Sunday, February 1, 2015

1 February 1936 - The Floodgates Opened

On 1 February 1936, the sides in the four levels of the English Football league pyramid set a collective record by scoring (or conceding) a total of 209 goals in a single day. Nine players scored hat-tricks and three players bagged four goals each.

The goals were scored in 44 different matches, for an average of 4.75 goals per match. Highlights included Chester City's 12-0 win over York City and Chesterfield's 5-6 win at Crewe Alexandra, both of which were in Division Three North. In the top flight, Brentford rolled over Wolves 5-0 and West Brom flooded Liverpool 6-1, while the largest margin of victory in Division Two was West Ham's 6-0 win over Bury. The only scoreless League match that day was Aldershot's 0-0 draw with Bristol City in Division Three South.

Division One's last place team Aston Villa delivered the day's biggest upset by beating hosts Derby County, then in second place, by the score of 1-3. The win did little to change Villa's fortunes, however, as they finished second from bottom are were relegated to Division Two.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

31 January 2009 - Wolfsburg Reaches The Turning Point

On 31 January 2009, Wolfsburg drew 1-1 with hosts Köln, continuing their season-long road winless streak in the league. Cruelly, the goal that denied them their first away victory was scored by Köln's Romanian forward Sergiu Radu, who was on loan from Wolfsburg.

Going into the match, the schizophrenic Wolves were sitting 8th in the Bundesliga table, having gone undefeated at home, but their nine previous away matches that season had ended in five losses and four draws. Against Köln, they appeared to be heading for yet another loss, as Radu put the hosts up 1-0 with a strike in the 34th minute. Köln had several chances to increase their lead, but were denied by a combination of poor finishing and excellent work from Wolves' Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio. Wolfsburg salvaged the draw with a 77th-minute equalizer from their Brazilian striker Grafite (pictured).

Although Wolfsburg left with yet another draw, Grafite's goal proved to be a defining moment for the club, as they carried the momentum from the Köln match into a 10-game winning streak. That streak, which included four away wins, equalled the German top flight's record winning streak and finished with Wolfsburg sitting on top of the table.

Wolfsburg lost only twice more that season (both on the road) and remained at the top to claim the Bundesliga title--the club's first major trophy. Grafite went on to become the Bundesliga's top scorer that season, with 28 goals in 25 league appearances, and was named the league's Footballer of the Year.

Friday, January 30, 2015

30 January 2006 - The Rams Butt Brown Out

On 30 January 2006, second-division Derby County sacked manager Phil Brown after only seven months in charge.

Derby had taken a risk in hiring Brown, whose only prior experience in the top job consisted of five matches as caretaker manager of Bolton Wanderers. Bolton won four of the five, but gave the permanent position to Sam Allardyce, who retained Brown as an assistant.

After he took over at Derby in June 2005, the Rams won only seven of their 33 matches, with 14 draws and 12 losses. They were sitting in 19th place when Brown was fired. Derby replaced him with Billy Davies, who led the Rams to promotion for the 2007-08 season, but was himself fired in November 2007 as Derby floundered in the top flight.

Brown, meanwhile, moved to second-division Hull City in December 2006 and led them to the Premier League for the 2008-09 season. Unlike Derby, Hull managed to stay up in their first season, finishing one point out of the relegation zone. That season was not without controversy for Brown, who drew sharp criticism for his behavior, including one incident in which he kept his players on the pitch at halftime and shouted at them in full view of the crowd (pictured above).

Brown's contract at Hull ended in June 2010 after the club dropped into the Championship. In January 2011, he took over at Preston North End, but was unable to save the club from relegation and was sacked eleven months later. He is currently the manager at Southend United, talking charge in March 2013.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

29 January 2006 - Eight May Be Enough, But Nine Is Better

On 29 January 2006, the United States beat Norway 5-0 in a friendly at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Three of the Yanks' goals were scored by forward Taylor Twellman, whose hat-trick was only the ninth in the history of the US national team.

Twellman, who plays his club ball for the MLS' New England Revolution, was making a push for inclusion in the 2006 World Cup side. Despite winning the MLS Golden Boot in 2005, he had scored only one previous international goal, in October 2005, since his call up to the senior team in 2002.

