Saturday, December 31, 2011

31 December 1924 - Barrow Carries The Day(s)

On 31 December 1924, Gillingham and Barrow met for the fifth time in three weeks to resolve their FA Cup sixth round qualification match-up, with Barrow finally edging a win, 2-1.

The teams, both from Division Three, first met in that season's tournament on 13 December, playing to a scoreless draw in Gillingham. Five days later, they met for a replay at Barrow and again drew, this time 1-1 after extra time thanks in part to a penalty converted by Barrow's Harold Kay. On 22 December, they met at a neutral site and again finished 1-1 after extra time. Another Kay penalty ensured that the fourth meeting, played on 30 December at a neutral site, also ended 1-1, to set up a fifth meeting the next day.

Although the attendances had declined from the first match (9,000) to the fourth (2,325), a crowd of 4,242 showed up to watch the fifth meeting, which, like the previous two, was played at a neutral ground. There, Barrow finally secured the 2-1 victory with goals from Fred Laycock and Jim Carrick. In all, the teams had played a total of almost nine and a half hours.

Barrow's reward was a first round match-up against Division Two side Blackpool. They played to a scoreless draw at home, then fell to Blackpool 0-2 in the replay.

Friday, December 30, 2011

30 December 2009 - And A Little Extra For The Home Supporters

On 30 December 2009, Rangers striker Kris Boyd became the Scottish Premier League's all-time leading scorer with a 5-goal haul against Dundee United.

Boyd began his career in the SPL with Kilmarnock, scoring 63 times in 153 league appearances from 2000 to 2006. In January 2006, when he joined Rangers for a transfer fee of £500,000. There, he got off to a flying start by scoring a hat-trick in his debut, a 5-0 win over Peterhead in the third round of the Scottish Cup.

By the time Dundee United arrived at Ibrox in December 2009, Boyd had won one SPL title (2008-09), one Scottish League Cup (2007-08) and back-to-back Scottish Cups (2007-08, 2008-09). He was also sitting on a total of 155 league goals, three behind the SPL record of 158, set by Celtic's Henrik Larsson from 1997 to 2004.

He matched the record before the half-hour mark, starting with a penalty kick in the 20th minute, followed by a long-range effort four minutes later, then a tap-in finish in the 29th minute. He went through a relatively quiet period until deep into the second half before finally breaking Larsson's record with a fourth goal in the 75th minute, then adding another for good measure in the 80th minute. One minute later, manager Walter Smith substituted him and he exited to a massive ovation from the home supporters. Rangers won 7-1.

Boyd left Rangers at the end of the season after collecting another league title and a Scottish League Cup, and increasing the SPL goal record to 164. Since leaving Ibrox, however, he has failed to settle for any club, spending time with Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, and Turkish Süper Lig club Eskişehirspor. He is currently a free agent, having terminated his contract with Eskişehirspor in December 2011, claiming he had not been paid since joining the club in July.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

29 December 1980 - Arrivederci, Gigi

On 29 December 1980, Luigi "Gigi" Peronace, the first football agent in England, died of a heart attack in Montevideo. He was 55 years old.

The Calabria-born Peronace (pictured at far left) held a variety of roles in football, including serving as a translator for Juventus managers William Chalmers and Jesse Carver. He also served as Carver's business manager at Tornio, but left there in 1954 to become the transfer manager at Lazio.

He moved into agency in 1957, when he was contacted by then-Leyton Orient manager Alex Stock, who was interested in taking charge of an Italian club. Peronace helped negotiate a deal with Roma and Stock became their manager later that year. That same year, he was involved in bringing Leeds United forward John Charles to Juventus for a British-record fee of £65,000 (almost double the previous record).

Peronace helped shatter that record when he negotiated the sale of Denis Law from Manchester City to Torino for £100,000. He then beat it again when he helped Law move back to Manchester (this time for Manchester United) for £115,000. Meanwhile, he was also involved in Jimmy Greaves' switch from Chelsea to AC Milan and Joe Baker's move from Hibernian to Torino, then later helped Liam Brady join Juventus from Arsenal.

He wasn't only an agent--in addition to serving as general manager for the Italian national team for the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 European Championship, he helped organize the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1970 (it was later named the Gigi Peronace Memorial).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

28 December 1982 - The Supercopa Gets Real

On 28 December 1982, Real Sociedad won the inaugural Supercopa de España, overcoming a first-leg deficit to beat Real Madrid 1-4 on aggregate.

The Supercopa, which features the previous season's league and Copa del Rey winners, was yet another battleground for the burgeoning rivalry between the two clubs. In 1980, Sociedad finished as league runners-up to Madrid by a single point, then won the title the following year by beating Madrid on goal differential. Meanwhile, Madrid won that season's Copa del Rey after eliminating Sociedad on penalties in the semifinals.

The two met at the Bernabéu on 13 November 1982 for the very first Supercopa match, where a 44th-minute goal from Madrid's Dutch defender John Metgod allowed the hosts to escape with a narrow 1-0 edge. In the return leg, played before a crowd of 30,000 at the Estadio Atocha in San Sebastián, Madrid held onto their lead through the first half. But shortly after the restart, Sociedad forward Pedro Uralde (pictured) scored to level the aggregate at 1-1 (53').

The teams remained deadlocked through regulation, sending the match into extra time. There, in just the 92nd minute, Sociedad forward Roberto López Ufarte put his team ahead 1-2 on aggregate. As Madrid pressed forward to find a goal, they exposed their defense and Uralde netted his second of the day (102') to stretch the aggregate lead to 1-3.

Madrid found the net one minute later, but, unfortunately for them, it was their own, as late substitute back José Salguero put the ball past his own keeper. The contest ended 0-4 (1-4 agg.) to deliver the trophy to Sociedad.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

27 December 2008 - I Doubt He Even Needed A Shower

On 27 December 2008, Chippenham Town striker David Pratt set a new world record. But it wasn't one he wanted to set.

Visiting Bashley for a Southern Premier League meeting, Chippenham's starting line-up included the 21-year old Pratt, but only for three seconds. Immediately after the opening whistle, he committed a lunging tackle on Bashley forward Chris Knowles, drawing a straight red card from referee Justin Amey. Bashley manager Steve Riley praised the ref's decision, saying "The lad's gone in with his studs showing and went straight through my player. It was a potential leg-breaker. The ref had no choice." Fortunately, Knowles was uninjured and, unlike Pratt, remained on the pitch.

Despite going down to 10 men so quickly, Chippenham took the lead in the 10th minute, but Bashley scored two late goals to earn a 2-1 victory.

Pratt's red card is the quickest ever issued to a starting player, beating the previous world record of 10 seconds set by Bologna's Guiseppe Lorenzo in 1990. The previous English record was 13 seconds, set by Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Kevin Pressman in 2000 for handling the ball outside the box. There have been a few substitutes sent off after no time, however, as they received their ejections prior to coming onto the pitch.

For his part, Pratt later said "The world record is not a big deal to me. It's not something that I'm proud of." In May 2009, he moved to his current club, Basingstoke Town, where his play in 2009-10 won him both the Manager's Player of the Year and the Supporters' Player of the Season awards.

Monday, December 26, 2011

26 December 1903 - Ghana's First Football Club

On 26 December 1903, the 22 members of Ghana's first football club, Excelsior, introduced themselves to the country with an exhibition.

The sport arrived in Ghana--then a British colony known as the Gold Coast--a few years earlier, carried there by European traders. By September 1903, it eventually worked its way to Cape Coast in central Ghana, where it captured the attention of students at the Government Boys School. Their headmaster, the enigmatically-named Mr. Briton, encouraged the boys' interest and, according to one report, 22 of them "embarked upon a secret training course in football."

