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The Fascinating Phenomenon of Lockdown Football

June 17th, 2020, to May 23rd, 2021, were undeniably the strangest 11 months in football history. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world as we knew it was changed forever when we were forced into lockdown in March 2020. Naturally, this meant that football seasons everywhere were put on hold until further notice. In England, League One and Two were completed on a points-per-game basis, which meant those sides did not play out their remaining games but instead were promoted/relegated based on predicted points for their remaining games of the season.

Meanwhile, the Championship and Premier League would finish their seasons behind closed doors, starting on June 17th with Aston Villa vs Sheffield United. The Champions League was also decided via a one-legged knockout tournament in Portugal instead of the usual two-legged home and away set-up, where Bayern Munich, more on them later, would run out eventual winners. In this article, we will take a look at some of the strangest moments to come out of lockdown football across the season and a half that graced our game.

Lockdown Ball: The Best Moments

1. A Failed Return

In the very first Premier League game back at the end of the 2019/20 season, relegation battling Aston Villa took on European candidates Sheffield United. The game would finish 0-0 following one of the biggest technology failures in Premier League history. Shortly before the half-time break, Oliver Norwood whipped a free-kick towards Aston Villa’s back-post, which caused problems for Villa keeper Orjan Nyland as he collided with Keinan Davis and stumbled into the goal.

However, Michael Oliver’s watch did not buzz to inform him of this and therefore the goal was not given. Aston Villa would go on to survive by one point that season effectively as a result of this technology failure. When you look at where Aston Villa are now, I think it’s definitely safe to say it’s changed the course of the club.

2. I’d 8-2 Have Been A Barca Fan

On August 14th, 2020, Barcelona faced off against Bayern Munich in a straight knockout quarterfinal at the Estadio Da Luz in Lisbon. Many had touted this as the best and most competitive quarterfinal going into it, as the two teams had always been well matched in previous encounters and looked to provide another all-time classic. While those people certainly weren’t wrong about the game turning into a classic, they were definitely wrong about it being a closely matched tie as Bayern Munich ran out 8-2 winners on the night.

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Thomas Muller struck first to put the German side ahead after just four minutes, before David Alaba’s own goal at the other end levelled the score almost straight away. Goals from Ivan Perisic, Serge Gnabry, and Muller put Bayern 4-1 up at halftime, and the German side looked to be home and hosed until Luis Suarez pulled one back for Barca after twelve minutes of the second half.

Bayern quickly restored their three-goal lead, though, as Joshua Kimmich got on the scoresheet just six minutes later. At this point, the game fizzled out slightly until the last ten minutes, when Robert Lewandowski and ex-Barca star Phillipe Coutinho scored another three goals between them to round off the famous 8-2 win in Portugal.

3. It’s Seven It’s Heaven for Aston Villa

One of the biggest shock results of the 2020/21 season was Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool at Villa Park, an incredible day of football really, as this match followed Spurs winning 6-1 at Old Trafford earlier in the afternoon. The Villains raced into a two-goal lead with an Ollie Watkins brace after 22 minutes before Mo Salah pulled one back for Liverpool, which was instantly replied to by John Mcginn, making it 3-1 to Villa.

Ollie Watkins would find the net again to complete his hat-trick before half-time, giving Villa a comfortable three-goal cushion at the break. Some may have thought Klopp’s Liverpool would be able to turn it around and perhaps rescue a point in the second half but instead it only got worse for them as Ross Barkley made it 5-1 ten minutes into the second half. Salah scored again for Liverpool with what effectively turned out to be a consolation goal as Jack Grealish netted twice to finish off a famous win for Villa.

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4. Jesse Lingard

Jumping forward in time now to the second half of the 2020/21 season, Jesse Lingard got sent out on loan to West Ham in a bid for the tenacious midfielder to get some gametime under his belt having only featured in two games for Manchester United so far that season, both of which came in the league cup.

At first glance, it wasn’t a move that sparked much interest, and I think even the most optimistic Hammers fan couldn’t predict what was about to occur, but during his 16 top-flight appearances for West Ham, Lingard set the Premier League alight. The midfielder racked up nine goals and four assists and helped the East London club to a Europa League spot alongside formidable teammates such as Jarred Bowen and Declan Rice. During this period, Lingard became a must-have for any Fantasy Premier League player, as he seemed to pick up at least one goal contribution per game, leading to countless points, making him the ultimate lockdown baller.

5. £14.95 for the worst game of the season?!

During lockdown, television broadcasters came to an agreement to show every Premier League match on live TV across BT Sport, Sky Sports, and Amazon Prime. However, at one point during the 2020–21 campaign, they attempted to charge people extra to watch certain matches, it was a £14.95 price tag per match, and usually one or two matches per game week would be behind this paywall. Obviously, this was not well received in the slightest due to the ongoing financial struggles the vast majority of people were in due to the pandemic.

The worst of these adverts came when BT Sport tried to charge people for the pleasure of watching Sheffield United vs Fulham in October 2020 as the two sides faced off at Bramall Lane. The game turned out to be a fairly dull 1-1 draw, with both teams suffering relegation come the end of the season, as many could’ve predicted before a ball was kicked. Even now, almost four years later, this money-grabbing lunacy is frequently referenced across social media, more often than not in reference to this game and just how dear it was during lockdown.

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6. Only Manchester United Could Win A Game After Full-Time

Arguably the most dramatic game of this period came in the third gameweek of the 2020/21 campaign, when Brighton & Hove Albion hosted Manchester United at The Amex in what turned out to be one of the games of the season.

An extraordinary end to the first half saw Neal Maupay tuck home a 40th-minute penalty to give Brighton the lead before Lewis Dunk scored an own goal to make it 1-1 just before the break. The Red Devils came out firing in the second half as Marcus Rashford put them into the lead with 55 minutes on the clock.

A fairly mediocre 40 minutes followed until Solly March headed home a 95th-minute goal that looked to earn Brighton a well deserved point, Referee Chris Kavanagh would go on to blow the full-time whistle shortly after, amidst penalty shouts from the United squad for a Maupay handball. Kavanagh was then sent to the VAR monitor despite having already blown for full-time, where he would award Manchester United a penalty that Bruno Fernandes would, of course, score to win the game for United in the 100th minute of the match.

The Whackiest Period in Football History:

There we have it then, six of the wildest moments from Lockdown football, and there are so many more that could’ve been covered as well, from Leicester City winning 5-2 at the Etihad to Manchester United’s 9-0 demolition of Southampton at Old Trafford. Certainly the craziest period in football history, football without fans was truly a sight to behold, just hopefully not one we ever have to see again in our lifetimes!

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