Although Twellman appeared to find his scoring touch, contributing another goal in a 3-2 friendly win over Japan in February 2006, he was not part of the side that traveled to Germany in 2006. That team managed to score only one goal--a 43rd-minute strike from Clint Dempsey against Ghana--and was eliminated from the tournament in the group stage. (They also benefited from an Italy own goal to draw 1-1 with the eventual champions.)

Twellman rejoined the national team for their successful 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign and made his last appearance on 19 January 2008.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

28 January 1978 - Congratulations, Mrs. Buffon, He's A Keeper

On 28 January 1978, Italian superstar and 9-time Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year Gianluigi Buffon was born in Carrara, Italy.

Buffon made his professional debut in 1995 for Parma, the club he had joined as a youth player. He was a key member of the club's 1999 treble-winning side, claiming that year's UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia, and Supercoppa Italiana. In January 2001, he transferred to Juventus for the record goalkeeper fee of €51.5 million.

He continued his run of success for Juve, winning the Serie A title in his first two seasons and advancing to the 2003 Champions League Final, only to lose to Serie A rivals AC Milan on penalties, 0-0 (3-2). When Juventus were relegated to Serie B for the 2006-07 season after being found guilty of match-fixing, many rumors suggested that Buffon would join the exodus of players leaving the club, including Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Patrick Vieira. Buffon, however, stayed with the Old Lady and won promotion back to the top flight at the first opportunity.

Buffon debuted for Italy's senior side in 1997 and, to date, has amassed 100 caps. He had great success in the Azzurri's World Cup-winning run in 2006, conceding only one goal--a Cristian Zaccardi own goal--before the Final. Even in the Final, he did not let in any goals during the run of play, surrendering only penalty kicks as Italy defeated France in a shootout, 1-1 (5-3). His performance earned him the Yashin Award as the tournament's top goalkeeper.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

27 January 2001 - Damarcus' Debut

On 27 January 2001, speedy 18-year old midfielder Damarcus Beasley collected his first cap for the United States senior team in a 2-1 friendly win over China played in Oakland, California. Known primarily for his pace on the left wing, Beasley has also shown versatility, playing at forward and left back for the national team.

Beasley had previously been a standout for the U-17s, who reached the semifinals of the 1999 U-17 World Championship, with Beasley earning the Silver Ball award as the tournament's second most valuable player.

He is the only US international to play in four World Cups--2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. In 2006, he provided the assist for the only goal scored by the Americans, a 43rd-minute equalizer by Clint Dempsey in the final group stage match against Ghana. Beasley put the ball in the back of the net against Italy, but the goal was disallowed after the referee determined that forward Brian McBride had screened the Italian goalkeeper from an offside position. 

In 2014, he played in all four of the US's World Cup matches, then retired from international football in December of that year with a career total of 121 appearances.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

26 January 1963 - The Special One's Special Day

On 26 January 1963, celebrated manager and self-annointed "Special One" José Mourinho was born in Setúbal, Portugal.

After a brief and undistinguished career as a footballer in his native Portugal, Mourinho turned to management, where he enjoyed quick success. He got his first break in 1992 as translator for Bobby Robson, then at Sporting in Lisbon. After spells as an assistant at Porto and Barcelona, and brief periods in charge at Benfica and Leiria, Mourinho moved to Porto in 2002 where he became an international name.

Under Mourinho, Porto won the 2004 Champions League, beating Monaco 3-0 in the Final. In June 2004, Mourinho moved to Chelsea where, in his first press conference, he announced that he thought he was "a special one." He backed up the statement by winning the Premier League title in his first season, Chelsea's first title in 50 years. They repeated as champions in Mourinho's second season.

After winning the FA Cup in May 2007, Mourinho suddenly resigned shortly after the start of the following season amid conflicts with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich over staffing decisions and player purchases. He took the year off from football, then joined Inter in June 2008, winning the Serie A title in his first season in Italy.

He left Inter for Real Madrid in May 2010, then returned to Chelsea in June 2013.