By Neil Leverett
- Britwatch Sports take a look back at the 2018 sporting year
- Football almost comes home for England, as Three Lions reach first World Cup semi-final since 1990
- Pep Guardiola leads Manchester City to Premier League crown, as Arsene Wenger waves emotional farewell to Arsenal
- Real Madrid win third consecutive UEFA Champions League title, as Liverpool are pipped to European glory
FOOTBALL – Britwatch casts its’ eye back over an eventful footballing year, as Manchester City regain the Premier League title, Liverpool suffer Kiev heartache and England restore national pride.
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Guardiola era begins domination
As Manchester City began the year with a strange-hold on the Premier League title, Pep Guardiola’s men’s grip on league domination was loosened only briefly, as the Citizens went on to win their first top-flight crown under the Spaniard.
Not only did City’s swashbucklers leave all in their wake, but on the final day of the season they broke the 100-point barrier for a Premier League season – a feat few expected any side to achieve in the modern era.
Guardiola made it a domestic double for the 2017/18 season with victory over Arsenal 3-0 in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley, which was no less than his City side deserved with a brand of play that many began to describe as the best English football has seen.
The Catalan’s charges may have suffered shock defeat against Crystal Palace in the last week – having already lost their unbeaten run this term – but another title tilt is expected for the remainder of the season, with one eye on European glory to boot. 2018 has seen the era of Guardiola firmly be stamped on Manchester City and the English top flight.
Reds suffer European heartache in Kiev
Liverpool’s title charge may have fallen off the rails, but on the continent Jurgen Klopp‘s men were ticking. Indeed the Reds comprehensively beat City in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals on their route to May’s showpiece finale in Kiev.
Having swept all that lay in front of them before, only Real Madrid stood between the Merseysiders and a sixth European Cup. With Mohamed Salah the top scorer back home hopes were pinned on the mercurial Egyptian only for the flying forward to be forced off with a shoulder injury in the first half.
With Sergio Ramos public enemy number one in Liverpool for his perceived part in Salah’s departure, Gareth Bale‘s wonder strike sealed the Reds fate, as Los Blancos won an unprecedented third successive Champions League crown.
Defeat meant Klopp’s third European loss in a final in six years, a statistic his current side will be desperate to improve upon if Liverpool are to seal major silverware this coming season.
Arsene Wenger waves emotional farewell
It seemed like a day that would never come to pass, but May saw the departure of Arsene Wenger from Arsenal after some 20+ years in charge of the north London side.
After a five-period of sending the Gunners fanbase on an emotional roller-coaster, the Frenchman finally called time on his tenure in Islington having joined the club initially a man largely unknown in 1996 after moving from Japanese side Grampus Eight.
As the man who led Arsenal to three Premier League title and a record seven FA Cups, the 69-year-old waved an emotional farewell at the Emirates Stadium against Burnley on an occasion bedecked in red and white.
Whatever the feeling of whether it was the right time for Wenger to go or not, the Gunners steward got the fitting send-off he deserved, as players from past and present serenaded their boss. The question remains, where will he appear next and in what dugout will be the next step of his managerial journey?
Three Lions roar in Russia
As domestic affair moved aside, the World Cup in Russia was a rousing success after fears of security issues and possible social conflict subsided for one of the best tournaments in modern history.
Football may not have come home as France become World champions for the second time, but Gareth Southgate‘s Three Lions re-instilled belief in the national team, when some believed that feat was a lost cause.
With Harry Kane winning the golden boot on the way to England’s first semi-final berth since Italia ’90, it was England finally shedding their major tournament penalty hoodoo, as Eric Dier sent the nation into footballing ecstasy.
Finally going out to Croatia in semi-final extra-time, the Three Lions had roared their way across Russia but more than that, England fans had a quiet sense of optimism about what this new could bring in the future – which could culminate in UEFA Europa League glory next summer.
The Premier League, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Nations League continue in 2019
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