Friday, September 22, 2017

22 September 2005 - The Wrong Way To Make A First Impression

On 22 September 2005, Real Madrid's Jonathan Woodgate used an own goal and a red card to make one of the worst debuts in football history.

The defender had joined Real Madrid over a year earlier, completing a £13.4M move from Newcastle in August 2004. But a lingering thigh injury suffered against Chelsea the previous April had kept him out of any competitive matches for his new club until he finally got the call to start in a league contest against Athletic Bilbao.

He made his mark in the 25th minute, when he misjudged an attempted clearance and headed the ball into his own net past keeper Iker Casillas. Then, just before the break, he received a yellow card for a challenge on Athletic midfielder Carlos Gurpegi. His day ended twenty minutes into the second half after he received a second booking for a foul on winger Joseba Exteberria.

Fortunately for Woodgate, his errors did not impact Real Madrid, who went on to win the match 3-1. But he made only eight more league appearances for them before moving back to England on loan with Middlesbrough, then signing for them on a permanent deal in 2007.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

21 September 1929 - The Start Of Sándor's Story

On 21 September 1929, forward Sándor Kocsis was born in Budapest. He went on to become one of the most prolific scorers of the era.

He started his professional career in 1945 with Hungarian club Kobanyai, but spent only one season there before moving to Ferencváros. He spent two quiet years before his breakout season in 1948-49 when he scored 33 times in 30 league appearances to help the club run away with the title. He gave them another 30 goals in 30 appearances the next season, then moved to Honvéd, where he won three more league titles. His 36 goals in 1952 and 33 in 1954 were European bests for those two years.

His scoring form carried over to the national team, where he knocked in 75 goals in 68 appearances between 1948 and 1956. Along the way, he won Olympic gold (1952) and a Central European Championship (1953), as well as reaching the World Cup Final (1954).

Honvéd were in Spain for the European Cup when the Hungarian revolution started in 1956, so like many of his teammates, he remained there. He spent seven seasons with Barcelona before his retirement in 1965, though he never reached his previous scoring heights.

Later in life, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died in 1979 at the age of 49.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

20 September 2011 - Women And Children First

On 20 September 2011, Fenerbahçe and Manisaspor played in front of a crowd of women and children only. 

The unusual crowd resulted from a friendly that Fenerbahçe hosted against Shakhtar Donetsk the previous July. Several home supporters invaded the pitch, prompting the Turkish football association to take action. They originally ordered Fenerbahçe to play two of their home matches behind closed doors, but later decided to allow a crowd of women and children.

More than 41,000 of them turned up for the match, with players from both teams tossing flowers into the stands. The match ended as a 1-1 draw, but Fenerbahçe captain Alex De Souza said afterward "This memory will stay with me forever. It's not always that you see so many women and children in one game." 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

19 September 1926 - The San Siro Sees Action

On 19 September 1926, Milan and Inter inaugurated the San Siro with a friendly. Inter won, 3-6.

Although the two teams share the stadium now, it originally belonged to Milan. The idea for the new stadium came from club president Piero Pirelli, who also funded the 5 million lire construction cost. Contrary to the multi-use model of most Italian grounds at the time, architect Ulisse Stacchini rejected the inclusion of a track surrounding the pitch in order to create a more intimate setting for the stadium's capacity crowd of 35,000.

Named the New San Siro Football Stadium after the district in which it is located, the new stadium did not have an auspicious start for Milan, as they lost that first match to Inter, 3-6, then lost their first league match there as well.

The club sold the stadium to the city of Milan in 1935, but the Rossoneri remained the sole occupant until 1947, when Inter became joint tenants. In 1980, it was offiicially renamed after Milan and Inter star Giuseppe Meazza, but it is still commonly referred to as the San Siro.

It has since undergone several expansions and currently holds a capacity of 80,018.

Monday, September 18, 2017

18 September 1967 - The Man With The Caps For Japan

On 18 September 1967, defender Masami Ihara was born in the Japanese town of Minkuchi. We went on to make a then-record 122 appearances for the men's national team between 1988 and 1999.

Ihara received his first cap at the age of 21 while playing for the University of Tsukuba and made five national team appearances in that first year. Upon graduation, he joined the Nissan Motors team (which later became known as Yokohama Marinos) and remained there until 1999.

In between, he made another 117 national team appearances, including their title-winning run in the 1992 Asian Cup and, in 1998, their first World Cup. His record of 122 remains a record for the men's team, but is second to Homare Sawa, who was capped 186 times for the women's team.

At the club level, Ihara won the J-League with Marinos in 1995, a season in which he was also named the Asian Footballer of the Year.

After one season with Júbilo Iwata (2000) and two with Urawa Red Diamonds (2001-02), Ihara retired and moved into coaching.