After three months of night practices held under moonlight, the boys, who named their new club "Excelsior," decided to go public. On 26 December, the 22 split into two teams for an exhibition played on a pitch marked out in Victoria Park, complete with goals. Gold Coast governor Sir Fredric Hodgson attended the match.

The exhibition fomented football's popularity and more clubs followed, including Accra Hearts of Oak, Cape Coast Venomous Vipers, Cape Coast Mysterious Dwarfs, Sekondi Hasaacas and Sekondi Eleven Wise. The national team played their first match in 1950 and the Ghana Amateur Football Association eventually formed in 1957.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

25 December 1875 - The First Edinburgh Derby

On 25 December 1875, Hearts and Hibernian met for the very first time, forming one of the oldest existing rivalries in football.

Hibernian, who had been founded earlier that August, had close connections to Edinburgh's Irish Catholic population, with all players required to be members of the Catholic Young Men's Society. And they drew their name from the Roman name for Ireland. As a result, they faced sectarian isolation from many other clubs in the country, with the Scottish Football Association announcing "We are catering for Scotsmen, not Irishmen."

Fellow Edinburgh club Hearts, founded one year earlier, were the first to cross the sectarian divide, meeting Hibs at the Meadows on Christmas Day 1875 for a friendly. And, despite playing with only 8 players for the first 20 minutes, Hearts were rewarded with a 1-0 victory.

Since then, Hearts have enjoyed the better part of the derby, winning a total of 276 matches, including five of the last six. Hibs, meanwhile, have won the derby 200 times, with 142 draws.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

24 December 1889 - An English Rose Transplanted

On 24 December 1889, a group of English railroad workers in Argentina's Santa Fe province founded the Central Argentine Railway Athletic Club. Now known as Rosario Central, it has become one of the country's most distinguished clubs.

The club is one of the oldest existing in Argentina, forming just over twenty years after the introduction of football to the country by English expatriates in 1868. They dominated the local Rosario League, winning a total of twelve titles between 1908 and 1938, including four straight from 1914 to 1917.

In 1939, they joined the national Argentine league, but waited until 1971 to win their first national title. They have since won three more, most recently in 1987. They also claimed international glory in 1991, winning the Copa CONMEBOL (the precursor to the Copa Sudamericana).

Central's Estadio Gigante de Arroyito has been the home to several notable players, including 1978 World Cup winner Mario Kempes (107 league appearances between 1974 and 1976) and current Real Madrid star Ángel di María (35 appearances from 2005 to 2007).

Despite their past success, Central are currently suffering through a decline, having been relegated to the Primera B in 2010.

Friday, December 23, 2011

23 December 2009 - Apparently, It Did End There

On 23 December 2009, Lega Calcio resolved a lengthy dispute between Lazio forward Goran Pandev and his boss, club owner Claudio Lotito, by ordering the club to release Pandev and pay him €160,000.

The Macedonian international had played for Lazio since 2004 and had been a key performer for the Roman club, amassing a total of 60 goals in 177 appearances through the 2008-09 season--a season in which they won the Coppa Italia. But over the summer of 2009, with Pandev entering the last year of his contract, club and player drifted apart over Pandev's demands for a wage increase. When Lazio refused to accede to his demands, Pandev asked for a transfer.

The request incensed Lotito, who referred to the forward as a "rebel" and set a transfer fee at the improbably high amount of €19M. Zenit St. Petersburg approached the club with an offer for €13M, but could not reach an agreement. Meanwhile, Lazio refused to play Pandev and, at times, forced him to train on his own.

With the stalemate showing no signs of resolution, Pandev turned to the Italian league's governing body, Lega Calcio, claiming that Lazio's treatment was a breach of contract. The body agreed and, in their December order, commanded the club to release Pandev and pay him punitive damages. Lotito vowed to appeal, telling the press "I can only say that this doesn't end here."

It did end there, however, as Pandev signed with Inter just over two weeks later.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

22 December 2007 - Bendtner Rises To The Occasion

On 22 December 2007, Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner set an English record by scoring only 1.8 seconds after coming on as a late substitute against Tottenham Hotspur.

Although Bendtner had signed with the Gunners back in 2005, he had spent the 2006-07 season on loan at Birmingham and was eager to establish a place in the Arsenal first team. By December, he had scored crucial goals in the League Cup and the Champions League, but had not yet opened his Premier League account.

His moment finally came in the North London derby, as Arsenal hosted Tottenham. With Bendtner on the bench, Arsenal took a 1-0 lead with a goal from Emmanuel Adebayor (48'), but Dimitar Berbatov (66') drew Spurs level. The visitors had a chance to go ahead in the 72nd minute after the referee awarded a penalty for a Kolo Toure foul on Berbatov, but Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia saved Robbie Keane's tame attempt.

Two minutes later, with the match level at 1-1, Arsene Wenger made an attacking change, sending Bendtner on for midfielder Emmanuel Eboue. The Danish striker immediately positioned himself near the far post for a Cesc Fabregas corner kick, then charged into the goalmouth to head the ball past goalkeeper Paul Robinson. It was Bendtner's first touch of the ball, coming only 1.8 seconds after he entered the match, and proved to be the game winner.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

21 December 2009 - The Award Train Keeps Rolling For Marta

On 21 December 2009, Brazilian forward Marta was named FIFA's Player of the Year for a record fourth time. And she didn't stop there.

Born in 1986, Marta began her professional career in 2000 with Vasco da Gama. In 2003, she moved to Sweden to play for Umeå IK, where she won her first silverware by capturing four league titles, one Swedish Cup, and the 2003-04 UEFA Women's Cup. She scored three goals over the two legs of the UEFA Women's Cup Final to beat Frankfurt and their star player, 2003 FIFA World Player of the Year Birgit Prinz. Prinz repeated as World Player of the Year in 2004 and again in 2005 to set the record at three.

In 2006, Marta won her first Player of the Year award after her third straight season as the Swedish league's top scorer. She won it again in 2007 and 2008, both times over second-place finisher Prinz.

After the third one, Marta moved to the United States to play for the Los Angeles Sol and led them to the league's best record at the end of the regular season. In the WPS playoffs, they advanced to the Final before losing to Sky Blue FC. Marta was the league's top scorer and duly won her record fourth Player of the Year award.

Since then, she went on to win the award in 2010 to stretch the record to five and is in contention for a sixth when the 2011 award is announced on 9 January.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

20 December 1985 - Swansea Sinks To A New Low

On 20 December 1985, the once high-flying Swansea City hit a new low, receiving a formal winding up order. Only quick work from a local businessman saved the club from dissolution.

Founded in 1912 as Swansea Town, the Welsh club joined England's Southern League one year later. In 1920, they moved to the newly-created Third Division of the English Football League and spent the majority of their existence moving among the lower tiers. Their fortunes took a positive turn in 1978 with the appointment of 28-year old manager John Toshack, the youngest manager in the league at the time.

Toshack led them to three promotions in four seasons, taking them all the way from the Fourth Division to the First. Once there, they even held the league's top spot for several weeks before finishing in sixth place at the end of their first top-flight season. The success didn't last, however, and they fell as quickly as they had risen, suffering three relegations in four seasons to end up back in Division Four for the 1986-87 season. Toshack received his dismissal in 1984.

But the real low point came in December 1985, as financial problems led the High Court to issue a formal order winding the club up for an inability to pay its debts. With the club poised for liquidation, local businessman Doug Sharpe intervened. He took over as owner and quickly came up with a business plan to forestall the club's dissolution. In response, the court granted permission to the club to continue.

They then began the long road back to the top flight, culminating in promotion to the Premier League for the 2011-12 season.

Monday, December 19, 2011

19 December 2002 - Rowley Rests In Peace

On 19 December 2002, striker Arthur Rowley died at the age of 76. His career total of 434 goals remains an English league record.

