While many of Europe’s big leagues take it easy over the holidays and have a winter break, Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas in England without the busy Boxing Day footballing bonanza.
There are few things in life to match wrapping up in the cold Boxing Day rain to watch your side battle to a 0-0 draw, or worse…
Something in the festive air has helped to engineer some mega Premier League matches however, and while we’re sure scientists are busy in their labs trying to work out why, for now we’ll just reminisce about some of the best.
Let’s kick-off (geddit?) with some title protagonists over a decade ago…
Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea – 2001/2002
Heading into this Boxing Day battle, Arsenal sat three points behind league-leading Sir Bobby Robson’s Newcastle, with Chelsea also in the mix a further three points back.
Frank Lampard headed the Blues into a first-half lead at Highbury, Sol Campbell and Gunners’ cult favourite Sylvain Wiltord turned the game around after the break.
The win for Arsene Wenger’s men was game number two in their 20-match unbeaten run to claim Premier League, while Chelsea’s title hopes never recovered. They ended the campaign 23 points behind Arsenal in sixth.
Charlton 4-2 Chelsea – 2003/2004
A win which Charlton fans look back on gleefully with each passing year.
Chelsea, in their first season under billionaire owner Roman Abramovich were just a point off the top when they headed to omnipotent underdogs Charlton.
Alan Curbishley’s men were enjoying a fine campaign inside the top ten, but a five-game winless run threatened to kill their mojo.
Relegation king Hermann Hreidarsson put the Addicks into a first-minute, and though John Terry swiftly equalised, the hosts were not to be outdone and the big-spending Blues had been truly humbled.
In fact, Charlton may have played too well, as Abramovich swiftly go his chequebook out and signed talisman Scott Parker a few weeks later. Charlton won just four of their 15 games following his departure.
Wigan 4-3 Manchester – 2005/2006
There was great entertainment to be had at the DW Stadium on Boxing Day ten years ago.
Premier League new boys Wigan were loving life at the top, and occupied second spot as late as November, but despite a late slide they held sixth when welcoming seventh-placed Man City.
The Latics responded to an early City goal by roaring into a 3-1 first-half lead, before an Henri Camara effort made it 4-1 in the second period.
City rallied through Joey Barton and Andy Cole, but Wigan held on for a thrilling victory.
Neither side would hold on to their lofty positions, with Wigan finishing 10th, and City slumping to 15th, but they did produce one of the games of the season.
Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa – 2007/2008
Aston Villa fans may want to look away now. Or else painfully remember how it all used to be…
Just five points off a Champions League spot, Villa headed to a Chelsea side under Avram Grant following Jose Mourinho’s first departure.
Shaun Maloney and Andriy Shevchenko exchanged braces before the hour mark, while Zat Knight had been sent off on the stroke of half-time.
Alex and Martin Laursen took the game to 3-3, before Ricardo Carvalho’s dismissal levelled the playing numbers too.
Michael Ballack thought he had sealed a home win with two minutes left, but Ashley Cole left Chelsea with nine men after handballing on the line as the clock wound down.
Gareth Barry slotted the spot-kick home to round-off a manic afternoon with eight goals, three red cards and one penalty.
Aston Villa 2-2 Arsenal – 2008/2009
Villa love a Boxing Day belter.
A year later Villans were again chasing Champions League football and lay third, two spots and three points above Arsenal.
Denilson (remember him?) and a rare effort from surprisingly healthy and unbroken Abou Diaby handed the Gunners a 2-0 lead.
Gareth Barry put the hosts back in it from the spot, before Villa Park went into raptures as Zat Knight snatched a point in the dying minutes.
Despite winning five of their next six games, Villa slumped to sixth by the season’s end, while Arsenal grabbed their customary fourth spot.
A special mention should also go to Manchester City 5-1 Hull in 2008/2009.
Finding his side four-nil down by half-time, Tigers boss Phil Brown gave his men a public dressing down on the Eastlands turf.
Nine months later Jimmy Bullard equalised at City, prompting a cheeky yet memorable celebration.
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