciplinary issues, most notably the players being allowed to sky dive during the tournament, and Manu Tuilagi diving off the back of a ferry.
Wales, however, put in a valiant showing, and barring a rather controversial sending off of Sam Warburton in the first half an hour against France, perhaps could have gone one better.
Like so many of the years this decade, 2011 was indeed, an unforgettable one.