Born in Wolverhampton in 1926, Rowley began his professional career in 1944 with West Brom. He failed to settle at the Hawthorns, however, and moved to Fulham in 1948. There, his 19 goals helped the Cottagers win the Second Division, but his scoring touch left him in the top flight and Fulham sold him on to Leicester City in 1950.

He flourished at Leicester, knocking in 28 goals in his first season there. In his second season, he increased his tally to 38, then raised it again the next year to 41. In all, he scored a total of 265 goals in 321 appearances for the Foxes, making him their second all-time leading scorer, behind Arthur Chandler (273 in 419 appearances). His best season was 1956-57, when his total of 44 set a club record for a single season.

In the summer of 1958, Leicester manager Dave Halliday sold Rowley to Shrewsbury as player-manager (an unpopular move among Leicester fans and one that contributed to Halliday's sacking later that year). Rowley continued to score in waves, netting 38 times in his first season there--and setting another club record for single season. By the time he retired from playing in 1965, he was the club's all-time leading scorer with 152 league goals.

He remained with Shrewsbury as manager for another three years and later took charge of Sheffield United (1968-69), Southend United (1970-76), and Knighton Town (1976) before retiring for good.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

18 December 1926 - Rochdale's Big Day

On 18 December 1926, Rochdale got their biggest margin of victory, beating Chesterfield 8-1. They got five goals from center forward Albert Whitehurst, who was in the midst of a record-setting year.

The match was a Third Division contest, played at Rochdale's Spotland Stadium. When the day started, the Dale were flying high in second place, despite having just finished back-to-back draws with Walsall and Rotherham United, but Chesterfield were only one spot lower in third, making a near top-of-the-table clash.

And although Chesterfield had a potent attack of their own--having beaten Barrow 8-1 the previous month--the day belonged to Rochdale. Whitehurst, in his fourth season there, delivered five of the goals, part of his club-record tally of 44 goals on the season.

The result kept Rochdale in second and dropped Chesterfield down to seventh, which turned out to be their finishing spots for the season. Whitehurst remained with the Dale for one more season before moving to Liverpool in 2008.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

17 December 2006 - The Only Stat That Matters

On 17 December 2006, Barcelona dominated Internacional in the Club World Cup Final in all statistical categories but one--the score.

Playing before a crowd of 62,128 at Yokohama's International Stadium, Barcelona had better possession than the Brazilians (57% to 43%) and also outshot them 17 to 10. Meanwhile, Internacional played a cynical game, delivering more than twice as many fouls (25) as they received (10).

Only two of Internacional's shots were on goal, but it was the last one that counted. Substitute forward Luiz Adriano corralled a long pass near the midfield stripe and maneuvered around defender Carles Puyol to slide a pass toward his fellow substitute, Adriano Gabiru. Defender Rafael Márquez stepped up to challenge him, but slipped, leaving the striker one-on-one against goalkeeper Victor Valdés. Valdés did well to get a hand on Adriano Gabiru's shot, but the ball still ended up in the net for the game's only goal.

Barcelona eventually won the competition in 2009 and are preparing to face another Brazilian club, Santos, for a shot at another.

Friday, December 16, 2011

16 December 2006 - An Expensive Sheet Of Stationery

On 16 December 2006, a note belonging to German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann sold at auction for €1 million. It was the cheat sheet that helped him guide Germany past Argentina in a quarterfinal shootout at the 2006 World Cup.

Although Lehmann made his national team debut in 1998, he spent the first several years stuck behind Oliver Kahn and did not play in the 1998 or 2002 World Cups. But he finally supplanted Kahn as Germany's number one for the 2006 tournament and had an impressive run, giving up two goals in their opening match, then keeping three straight clean sheets to set up the quarterfinal meeting with Argentina.

The Argentines took a 49th-minute lead with a goal from Roberto Ayala, but Miroslav Klose's 80th-minute equalizer sent the match into extra time, which finished 1-1 to set up a penalty shootout. In preparation, Germany's goalkeeper coach, Andreas Koepke, gave a note to Lehmann with a listing of some of Argentina's likely shooters and their tendencies. Lehmann kept it in his sock and checked it before every kick.

Argentina's Julio Cruz converted their first kick, but Lehmann stopped their second attempt, diving to his left to catch Ayala's shot (for Ayala, the note said "long wait, long run right"). He nearly stopped their third attempt, then--with Germany up 4-2--he again dove to his left to deny the shot from Esteban Cambiasso (whose name wasn't even on the list) and secure the victory.

Lehmann kept the note, then donated it to a charity auction where it was purchased by a German utility company, Energie Baden-Wuerttenberg.

[Click here to see the penalty shootout on YouTube.]

Thursday, December 15, 2011

15 December 1952 - The Prince Of Denmark

On this day in 1952, Danish international striker Allan Simonsen was born in Vejle. He went on to become the first player to score in all three of the European Cup, UEFA Cup, and Cup Winners' Cup finals, and was the first Danish player to be named European Footballer of the Year.

He started his professional career in 1971 with his hometown club, Vejle BK, where he helped the club to the Danish league title in his first season. They repeated as champions in 1972, complemented with a victorious Danish Cup campaign. Simonsen's play drew the attention of defending Bundesliga champions Borussia Mönchengladbach, who signed him later that year.

Although it took his a while to acclimate to his new German surroundings, he ultimately became a key player for his new club, scoring 76 goals in 178 league appearances between 1972 and 1979. Along the way, he won three Bundesliga titles (1975, 1976, 1977), two UEFA Cups (1975, 1979), and one German Cup (1973). They also reached the final of the European Cup in 1977, but lost 3-1 to Liverpool, with Simonsen scored the Germans' lone goal. His performance in that 1976-77 season made him the 1977 European Footballer of the Year.

In 1979, after scoring the winning goal in that year's UEFA Cup Final, he moved to Barcelona. In three seasons there, he added the Copa del Rey (1981) to his silverware collection, then scored another match-winning goal in European competition to beat Standard Liège in the 1982 Cup Winners' Cup.

After a short time with Charlton Athletic (1982-83), Simonsen finished his playing career back in Vejle, winning yet another Danish league title in 1984 before retiring in 1989. He has since moved into management with Vejle (1991-94), the Faroe Islands (1994-2001), and Luxembourg (2001-04), and is currently the general manager for Danish club FC Fredericia.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

14 December 1994 - The Hardman Cometh (To Wales)

On 14 December 1994, 30-year old English midfielder Vinnie Jones received his first international call-up--for Wales.

Jones, who was born the English town in Watford, had made his reputation as the leader of the Wimbledon FC "Crazy Gang" that won the 1988 FA Cup over Liverpool. Self-proclaimed as one of football's hardest men, he lived up to the billing by playing with a reckless abandon and earning a slew of red cards along the way. While at Wimbledon, he committed two of his most infamous acts--inflicting a 1986 knee injury on Spurs defender Gary Stevens that eventually ended his career and grabbing Newcastle midfielder Paul Gascoigne by the testicles in 1987.

By 1994, he had rejoined Wimbledon after spells with Leeds United (1989-90), Sheffield United (1990-91), and Chelsea (1991-92) and was hoping to make the move into international football. With England looking elsewhere, he qualified to play for Wales through his maternal grandmother and duly received his first call-up by manager Mike Smith.

To his credit, Jones quickly embraced his new team, learning the Welsh national anthem in short order and reportedly getting a tattoo of a dragon over his heart. But Wales were a side in decline and lost on his debut to Bulgaria, 0-3, in a European Championship qualifier.

Jones went on to make a total of nine appearances for Wales, and even captained the team, but never got to taste international victory. And his "Crazy Gang" behavior followed him as, in just his fourth game, he was ejected in the 27th minute for stepping on an opposing player's groin in a 1-0 loss to Georgia.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

13 December 2008 - When The Paradigm Shifted In Spain

On 13 December 2008, Barcelona won their first Clásico in almost three years, beating Real Madrid 2-0.

