Christmas is over and so begins the most depressing month of the year. And as the world’s two biggest pricks hold tape measures between their legs comparing the size of their nuclear warheads, there seems no better time to cherish the simple pleasures of the beautiful game. Before we’re all destroyed in an apocalyptic ball of fire, that is.
‘Tis still the season to be jolly if you’re a Crystal Palace fan. Their extraordinarily bittersweet game against the seemingly unstoppable Manchester City on Sunday saw them end Pep’s side’s record-breaking winning streak and keep an against-all-odds clean sheet against City’s, as of yet, unmatched attacking prowess. It also featured, however, a brilliant penalty save in the dying seconds from City keeper Ederson against Luka Milivojevic, denying Palace a historic win and preserving City’s unbeaten season.
Palace backed up that sterling performance just 48 hours later with a 2-1 win away at Southampton, showing a brazen middle finger to Shane Long’s first goal in over 1300 minutes of football with a comeback secured by penalty-misser Milivojevic 10 minutes from time. And City also came back from the devastating lapse against Palace that saw them concede their second draw this season, going ahead against Watford via a Raheem Sterling tap-in less than a minute in.
Sergio Aguero scored the third and final of City’s goals in their 3-1 win against the hornets, but it wasn’t all shits and giggles according to Guardiola. The ex-Bayern and Barca boss, whose previous teams both play in leagues with a winter break, has been a regular critic of the unrelenting games over the Christmas period in England.
City’s victory over Watford was their tenth game in just a month. Being interviewed after the game, Pep warned that the frequency of games was going to “kill the players”. Gabriel Jesus is already out for a number of weeks after sustaining an injury in the Palace game. Kevin de Bruyne was also injured in the dying moments of that game, stretchered off with his leg in a protective cushion. He still featured in the side that beat Watford, however, in a game that also saw Kyle Walker pull up holding his groin.
Pep praised the tradition of Boxing Day football, which he said was enjoyed by people all over the world, but implored people to think about and protect the “artists” – the players – who are the reason why we all love football. Artists like Jesse Lingard, for example, who the Sun alleged this week deployed his Premier League footballer status to bed a mum-of-one from Sheffield behind the back of his Instagram model girlfriend.
Anybody order an apocalyptic ball of fire?