Tuesday, September 1, 2015

1 September 1892 - Anfield Turns Red

On 1 September 1892, Liverpool played their first match at Anfield - a 7-1 win over Rotherham Town in a friendly.

In use since 1884, Anfield had originally been the home ground for Everton, whose President, John Houlding, first leased the land, then bought it outright in 1885. Later, a dispute over rent increases led Everton to vacate the ground in favor of Goodison Park. Rather than allow his investment to go unused, Houlding established a new club, Liverpool, to play at Anfield.

Although Anfield had a capacity at the time of over 20,000, only 200 people showed up to watch the win over Rotherham Town. Attendances quickly improved, however, with Liverpool drawing a crowd of 5,000 for their first Lancashire League match at Anfield, a 4-0 win over Lincoln City. The current attendance record stands at 61,905 for a Fifth Round FA Cup match against Wolves on 2 February 1952, when the stadium still included terraces. Since being converted to an all-seater, Anfield's largest crowd was 44,983 for a Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur in 2006.

Anfield has been a good home to Liverpool, who won all of their matches there in the 1893-94 season and went undefeated there for the 1970-71, 1976-77, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1987-88, and 2008-09 seasons.

Monday, August 31, 2015

31 August 2005 - Wells Face Shootout, Then Police

On 31 August 2005, Tunbridge Wells FC and Littlehampton Town FC set an English record by taking an FA Cup penalty shootout to 40 kicks, almost doubling the previous record of 24.

The sides met in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup and drew 1-1 earlier in the week at Littlehampton, forcing a replay at the Wells' Culverden Stadium. They battled to a 2-2 draw (including two penalty kicks) through the end of extra time, then advanced to the shootout. Still level after five kicks, they kept going into sudden death and took 20 shots each before Tunbridge Wells emerged as winners by the margin of 16 to 15.

Unfortunately, while Culverden has capacity of 3,750 (250 seated), only 122 fans were present to witness the record being set.

As a reward for their perseverance, Wells moved on the Preliminary Round, where they were eliminated by Metropolitan Police FC, 2-0.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

30 August 1953 - Lolo Fernandez's Classic Farewell

On 30 August 1953, forward Teodoro "Lolo" Fernández played in his last Peruvian Clásico derby, finishing as the rivalry's top scorer. It is only one of several scoring records held by Fernández.

Peruvian clubs Universitario de Deportes and Alianza Lima have contested the Clásico since 23 September 1928, when Universitario staked a 1-0 victory. It was a heated match, with the lone goal coming from the penalty spot, while 5 Alianza players were ejected. Fernández signed with Universitario shortly afterward in 1931. By 1932, he was the Peruvian League's top scorer, a feat he repeated in 1933, 1934, 1939, 1940, 1942, and 1945. He also won six league titles (1934, 1939, 1941, 1945, 1946, 1949).

During his tenure, Universitario played in 68 Clásicos, including league matches, cup competitions, and friendlies. During that period, Universitario won 34 and drew 11. In Fernández's last match, he scored a hat-trick to lead Universitario to a 4-1 win and reach his record of 29 Clásico goals. Despite the fierce rivalry, the Alianza Lima supporters applauded him as he left the pitch, perhaps grateful that their club would no longer have to face him in the derby.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

29 August 2009 - Ronaldo Opens His La Liga Account

On 29 August 2009, Real Madrid began their second Galacticos period, opening their La Liga season at home against Deportivo de La Coruña. The match marked the first league appearance for their record £80 million signing, Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who rewarded the Madrid faithful by scoring his first league goal.

Ronaldo started the match alongside fellow Madrid debutants Kaká, Karim Benzema, and Xabi Alonso, all part of Real's €250M summer spending spree. It was veteran forward Raul, however, who put the hosts ahead with a 26th-minute goal. Ronaldo nearly doubled the lead three minutes later, but his header went over the bar.

After Deportivo equalized in the 30th minute with a header from forward Riki, Ronaldo got another chance, as keeper Daniel Aranzubia brought Raul down in the box in the 35th minute and the winger converted the penalty kick. The visitors drew level again in the next minute, leaving Real midfielder Lassana Diarra to score the match-winning goal in the 60th minute.

Friday, August 28, 2015

28 August 1977 - The Cosmos Go Bowling

On 28 August 1977, the New York Cosmos won their first Soccer Bowl, beating the Seattle Sounders 2-1.

Playing before a crowd of 41,270 at the Civic Stadium in Portland, Oregon, the Cosmos capitalized on a mistake by Sounders goalkeeper Tony Chursky to take an early lead. In the 20th minute, Chursky collected a pass intended for Cosmos striker Giorgio Chinaglia and dropped the ball to the ground in front of him, unaware that NY winger Stephen Hunt was lurking nearby. Hunt stole the ball away from Chursky and poked it into an open goal to put the Cosmos up 1-0.

The Sounders responded quickly, with former Cosmo forward Tommy Ord heading in an equalizer four minutes later. Both teams continued to attack, combining for 55 shots (29 from the Cosmos and 26 from the Sounders), but they scored only one more goal - a 78th-minute header from Chinaglia that was set up by a cross from Hunt and again put the Cosmos in front, 2-1.

It was the first Soccer Bowl win for the Cosmos, but their second NASL title, since they had won the pre-Soccer Bowl championship in 1972. For his performance, Hunt was named the match's MVP.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

27 August 2001 - Ferguson's Greatest Mistake

On 27 August 2001, Dutch center back Jakob "Jaap" Stam completed his transfer from Manchester United to Lazio for a United-record £16.5 million. The move was a shock to everyone, including Stam.

Stam had arrived at Old Trafford in 1998 when United bought him from PSV Eindhoven for £10.6 million, making him history's most expensive Dutch footballer to that point. In his three seasons at United, the club won three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. Individually, England's Professional Footballers' Association voted Stam to their Team of the Year for all three seasons.

In the summer of 2001, however, excerpts began appearing in the press from Stam's upcoming autobiography, Head to Head, including criticisms of his United teammates and claims that United manager Alex Ferguson ordered his players to dive in European matches. He also suggested that Ferguson violated FIFA rules in purchasing him from PSV. Within two weeks after those stories broke, Stam found himself in Lazio.

Ferguson claimed that Lazio's offer of £16.5 million - which more than doubled the previous record fee of £7 million received by United from Inter for midfielder Paul Ince in 1995 - was simply too good to refuse. In 2009, Ferguson admitted that Stam's transfer was one of his greatest mistakes, noting that the defender continued to play a top level for several years afterward.

Stam eventually retired in 2007 after seasons at Lazio, Milan, and Ajax.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

26 August 2005 - So Much For Home Advantage

On 26 August 2005, Australia's new football league - the A-League - kicked off with a pair of matches that involved half of the new league's membership.

The A-League was founded in 2004 to replace the National Soccer League, which folded that year after 28 seasons due to financial difficulties. Four teams - Perth Glory, New Zealand Knights, Newcastle Jets, and Adelaide United - made the move to the new A-League and were joined by new clubs Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC, and Central Coast Mariners. The group of eight was rounded out by former NSL side Queensland Roar, who had been playing in the Queensland State League as the Brisbane Lions since 1988.

On that opening day, Perth Glory hosted the Mariners, winners of the league's preseason Challenge Cup, while Newcastle hosted Adelaide. In both matches, the visiting sides won by identical 0-1 scores. It was a sign of things to come as both teams would enjoy success in that first season: Adelaide finished at the top of the regular-season table, while Central Coast advanced to the Final of the playoffs, losing 1-0 to the A-League's first champions, Sydney FC.