It is difficult to picture at the moment, with Barça having just won their eighth match against their Madrid rivals in twelve tries across all competitions (the lone loss came in the 2011 Copa del Rey Final), but there was a time not too distant in which Real Madrid were the dominant team. Since suffering a 3-0 loss to Barcelona on 19 November 2005, the Merengues rattled off a five-match unbeaten streak that included three wins and two draws, all in the league.

The last match of that run was the worst for Barcelona as, on 5 May 2008, Real Madrid won 4-1 at the Bernabéu with goals from Raúl (12'), Arjen Robben (20'), Gonzalo Higuaín (62'), and Ruud van Nistelrooy (77') (Barcelona's lone goal was an 86th-minute consolation strike from Thierry Henry). It was the final nail in the coffin for Barça manager Frank Rijkaard, as the club announced shortly afterward that he would be replaced at the end of the season by youth team coach Pep Guardiola. Real Madrid, meanwhile, went on to claim their second consecutive La Liga title

Guardiola duly took over the following month and immediately began to reshape the team by offloading a number of players, including two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho. After an opening day loss to Numancia, Guardiola's Barcelona went unbeaten in their next thirteen league matches, with eleven wins and two draws. They were at the top of the table on 13 December when they hosted Real Madrid for Guardiola's first Clásico as manager. It was close until the last few minutes, when goals from Samuel Eto'o (83') and Lionel Messi (90') delivered a 2-0 victory.

Since then, Barcelona have extended their unbeaten streak against Madrid to seven league matches, with six wins and one draw. They've also gone undefeated against their rivals in the Champions League and the Supercopa de España, with a win and a draw in each of those competitions.

Photo credit to Albert Olive/EPA.

Monday, December 12, 2011

12 December 2001 - The Death Of The World's Greatest Goalscorer

On 12 December 2001, former Slavia Prague forward Josef "Pepi" Bican passed away at the age of 88. His career total of over 1,460 goals is the greatest tally in the recorded history of football.

Born in Vienna in 1913, Bican began his professional career in 1931 with Rapid Vienna and two years later earned his first cap for Austria. He stayed with Rapid for three years, scoring 184 goals in 144 appearances in all competitions. In 1934, he moved across town to Admira Vienna, where he continued his blistering scoring pace, knocking in another 119 goals in 85 appearances across all competitions. He also got his first silverware, winning the league in 1936 and 1937.

He moved to Slavia Prague in 1937 and remained there until 1948 (a year after making the switch, he also switched his international team, exchanging Austria in favor of Czechoslovakia). His form followed him, as he was Europe's top scorer in each season from 1939-40 to 1943-44 (admittedly while many leagues were suspended for World War II). In all, he made 427 recorded appearances for Slavia Prague, including friendlies, scoring an incredible total of 832 goals.

He retired as a player in 1956, having spent brief periods with Sokol Vítkovice (93 goals from 1949 to 1951), Hradec Králové (18 goals from 1952 to 1953), and Dynamo Prague (81 goals from 1953 to 1956). His career total of 1,468 makes him the highest goalscorer in world history, over subsequent--and more familiar--luminaries such as Pelé (1,284 in all competitions) and Gerd Müller (1,461 in all competitions).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

11 December 1988 - PSV's Penalty Luck Runs Out

On 11 December 1988, Nacional eventually claimed the Intercontinental Cup, beating PSV Eindhoven in a penalty shootout that reached a total of 20 kicks.

Playing before a crowd of 62,000 at the National Stadium in Tokyo, the Copa Libertadores champions went up in the 7th minute with a powerful header from Uruguayan midfielder Santiago Ostolaza off a corner kick. They held onto their lead until the 75th minute, when PSV's Brazilian striker Romário delivered an equalizer with a header of his own.

Level at 1-1 after 90 minutes, the match went to extra time, where PSV took the lead with a 110th-minute penalty kick from center back Ronald Koeman, who sent his shot straight down the middle. But nine minutes later, with PSV looking almost certain to win, Ostolaza struck again with another header to send the match into penalty kicks.

Penalty kicks had been kind to PSV earlier in the year, as they topped Benfica in the European Cup 0-0 (6-5). But after five kicks each, the two teams were still level, having converted three each. After Ostolaza converted the ninth kick for Nacional to stay level at 6-6, PSV right back Barry van Aerle missed his kick, opening the door for the Uruguayans, who won 2-2 (7-6) after Tony Gómez converted his attempt.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

10 December 1997 - This Is How Hao Does It

On 10 December 1997, striker Hao Haidong enjoyed a record day en route to a banner year for Chinese top flight champions Dalian Wanda.

The 27-year old spent the first ten years of his career with rivals Bayi FC, where he had scored 19 goals in 48 league appearances. But in 1997, he moved to Dalian for a club-record fee of 2.2 million yuan. Dalian were already a successful side, having won the Chinese top flight title in 1994 and 1996 (having gone undefeated in the latter season with 12 wins and 10 draws), but the addition of Hao improved both club and player.

At Dalian, Hao began scoring at a blazing pace, eventually winning the league's golden boot with a total of 14. But his biggest haul came on 10 December when he put four past the keeper in a 5-2 rout of Guangdong Hongyuan. It matched the single-match goal record set by Hu Zhijun in 1994 and, though it has been repeated on six subsequent occasions, it has never been topped.

Dalian proceeded to win the league title that season with 15 wins, 6 draws, and 1 loss to better their points tally from the previous season, and also won that year's Chinese Super Cup. They repeated as league champions in 1998 with Hao repeating as the golden boot winner. Before he left for Sheffield United in 2005, he was the league's all-time top scorer with 96 goals in 185 appearances (though he was later passed by Li Jinyu, who scored 120 goals in 251 appearances between 1999 and 2010).

Friday, December 9, 2011

9 December 1984 - Percudani Pounces On Liverpool

On 9 December 1984, Independiente won their second Intercontinental Cup, beating Liverpool 1-0.

The Argentinians were making their sixth appearance in the competition after a 10-year absence and a previous record of four losses (1964, 1965, 1972, 1974) and one win--a 1-0 victory over Juventus in 1973. Liverpool, meanwhile, were in it for only the second time after losing 3-0 to Flamengo in 1981.

Playing before a crowd of 62,000 at Tokyo's National Stadium, Liverpool's attack featured the high-scoring forward pairing of Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush (Rush was Europe's top scorer that season with 32 goals in 41 league appearances). But it was 19-year old Independiente striker José Percudani (pictured) who got the day's only goal. He sprinted past the Liverpool defense to latch on to a pass that had been sent from beyond the midfield stripe, then beat goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar with a tidy left-footed finish.

It turned out to be the last time in the competition for either club, though Liverpool made an appearance in the 2005 edition of its successor, the FIFA Club World Cup, losing 1-0 to São Paulo.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

8 December 1929 - The Beginning Of A Beautiful Rivalry

On 8 December 1929, Lazio and Roma faced off for the first time, with Roma winning thanks to a late goal from striker Rodolfo Volk.

Tensions existed between the two teams even before that first match. Roma were founded in 1927, consolidating three other clubs based in the Italian capital in an effort to build a team that could compete with the more powerful northern clubs. Lazio, founded in 1900, resisted inclusion in that group, the only major team from Rome to do so.

Their first meeting was a Serie A match, played at Lazio's Campo Rondinella. Roma claimed victory as Volk's 73rd-minute goal was the only one of the day. Since then, they have played a total of 169 times, with Roma winning 48 to Lazio's 35. Roma have dominated the derby recently, winning seven of the last ten, but Lazio took the most recent honors with a 2-1 victory in October 2011. They also hold the record for the longest winning streak, taking six consecutive matches from 1950 to 1953.

