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Flashback 2018: One-horse races dominate club football

Manchester City

Bengaluru, December 29: Club football played second fiddle to the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and that was probably just as well given its utter predictability.

Four or the five major European domestic leagues, which concentrate nearly all the top players and most of the sport's wealth, turned into one-horse races in the latest demonstration of the growing gulf between the biggest clubs and the rest.

Records galore

Records galore

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League with five games left, eventually amassing a record 100 points to finish 19 points clear.

The many records they set in the process included the most consecutive Premier League wins (18), the most goals scored (106), the best goal difference (79) and the most passes in a Premier League game (902).

Memorable ties

Memorable ties

The UEFA Champions League produced some memorable ties in the knockout stages but ended in familiar fashion with Real Madrid winning the trophy for the fourth time in fifth seasons, beating Liverpool 3-1 in the final in Kiev.

Real's celebrations where short-lived as coach Zinedine Zidane then resigned and Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus, having scored a club record 451 goals and won 16 trophies during nine seasons.

Merci Arsene

Merci Arsene

There was no denying the quality of the football, arguably the best ever played in the Premier League, yet the contest itself was effectively over by Christmas.

Arsene Wenger's remarkable 22-year spell with the Gunners finally ended, though not in the way the Frenchman would have wanted with his team missing out on this season's UEFA Champions League after finishing sixth.

Serie A an exception

Serie A an exception

Other leagues went on predictable lines. In Spain, Barcelona won La Liga for the third time in four seasons with a 14-point advantage and 99 goals scored, with one defeat all season.

There were no surprises in Germany, either, where Bayern Munich notched a sixth straight Bundesliga title or in France, where Paris Saint-Germain made it five titles out of the last six.

The exception was Serie A where Napoli pushed Juventus all the way but there was still a sense of inevitability that the Turin side would win a seventh title in a row which they did.

Another major coaching move saw former Chelsea, Real Madrid, PSG and Bayern Munich manager Carlo Ancelotti return to Italy after a nine-year absence to coach Napoli.

Fiercest rivalry

Fiercest rivalry

River Plate and Boca Juniors, the Buenos Aires neighbours who share arguably the fiercest rivalry in football, both reached the final of the Copa Libertadores, the equivalent of the Champions League, for the first time in its 58-year history.

The match captured the imagination and, after a 2-2 draw at Boca's Bombonera stadium, it was all set for a memorable second leg.

However, Boca's team bus was pelted with objects as it approached River's Monumental stadium, injuring several players.

After several days of indecision, CONMEBOL ignored protests from both teams and decided to stage the match at Real Madrid's Bernabeu stadium where River came from behind to win 3-1 in a gritty, passionate match.

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    Story first published: Saturday, December 29, 2018, 10:13 [IST]
    Other articles published on Dec 29, 2018
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