The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2012-2013 Premier League season: Goals, great games and gaffes galore

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With the season at an end, our football writers look back and select their highlights, heroes and howlers

James lawton, Chief Sports Writer

Goal of the season

Gareth Bale had so many contenders and Aston Villa's young defender Matthew Lowton could not have improved on his strike against Stoke. But lingering most poignantly is Luis Suarez's extraordinary equaliser for Liverpool against Chelsea. It embodied an intuitive brilliance that if housed in another nature might have made Player of the Year a one-horse race.

Game of the season: Newcastle 3 Chelsea 2

Because it defined the season, and the outcome of the title race, Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3. In Sir Alex Ferguson's last season, his team produced a performance of will that serve as a career epitaph all of its own.

Blunder of the season

There are own goals which betray the perpetrators in the cruellest way but some march straight into football's black museum. Few have earned their place quite as comprehensively as the one Gareth Barry swept so precisely past his Manchester City team-mate Joe Hart against Southampton. It didn't help that it signalled the end of the title defence.

Unsung hero of the season

Sylvain Distin of Everton is getting old enough to play from memory these days. However, it is one which still seems to be more in full and brilliant working order - and never more so than the Frenchman showed in the recent keynote Merseyside derby at Anfield.

Sam Wallace, Chief Football Correspondent

Goal of the season

It might not have been the most spectacular and nor did it come in the biggest game of the season, but there was just something about Dimitar Berbatov's volley on the full against Stoke in February. It is all in the little glance he steals behind him as the ball loops towards him. Insouciant.

Game of the season

The north London derby in March was one of those games, one of those Premier League classics when the reality lives up to the billing: intense, open and attacking with Arsenal coming to White Hart Lane to try to win. Their comeback to take fourth place after that 2-1 defeat has been impressive.

Blunder of the season

The highlight of the January transfer window at QPR for me was not Peter Odemwingie's reckless use of the satnav but Chris Samba being interviewed in the back of a Rolls-Royce outside Loftus Road, £100,000-a-week contract freshly signed, explaining that actually he was not fully fit. It showed. That one was Tony Fernandes' idea.

Unsung hero of the season

Great admiration for the way in which Paul Lambert has stuck with his young players through some very difficult times, including that League Cup elimination at the hands of Bradford. Young players will only thrive if they are given an opportunity and permitted to make mistakes. It was a roller coaster for Villa, but they deserve great credit.

Glenn Moore, Football Editor

Goal of the season

A nugget of gold in a season of dross for QPR by Loïc Rémy last month. A textbook counter-attack led by Stéphane M'Bia's 60-yard break and finished with astonishing power and accuracy, with a shot struck first time on the run with the instep. QPR had hope but Wigan levelled and the season ended grimly for club and scorer.

Game of the season: Aston Villa 6 Sunderland 1

An eye-catching result that signalled Villa's bold decision to go with youth, much of it domestic, and maintain that policy rather than plunge into the January transfer window, was likely to pay off. How many will follow their example?

Blunder of the season

Pick any one of many at Loftus Road: Mark Hughes' transfer policy; Tony Fernandes for not sacking Hughes earlier; Harry Redknapp for agreeing to take over; plus countless errors on the pitch. A car-crash season from beginning to end.

Unsung hero of the season

Steve Clarke inherited a well-drilled team from Roy Hodgson and wisely tinkered little in his first management job, steering West Bromwich Albion to their highest placing since 1981. Their form fell away after Christmas, amid the Peter Odemwingie transfer saga, which may be a concern for next season, but they were never in any danger of the drop this time.

Ian Herbert, Northern Football Correspondent

Goal of the season

Robin van Persie's strike against Aston Villa on the night Manchester United sealed their 20th title. The striker's balance and poise, palms down, eyes fixed on the ball as he watched it on to his left foot made it an object of astounding beauty.

Game of the season: Wigan Athletic 2 Swansea City 3

The game on 7 May was not one for the defensive purists but rarely does a game with so much at stake prove to be so vivid. First Wigan looked hesitant, then they went ahead, then their defence imploded. An extraordinary night which was pivotal to Wigan's relegation.

Blunder of the season

The decision to sell Van Persie to United looked bad for Arsenal but it turned out to be a calamity and the details which have emerged, of Arsène Wenger taking phone calls from Sir Alex Ferguson, telling him that the Dutchman was even better than most people thought, have made a fool of him.

Unsung hero of the season

Gareth Barry. There is something about his presence amid a galaxy of more ostentatious stars which causes him to be overlooked. Many Manchester City players have gone backwards since the title-winning campaign. Few have improved in the way Barry has. Without him, a difficult season would have been worse.

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Goal of the season

Everyone was expecting the lanky No 11 in white to light up the 7 April encounter between Spurs and Everton but it was the Merseyside club's Kevin Mirallas who scored the best goal at White Hart Lane. Running at pace, he beat Scott Parker, cut inside Steven Caulker, went back the other way and shot low across Hugo Lloris.

Game of the season: West Ham 2 Spurs 3

in February was a thrilling, back-and-forth derby under lights, in which both sides held the lead before Gareth Bale settled it with characteristic, comic-book quality, smacking the last-minute winner into the top corner from 25 yards, at the end of a game that had grown faster and tenser as it went on.

Blunder of the season

Spurs' transfer-market diffidence. The club only missed out on Champions League football by one point and their failure to add another midfielder cost them. They were always vulnerable to bad luck and Sandro's knee injury.

Unsung hero of the season

Clean sheets are the foundation of a Sam Allardyce team and West Ham's comfortable survival owed much to Winston Reid. The big New Zealander brought up in Denmark was West Ham's player of the season, impressing with his strength, bravery and character. He missed just two league games and formed an impermeable partnership with James Collins.

Martin Hardy

Goal of the season

Luis Suarez’s strike against Newcastle in November was him at his sublime best. Using his pace to get the wrong side of Fabricio Coloccini as he took a long ball from Jose Enrique on his chest, he completely wrong-footed Tim Krul with a deft touch with his right foot, and then steered the ball into the Newcastle goal.

Game of the season: Newcastle 3 Chelsea 2

There was not much to shout about in the North-east through a dismal season but in February Chelsea visited with Juan Mata and Frank Lampard in full swing and Newcastle, with their new French reinforcements, produced a performance of power and dynamism, particularly from Moussa Sissoko, that made their subsequent poor form difficult to understand.

Blunder of the season

The Luis Suarez bite. This was the striker at his worst. For 10 games the Premier League will not see a truly gifted player, and that punishment feels right. Quite what was going through his head when he bit the arm of Branislav Ivanovic is anyone’s guess.

Unsung hero of the season

Twenty years at any club is worthy of the utmost respect, but after spending two decades at Newcastle, the club goalkeeper Steve Harper rightly calls “bipolar”, Harper deserves even greater credit. After signing back in 1993, Harper went on to play nearly 200 games for Newcastle. His honesty and humour will definitely be missed by all next season at St James’.

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