The rivalry--known as the Derby della Capitale--has become one of the more heated derbies in football, with several incidents of violence on both sides. The worst moment came in 1979, when a Roma supporter fired a flare into the crowd, killing Lazio supporter Vincenzo Paparelli.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

7 December 1997 - The Passing Of A Leeds Legend

On 7 December 1997, former Leeds United captain Billy Bremner died after being hospitalized for pneumonia. He was 54 years old.

Born in the Scottish city of Stirling, Bremner joined Leeds United in 1959 at the age of 17 and played there for 18 seasons. He became a regular starter in just his second season and helped them earn promotion to the top flight in 1964 under manager Don Revie.

He played with an intensity and toughness that belied his small stature (he was 5' 5"), earning the respect of teammates and opponents alike. In 1966, he took over as captain and pushed Leeds to domestic and European heights, winning the League Cup (1968), FA Cup (1972), two league titles (1969, 1974), and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups (1968, 1971), while also reaching the finals of the European Cup (1975) and Cup Winners' Cup (1973). His career was not without controversy, however, as he developed a reputation for dirty play and once received a suspension for fighting with Liverpool's Kevin Keegan.

By the time he left Elland Road in 1976, he had made 772 appearances for the club, only one match behind their all-time leader, Jack Charlton. He moved to Hull City briefly (1976-79), then joined Doncaster Rovers (1979-81) as player-manager. He returned to Leeds in 1985 as manager, then moved back to Doncaster in 1989 and retired in 1991.

In December 1997, he contracted pneumonia, then died of a suspected heart attack just two days short of his 55th birthday.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

6 December 2010 - Just Another Step In Their Plan For World Domination

On 6 December 2010, FIFA and France Football magazine announced the three finalists for the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or. And all three were from FC Barcelona.

The award was a combination of France Football's Ballon d'Or, started in 1956, and FIFA's World Player of the Year award, which began in 1991. In 2010, the two organizations agreed to merge their awards, calling the new honor the FIFA Ballon d'Or.

They announced their shortlist of 23 players on 27 October, then culled the list to the top three vote-getters on 6 December. The three were Barcelona's Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, and Lionel Messi, who had won both the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2009. Although Barcelona had won La Liga in 2010, the inclusion of Xavi and Iniesta was due in part to their World Cup-winning run with Spain the previous summer. But Messi went on to win the award when it was announced in January 2011.

It was not the first time that a single club took the top three spots in Ballon d'Or voting: AC Milan did it in 1988, when Marco van Basten beat out Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, then again in 1989, when van Basten won it again, that time over Rijkaard and Franco Baresi.

Monday, December 5, 2011

5 December 2009 - Clearly, They Didn't Believe In Cover Jinxes

On 5 December 2009, the Sun celebrated England's draw for the 2010 World Cup by using their opponents' names to form the word "EASY" on their cover. It turned out to be a little more difficult than they thought, however.

The draw, which had taken place the previous day in South Africa, placed England in a group with the United States, Algeria, and Slovenia. Calling it "the best English group since the Beatles," the Sun headline touted the draw as "England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks." Several commentators agreed, with former English international Jack Charlton going so far to say "I think it is probably the easiest of the World Cup groups."

It turned out to be anything but, as England struggled to draws with the United States and Algeria in their two opening matches. Going into the group's last match day, they were level on points with the United States and needed a result against leaders Slovenia to ensure their progress into the next round.

As it turned out, they advanced with a 1-0 win over Slovenia, but did so as the group's second place team after the US topped the group by defeating Algeria. The relief was short-lived, however, as both England and the US were knocked out in the next round with losses to Germany and Ghana, respectively.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

4 December 1933 - Arsenal Guns Down The Wunderteam

On 4 December 1933, Arsenal faced off against the Austrian Wunderteam and won, 4-2.

Guided by manager Hugo Meisl and captain Matthias Sidelar (pictured), Austria were one of Europe's most dominant teams of the 1930s, earning the nickname "Wunderteam." They rattled off a 14-game unbeaten streak in 1931-32, including routs of Scotland (5-0), Germany (6-0, 5-0), and Hungary (8-2). They also won the 1932 Central European International Cup with a 4-2 victory over Italy in the final.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were enjoying a successful period of their own, having recently won the 1930 FA Cup and the 1931 and 1933 league titles under manager Herbert Chapman.

Chapman was friends with Meisl, prompting the friendly. But FA rules prohibited English clubs from playing international sides, so Austria arrived at Highbury for the match thinly disguised as FC Vienna. The Times called it a "thrilling match," with Arsenal taking a 3-1 lead before the teams swapped late goals to finish the day 4-2.

Austria went on to finish fourth in the 1934 World Cup, then went into decline after the death of Meisl in 1937. Arsenal proceeded to win the league title in 1934, but manager Herbert Chapman was not there to see it, as he died on 6 January 1934, just over a month after the win over Austria.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

3 December 1906 - The Rise And Fall Of An Italian Superclub

On 3 December 1906, a group that included some former Juventus players and future Italy manager Vittorio Pozzo founded AC Torino, alternatively one of Italy's most successful and most tragic clubs.

The founders met at the Voigt brewery in Turin and included a number of former Juventus players, including Alfredo Dick, who were upset by their former club's discussions about moving out of Turin. The group also included Swiss businessman Hans Schoenbrod, who served as the club's first chairman, and 20-year old former Grasshopper Zürich player Vittorio Pozzo, who went on to manage the club before later taking charge of Italy for three separate spells, including their victorious 1934 and 1938 World Cup campaigns.

Torino won their first league title in 1928, but became Italy's dominant team in the 1940s with a team known as Il Grande Torino. They won five scudettos in the decade, including four straight from 1946 to 1949. Their run of incredible success ended in tragedy, however, as a plane crash in May 1949 killed 18 players and several club officials, journalists, and the crew.

The crash sent Torino into a decline and they have spent the majority of the intervening years moving between Serie A and Serie B, though they did win another league title in 1976. In 2005, the Italian football association expelled Torino from the league for financial reasons, but they returned later that year as Torino FC.

Friday, December 2, 2011

2 December 1997 - Rovers Get Lynched

On 2 December 1997, Wigan Athletic and Bristol Rovers matched an English record by receiving a total of five red cards--four of them in the first half.

The two teams met in a Second Division contest at Wigan's Springfield Park, where a crowd of 2,738 watched the newly-promoted Latics take an early lead against second-place Bristol City with a 20th-minute goal from midfielder Ian Kilford.

But the real excitement started in first-half stoppage time, as referee Kevin Lynch (pictured) issued a second yellow card to Rovers defender David Pritchard. As the remaining players jockeyed for position in front of the Bristol goal for the ensuing free kick, a fight broke out, resulting in three more ejections--for Wigan striker Graeme Jones and Bristol's Jason Perry and Andy Tillson.

The day's final red card came in the 71st minute, as Rovers midfielder Josh Low received a second yellow. Wigan took advantage of their 10-to-7 man advantage and got two goals from winger David Lowe (78', 85').

That last ejection matched the record of 5 set by Chesterfield and Plymouth Argyle just the previous February (with 2 and 3, respectively). It remains a joint record, happening once more in a 2002 match between Exeter City (3) and Cambridge (2).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

1 December 1998 - Real's Raúl Sinks Vasco Da Gama

On 1 December 1998, Real Madrid won their second Intercontinental Cup, beating Vasco da Gama 2-1 in Tokyo with a late strike from Raúl González.

Champions League winners Madrid were making their third appearance in the competition, after winning it in 1960 and losing it in 1966 (both times against Peñarol). It was the first appearance for Vasco, who had won the Copa Libertadores the previous August.

