It seems only fitting to begin with Cristiano Ronaldo following a record-breaking weekend for the World’s Second Best FootballerTM.
Nike will have been delighted that the launch weekend of the new Mercurial Vapor VIII saw its flagship player become the fastest person to reach 100 La Liga goals. The Portuguese star must be sick to the back teeth that his career has coincided with perhaps the greatest player to ever pull on a pair of boots, because in any other epoch his achievements would stand him apart from the competition.
Ronaldo’s brace in Real Madrid’s 5-1 win over Real Sociedad restored their six-point cushion over Barcelona, who had beaten Mallorca 2-0 just over 24 hours earlier. Madrid will know that in the unlikely event that they slip up before El Clasico, their head-to-head record in recent seasons is not too clever.
Back in England, Peter Crouch won the goal of the season award in March, with a stunning volley which left Joe Hart clutching at thin air.
With our penchant for playing back the greatest ever Premiership goals years after they were scored, Crouch can rest assured that his effort will be shown for years to come in the company of classic volleys from Tony Yeboah, Paolo di Canio, Wayne Rooney and, er, Shaun Bartlett. (Look it up if you don’t remember it; it was stunning.)
Manchester City ultimately recovered to rescue a point at Stoke – easier said than done – but you get the impression that Roberto Mancini’s side is doing all it can to come second. Their away form in 2012 will be what haunts them if they do miss the best opportunity they’ve had in decades to win their first title since the 1960s.
Chelsea and Tottenham’s game deserves very little attention, so it won’t get any. It was dire. Rafael van der Vaart missed the unmissable and Gareth Bale hit the woodwork, but that was about it – leaving Arsenal as the real winners.
That’s because the Gunners dismantled Aston Villa with a 3-0 win at The Emirates. The last time these sides met there, in the FA Cup in January, Arsenal fans booed Arsene Wenger at half time. We imagine they are now of the opinion that Wenger is a god and that anyone who can’t see it is deranged. Football fans fickle?
In Bolton, Fabrice Muamba was understandably the centre of attention even though he was miles away at the time. His team-mates served up the perfect result for the recovering midfielder, with a vital 2-1 win against local (and relegation) rivals, Blackburn.
Wigan produced a wonderful performance at Anfield to beat Kenny Dalglish’s bedraggled Liverpool, with Gary Caldwell putting Andy Carroll on his backside before coolly slotting home the winner. If only the £35m striker had it in him to do the same. Roberto Martinez’s side have finally got the return their recent displays have merited.
Wolves got what their recent displays merited, too, with their fourth successive defeat sending them to the foot of the table. They look certain to be playing their football in the Championship next season. If so, there is a proven Championship manager with promotions on his CV available. He’s called Mick McCarthy.