A crowd of 54,514 gathered at Tokyo's National Stadium to watch the match, with Madrid taking a first-half lead thanks to an own goal--in attempt to head away a cross from Roberto Carlos, Vasco midfielder Nasa deflected the ball past his own goalkeeper in the 25th minute. Undaunted, the Brazilians pressed forward for an equalizer and were rewarded in the 56th minute. Madrid's German goalkeeper, Bodo Illgner, parried one shot, but knocked the ball into the path of Nasa's midfield partner Juninho, who placed it perfectly into the top right corner.

Both teams had several chances to take the lead, but were denied repeatedly by brilliant play from both keepers (and, in Vasco's case, a couple of near misses). Real Madrid forward Raul then struck the decisive blow in the 83rd minute when he outraced the Vasco back line to latch onto a long ball, beat two defenders, and slipped the ball past keeper Carlos Germano.

It was Vasco's only appearance in the competition, while Real Madrid returned twice more, winning it again in 2000.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30 November 1983 - Bilbao Bagged By Barça

On 30 November 1983, Barcelona won their first Supercopa de España, beating Athletic Bilbao 3-2 on aggregate. They have since gone on to become the competition's most successful club.

It was only the second Supercopa, which pits the previous season's Copa del Rey winner against the reigning La Liga title holder. But a similar competition, the Copa Eva Duarte, was played from 1947 to 1953m which Barcelona won three times, the most for any club (no other club won it more than once).

Bilbao had won the league the previous season, including two defeats of Barcelona along the way, while Barcelona had taken the honors in the Copa del Rey over Real Madrid. The two teams met Bilbao's Estadio San Mamés on 26 October for the first leg of the Supercopa, with Barcelona claiming a 1-3 victory.

In the second leg, played before a crowd of 18,000 at the Camp Nou, Bilbao forward Endika (pictured) scored in just the 2nd minute to set the stage for a comeback, but it proved to be the only goal of the match as the two defenses held firm and Barcelona took the silverware with an aggregate score of 3-2.

Barça have since won the Supercopa a total of 10 times, most recently in 2011, to become the competion's most successful club. Bilbao, meanwhile, went on to win a league and Copa del Rey double in 1984, making them that year's automatic Supercopa champions. Unfortunately for them, however, that remains their last major trophy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

29 November 1997 - So Close, And Yet So Far

On 29 November 1997, Iran qualified for their first World Cup in 20 years with a late goal against Australia in a playoff.

It was the second playoff of Iran's qualification campaign as, after finishing second in their Asian Football Confederation group, they lost a playoff after extra time to the other AFC group's second-place finisher, Japan. That loss sent them to the two-legged intercontinental playoff against Oceania champions Australia.

In the first leg, played at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, Australia took a 19th-minute lead, but surrendered a goal in the 40th minute and the match ended as a 1-1 draw. They met at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the second leg one week later, where the match played out in similar fashion.

Australia went up 2-0 with goals from Harry Kewell (32') and Aurelio Vidmar (48') and appeared to have secured their place in the World Cup. But Iranian midfielder Karim Bagheri pulled one back in the 71st minute, then forward Khodadad Azizi got the equalizer four minutes later, beating goalkeeper Mark Bosnich. The match ended 2-2 and the aggregate score of 3-3 sent Iran to the World Cup on away goals.

There, they secured a dramatic 1-2 win over the United States, but were eliminated in the group stage with losses to Yugoslavia and Germany.

Monday, November 28, 2011

28 November 1885 - The First International International

On 28 November 1885, the United States hosted Canada in the first international match to be played outside the United Kingdom. Canada won, 0-1.

The match, played in New Jersey, predated the formation of both the Canadian and American football federations. Instead, Canada's Western Football Association arranged the contest with the unofficial governing body of US football, the American Football Association. As a result, both countries consider it an unofficial international.

According to the match report in the New York Times, the match was "played according to the American Association rules," but they conferred no advantage to the hosts, who went down 0-1 in the tenth minute. After that goal, a correspondent for the Globe of Toronto said "the balance of the game was simply an exhibition of reckless kicking and rough and tumble play." A fistfight broke out between a couple of players.

Canada's goalkeeper, J. N. McKendrick, was outstanding and repeatedly denied the Americans' attempts on goal as the match ended as a Canadian victory.

The match was such a success that a repeat was scheduled the following year on the same pitch, with the US winning 3-2.

(For more details on the match, visit Richard Whittal's excellent blog, A More Splendid Life.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

27 November 2010 - Another Bad Day To Be A Goalkeeper

On 27 November 2010, the Premier League saw its greatest ever goal tally for a single day as teams found the net a record 36 times.

Sixteen teams played that day and every one of them scored at least one goal. There were a handful of debuts as West Ham's Victor Obinna and Arsenal's Jack Wilshere got their first league goals (in wins over Wigan and Aston Villa, respectively), while Villa midfielder Ciaran Clark netted the first and second goals of his career.

But the day's best performance came from Dimitar Berbatov, who struck five times for Manchester United in a 7-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers. In doing so, the Bulgarian became only the fourth Premier League player to score five in one match, following Jermain Defoe, Alan Shearer, and Andy Cole.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

26 November 1996 - Del Piero Peels Bonano

On 26 November 1996, a late strike from Alessandro Del Piero secured a second Intercontinental Cup for Juventus.

Played at the National Stadium in Tokyo, the competition (known at the time as the Toyota Cup) pitted Juventus, the reigning Champions League winners, against the Copa Libertadores champions, River Plate. Both teams were looking for their second title--Juventus having won it in 1985 and River Plate in 1986.

The 1996 edition was a dynamic end-to-end affair, with the majority of chances coming from Juventus. They would have won easily if not for the performance of River Plate keeper Roberto Bonano, who denied a handful of point-blank shots. But Del Piero eventually tipped the delicate balance in the 81st minute; a Juventus corner kick was met by Zinedine Zidane, who headed it down to Del Piero for the match-winning shot.

It was the last appearance for either team in the competition, which ended in 2004 and was replaced by the FIFA Club World Cup.

Friday, November 25, 2011

25 November 1970 - Shilton Starts His Record Run

On 25 November 1970, England beat East Germany 3-1 in a friendly at Wembley Stadium. It was the debut for goalkeeper Peter Shilton who went on to become England's all-time appearances leader.

The 21-year old Shilton was a star for Leicester City, where he had displaced England World Cup-winning keeper Gordon Banks three years earlier. His performances for Leicester impressed Sir Alf Ramsey, who called him up for the match against East Germany.

He delivered a strong performance, surrendering only a 27th-minute goal to Eberhard Vogel, the 1969 East German Player of the Year. England, meanwhile, got goals from Francis Lee (12'), Martin Peters (21'), and Allan Clarke (63') en route to a comfortable win.

Injuries from a car accident ended Banks' career in 1972, with Shilton battling Liverpool keeper Ray Clemence to become the new England number one. The two split time for the next decade, though Shilton got the lion's share of appearances. By the time he retired in 1990, he had accumulated a total of 125, blowing past the previous record of 108 set by Bobby Moore (Moore's record was since passed by David Beckham with 115).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

24 November 2008 - An Exercise In Delaying The Inevitable

On 24 November 2008, Arsenal made Cesc Fabregas their captain, replacing defender William Gallas.

Gallas, a center back who joined the Gunners from Chelsea in September 2006, had held the captaincy for just over a year, but it was a year shadowed by controversy. In particular, he drew fierce criticism from supporters and commentators alike for losing his composure in a 2-2 draw at Birmingham City in February 2008--the same match in which teammate Eduardo suffered a broken leg.

The situation grew dimmer for the French international in the 2008-09 season as, fourteen games into the season, Arsenal had lost three of their last four to drop into 5th place. After the third loss, a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City, manager Arsène Wenger announced that the 21-year old Fabregas would permanently replace Gallas.

The switch sparked rumors that Wenger had given the armband to Fabregas in attempt to keep him out of the clutches of Barcelona, who were engaged in a highly public pursuit of the Spanish international midfielder (who began his career in the Barça youth academy). Whatever the reason, it yielded immediate results as Arsenal beat Chelsea 1-2 in Fabregas' first match as captain.

Injuries limited Fabregas' time on the pitch, however, and Arsenal limped to a fourth-place finish in 2009 and a third-place finish in 2010. In the summer of 2011, Fabregas finally made the switch to his Barcelona for a transfer fee of £29 million plus incentives.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

23 November 1981 - Flamengo Strikes Against Cobreloa

On 23 November 1981, Flamengo survived a battle of attrition with Cobreloa to win the Copa Libertadores in a replay that had two goals and five red cards.

The two teams split the first two legs of the final, with each holding serve at home. The second match, won by Cobreloa 1-0 in Santiago, was a heated affair that drew blood from one Flamengo player and saw another get stepped on while lying on the ground.

That set the tone for the replay, contested at the neutral location of Montevideo's Estadio Centenario. There, Flamengo playmaker Zico--who had scored both goals in their 2-1 victory in the first leg--again rose to the occasion with another brace. He scored his first goal from close range in the 18th minute, then doubled the lead with a 20-yard free kick in the 84th minute. In between, three players were ejected, one from Flamengo and two from Cobreloa.

With the title firmly in hand after Zico's second goal, Flamengo manager Paulo César Carpegiani sent in towering striker José Anselmo as an 86th minute substitute. Three minutes later, Anselmo received a red card of his own after punching Cobreloa defender Mario Soto in the face in what appeared to be a retaliation for Soto's violent play in the second leg. The referee ejected Soto in the 90th minute, making a total of five expulsions on the day.

The win qualified Flamengo for the 1981 Intercontinental Cup against European Cup champions Liverpool, with the Brazilians emerging as 0-3 victors.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

22 November 2009 - That Must've Been One Heck Of A Half-Time Talk

On 22 November 2009, Tottenham Hotspur recorded their record Premier League victory, beating Wigan 9-1 with five goals from striker Jermain Defoe.

Nobody would have predicted that score at half time. After going up 1-0 with a 9th-minute header from Peter Crouch, Spurs seemed to lose focus and created few other chances in the first half. As manager Harry Redknapp said later, "they needed reminding at the break."

Whatever he said to remind them must have worked, as the goals began to flow soon after the restart. Defoe netted his first of the day in the 51st minute, followed by his second just three minutes later, and his third just four minutes after that. Then, after a goal from Aaron Lennon (64'), Defoe added two more (69', 87'). Spurs finished the scoring with late goals from David Bentley (88') and Niko Kranjčar (94'). Meanwhile, Wigan's lone goal came from Paul Scharner in the 57th minute.

It was Tottenham's biggest margin of victory in a top-flight match and pushed them back into fourth place, behind Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal, which is how the final table appeared. Defoe's haul made him only the third player to score five in a Premier League match (after Alan Shearer and Andy Cole).

Monday, November 21, 2011

21 November 1990 - Reunited And It Feels So Good

On 21 November 1990, German football reunified when the former East German territories joined the DFB as a new regional association.

Founded in 1900, the Deutscher Fußball-Bund was disbanded after World War II, but reformed as Western Germany's governing body in 1950. Meanwhile, Eastern Germany formed their own association, the Deutscher Fußball-Verband der DDR (DFV). The two nations maintained two separate leagues and competed independently at the international level, with West Germany winning the 1954, 1974, and 1990 World Cups and East Germany taking the gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics.

The two German states reunited on 3 October 1990. On 20 November, the DFV formally disbanded, with the DFB assuming control of all German football. The DFB held a meeting the following day and agreed to accept the former DFV territories as a new regional association--the Northeast German Football Association. Clubs from the former East Germany joined the Bundesliga system, with two of them--Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden--joining the top flight for the 1991-92 season.

Since the merger, however, only teams from the former West Germany have won the Bundesliga or the German Cup.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

20 November 1915 - Celtic's Got Some Symmetry

On 20 November 1915, a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock started an unbeaten run for Celtic that lasted a British record 62 matches.

Celtic, who had won the two previous league titles in 1914 and 1915, had gotten the new season of to a great start, jumping straight to the top of the table on the first day with a 3-1 victory over Motherwell. By mid-November, they were even on points at the top with Hearts and Rangers, but had lost three of the last four matches, with the most recent stumble coming against Hearts on 13 November.

One week later, they hosted Kilmarnock and won 2-0, thanks to goals from left back Joseph Dodds and center forward James McColl. They then proceeded to go unbeaten for the rest of the season, winning 23 and drawing three, to claim their third consecutive league title. They almost made it through the next season unbeaten as well, but finally fell to Kilmarnock at home, 0-2, on the penultimate day (though they still finished on top of the table for their fourth consecutive league title).

The 62-match unbeaten run (with 49 wins and only 13 draws) remains a British record.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

19 November 1967 - O'Connor's Quick 1-2-3

On 19 November 1967, 19-year old Shelbourne forward Jimmy O'Connor scored a hat-trick against Bohemians in the record time of 2 minutes and 13 seconds.

An inside right, O'Connor was in his third year with the Dublin club, having joined them for the 1965-66 season. And before he left in 1972, he scored a total of 26 goals in 109 league appearances, but none more memorable than the three he netted against Bohemians.

His first goal came in the 54th minute, as a seven-player build-up ended with O'Connor firing a right-footed shot past the opposing goalkeeper from a tight angle. One minute and 25 seconds later, O'Connor latched on to a cross from Mick Conroy and chipped the keeper for his second goal of the day. Then, only 49 seconds after that, he headed the ball into the net from a cross to complete his rapid-fire hat-trick. Shelbourne won the match, 3-2.

For a time, many believed O'Connor's hat-trick was a world record, but evidence later surfaced of an even faster one--Tommy Ross had scored three goals in a total of 90 seconds for Scottish club Ross County against Nairn County in 1964. But O'Connor's performance remains an Irish record and a tremendous accomplishment.

Friday, November 18, 2011

18 November 1934 - This Is Why We Now Have Penalty Shootouts

On 18 November 1934, Nacional and Peñarol finally decided the Uruguayan Championship for the previous season, six months after their first playoff.

The teams had finished the 1933 season tied for first in the table, so they met for a playoff on 27 May 1934 at the Estadio Centenario. In the 70th minute, with the match scoreless, a shot taken by a Peñarol player went out of bounds, but hit a medicine cabinet and rebounded back onto the pitch. The referee, Telésforo Rodríguez, failed to stop play and Nacional took possession, driving up the field and getting a goal from Héctor Castro. Peñarol immediately protested the goal and assaulted Rodríguez, resulting in his departure from the game due to injury and the ejection of three Peñarol players. The assistant referee then halted the match due to the lack of light.

Approximately a month later, the league officially disallowed Castro's goal and instructed the two teams to play the last 20 minutes of the match behind closed doors on 25 August. But despite two extra-time periods, the match finished as a scoreless draw.

They met for a second playoff on 2 September, but again neither team managed to score. That forced a third playoff, played on 18 November, when they finally managed to find the net. Peñarol were leading 1-0 at the break after a goal from Braulio Castro (42'), but Héctor Castro's second-half hat-trick (53', 61', 77') proved decisive and the match finished as a 2-3 Nacional victory (Peñarol's other goal came from Juan Pedro Arremón in the 58th minute).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

17 November 1904 - Canada Takes The Gold. Kind Of.

On 17 November 1904, Canada won the Olympic gold medal in football. Except there wasn't really a gold medal. And it wasn't really Canada.

The 1904 Olympiad in Saint Louis, Missouri--held to coincide with the St. Louis World's Fair--was the second one to include football, but even then, it wasn't officially a medal sport. And the competing teams weren't there as national teams, but were instead amateur club sides. Only three teams participated--Christian Brothers College and St. Rose Parish, both from local St. Louis amateur leagues, and Galt FC, from the Western Football Association of Ontario. They played a round-robin, with the winner of the tournament being the team with the best record.

Galt were an experienced side, having been founded in either 1881 or 1882 (the records aren't precise). They were also three-time winners of the Ontario Cup from 1901 to 1903. Their quality was too great for the American sides; in the first match, on 16 November, Galt rolled over Christian Brothers, 7-0, with a hat-trick from Alexander Hall, a brace from Gordon McDonald, and a goal each from Frederick Steep and Thomas Taylor. St. Rose fared slightly better, losing 4-0 in the second match on 17 November (Taylor scored twice, while the other two scores came from Albert Hendersen and William Twaits).

That was enough to declare Galt the champions, even though Christian Brothers and St. Rose had yet to play against each other (which they did three times, after two scoreless draws). The St. Louis World's Fair Department of Physical Culture awarded gold medals--but not official Olympic gold medals--to the Galt players.

The International Olympic Committee later upgraded the 1904 tournament to official status and retroactively awarded the gold medal to Canada.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

16 November 2005 - That's What He Gets For Trying The Stutter-Step

On 16 November 2005, Australia advanced to the World Cup with a playoff win over Uruguay in a penalty shootout.

FIFA required the two-legged playoff to give a World Cup spot to the winner of the Oceania qualification tournament, Australia, or the fifth-place team from South America, Uruguay. The teams met in Montevideo on 12 November for the first leg, which the hosts won 1-0 with a 37th-minute goal from left back Darío Rodríguez. The rematch in Sydney four days later was oddly similar, as Socceroo midfielder Mark Bresciano found the back of the net in the 35th minute. It was the only goal of the match through regulation and extra time, so the 1-1 aggregate score set up the penalty shootout.

Australia were up 1-0 when Rodríguez attempted Uruguay's first kick. He tried a stutter-step approach to draw Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer off his line, but the keeper held firm, then guessed correctly and dove to his left to block the shot.

After two more shots each, Australia were leading 3-2, but captain Mark Viduka sent his attempt wide. Striker Marcelo Zalayeta then had a chance to draw Uruguay level, but again Schwarzer guessed correctly and palmed the ball away.

Striker John Aloisi then stepped up to the spot, knowing that a successful shot would send Australia to Germany. Uruguay keeper Fabián Carini dove to the correct side, but could not get a hand on the ball, as Aloisi buried it in the top corner.

It was Australia's second trip to the World Cup, and their first since 1974, but they made it count by advancing to the Round of 16 before their 1-0 elimination at the hands of eventual champions Italy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

15 November 1913 - Chelsea Gets Some International Flavor

On 15 November 1913, Denmark's Nils Middelboe became the first non-British player to make an appearance for Chelsea.

It wasn't the first "first" for Middelboe, who scored Denmark's first-ever goal in the opening match of the 1908 Summer Olympics. He helped Denmark to the silver medal that year, then again in 1912. By the latter, he had become the captain of the national team.

In 1913, he moved to Chelsea from Kjøbenhavns Boldklub, where he had spent the previous ten years. Reportedly, he originally intended to sign with Newcastle, but switched to Chelsea at the last minute. Upon arriving at Stamford Bridge, he received the captain's armband and led the team to a 2-1 victory over Derby County in his first match.

While at Chelsea, he maintained his amateur status, keeping another job at a London bank. In order to accommodate his other career, Chelsea did not require him to travel for away matches.

Middelboe remained with Chelsea for ten years (but only five seasons, thanks to the suspension of league play for World War I) and made a total of 46 appearances in all competitions. Afterward, he played for a couple of amateur sides, then became a director of Clapham Orient in 1929. In 1936, he returned to Denmark as coach of Kjøbenhavns Boldklub.

Monday, November 14, 2011

14 November 2009 - Martins Flips The Switch For Nigeria

On 14 November 2009, an 81st-minute goal from Obafemi Martins sent Nigeria to the 2010 World Cup.

It was the last day of qualification in Africa's Group B, which opened with Nigeria trailing Tunisia by two points for the group's sole spot in the tournament. Tunisia were away at Mozambique, while Nigeria traveled to Kenya.

The half-time scores favored Tunisia, who were holding Mozambique to a scoreless draw while Nigeria had fallen behind in their match, 1-0. Quick second-half goals from Martins (60') and his teammate Yakubu Ayegbeni (64'), put the Super Eagles in the driver's seat, but Kenyan striker Allan Wanga brought the hosts level in the 77th minute, which shifted the advantage back to Tunisia.

But Martins' second strike of the day again switched the positions at the top of the Group B table, a result secured with an 83rd-minute goal from Mozambique striker Dário Monteiro. With Nigeria's 2-3 victory and Tunisia's 1-0 loss, the Super Eagles finished one point ahead in the standings and advanced to the World Cup.

Unfortunately, their good fortune ended there and they were eliminated in the tournament's first round with losses to Argentina (1-0) and Greece (2-1) and a 2-2 draw with South Korea.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

13 November 2010 - The Other Poppy Controversy

In the wake of this past week's debate over whether FIFA would allow England to wear poppies on their shirts for their friendly against Spain, we look back at another poppy-related controversy from last year.

On 13 November 2010, Airdrie United printed a special prematch program in honor of Remembrance Day. But made a pretty embarrassing mistake.

The club sold the program before a Scottish Division Two match against Livingston. As a nod to match sponsors Network Rail, Airdrie selected a cover photo of soldiers on a train, accompanied by the words "Lest We Forget" and the logo of veterans' charity PoppyScotland, which included the legend "Supporting Our Heroes."

Unfortunately for Airdrie, the soldiers in the photo weren't who the club thought they were. Instead, the picture showed a group of Nazi soldiers. After a supporter brought that fact to the club's attention, chairman Jim Ballantyne quickly apologized for the error. Club secretary Ann Marie Ballantyne added "It certainly was not deliberate. We were told the soldiers were Australian." She further explained that they had received the photo from PoppyScotland, but the charity denied the claim, calling the program gaffe "unfortunate."

It wasn't the day's only disappointment for Airdrie, as Network Rail--whose sponsorship prompted the use of the photo--withdrew prior to the match. And Airdrie lost, 0-1.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

12 November 1944 - Gunnar Shoots. And Scores. Seven Times.

On 12 November 1944, striker Gunnar Nordahl matched a Swedish league record by scoring seven goals in one match. And nobody else has done it since.

From the beginning of his professional career, Nordahl was a prolific scorer, with 124 goals in 118 league appearances for with Hörnefors IF (1937-40) and Degerfors IF (1940-44). In 1944, he moved to IFK Norrköping where he proceeded to win four consecutive Allsvenskan titles. En route to the first one, he delivered his record-matching performance against Landskrona BoIS.

The day's first score fell to Eric Holmqvist, who put Norrköping up 1-0 in the 5th minute. Five minutes later, Nordahl started his run, scoring seven straight goals in the 10th, 21st, 24th, 27th, 41st, 46th, and 79th minutes. His brother Knut Nordahl added one in the 89th minute before Landskrona's Gunnar Anderberg took meager consolation with a goal in the 90th minute.

Nordahl's haul matched that of Arne Hjertsson, who had just set the mark in June of the previous year in a match for Malmö FF against Halmstads BK. Since Nordahl, however, nobody else has managed to repeat the feat.

Nordahl eventually moved to AC Milan in 1949 and scored 210 goals from the Rossoneri in 257 league appearances. He scored an additional 15 goals for Roma (1956-58) and is still Serie A's second-top goalscorer of all time, behind Silvio Piola.