His 122 caps remained a team record until October 2012, when he was passed by Yasuhito Endō. Ihara currently sits in second place on the appearances table after Endō's 152 caps. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

17 September 2011 - Better Late Than Never For Swansea

On 17 September 2011, Premier League debutants Swansea City became the final team across the top four divisions of English football to score a goal that season.

Playing in their first-ever Premier League season (and their first one in the top flight since 1983), the Swans had gone scoreless in their first four matches, getting draws with Wigan and Sunderland in between losses to Manchester City and Arsenal.

By the time they hosted West Brom at Liberty Stadium for their fifth match, Swansea were the only team across the Premier League, the Championship, League One, and League Two--a combined 92 teams in all--without a goal to their name.

That changed quickly against West Brom, with Swansea forward Scott Sinclair (pictured) delivering from the penalty spot in the 14th minute. It was the first goal scored by a Welsh team in the English top flight since Swansea's Bob Latchford netted at Old Trafford in May 1983. But they didn't stop there, as Leroy Lita extended Swansea's lead in the 24th minute, then Nathan Dyer added a third in the 49th to cap the 3-0 victory.

Swansea went on to pull a double over West Brom that season en route to an impressive 11th-place finish the final table.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

10 September 2010 - That's Why You've Got To Keep Your Eye On The Ball

On 10 September 2010, FAR Rabat goalkeeper Khalid Askri committed a blunder that made him an instant internet celebrity.

It happened during a Coupe du Trône match against FAR Rabat's Moroccan league rivals, Maghreb Fez. Askri and his counterpart had done well to keep the match scoreless to force a decision by penalty shootout. There, Askri did well to parry a shot by a Maghreb player. After knocking the ball away, he jumped to his feet and faced the stands, pounding his chest. But he failed to notice that, after landing outside the goal, the ball's spin carried it in. The shooter noticed it, however, and brought it to the attention of the referee, who awarded the goal. Maghreb went on to win the shootout, 0-0 (7-6).

Askri's mistake hit YouTube shortly afterward and immediately went viral, with over a million views in the first week. But Askri's notoriety did not end there; just a few days later, an opposing player robbed the ball from his feet inside the box and scored, prompting Askri to storm off the field in a scene that earned him even more YouTube views.

Maghreb, meanwhile, advanced to the Coupe du Trône Final, where they lost to FUS de Rabat.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

9 September 1989 - Taking Invincibility To A Whole New Level

On 9 September 1989, Steaua Bucureşti lost their first domestic match in over three years when rivals Dinamo Bucureşti finally ended their unbeaten streak at an incredible 119 games.

That run stretched back to the first match of the 1986-87 season when Steaua, who already were the defending Divizia A and European Cup champions, beat Argeș Pitești 1-0 on opening day. Led by midfielder Gheorghe Hagi, who had signed for them the previous winter, they went undefeated that season, winning the league with a record of 25 wins and 9 draws. They also won that season's Cupa României, beating Dinamo in the final.

They repeated their undefeated double the next season (including a league record of 30 wins and 4 draws and a belated cup win over Dinamo after Steaua walked out of the final in protest of a decision by the referee to disallow one of their goals), then completed another unbeaten double in the 1988-89 season (with a league record of 31 wins and 3 draws and a third consecutive win over Dinamo in the Cupa României final).

After winning their first two matches of the 1989-90 season, Steaua hosted Dinamo on 9 September, where the visitors proceeded to win 0-3. That result ended Steaua's domestic unbeaten run at a staggering 119 matches, consisting of 113 wins and only 16 draws. It remains the longest recorded streak in the history of the sport.

Friday, September 8, 2017

8 September 1968 - Boca's Big Payback

On 8 September 1968, Boca Juniors ended San Lorenzo's 26-game unbeaten streak, defeating the defending champions 0-1.

San Lorenzo's run started with the last two matches of the 1967 Nacional competition and extended throughout the entire 1968 Metropolitano campaign, which ended with them as champions--the first time in Argentina's history that a team won a national title without a loss (Racing came close in 1966, losing only a single game).

The last contest of the season, a 2-1 victory over Estudiantes in the league final, was their 26th consecutive game unbeaten, matching the streak by Boca Juniors in 1943-44. Coincidentally, San Lorenzo ended that run, beating Boca away, 2-1, so Boca took great pleasure in turning the tables on San Lorenzo with an away win of their own over the title holders in the first game of the 1968 Nacional.

At the time, the record unbeaten run in Argentina was 39, set by Racing from 1965 to 1966, but Boca Juniors went on to beat that in 1998-99, setting the current record at 40.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

7 September 1977 - The End Of Callaghan's Capless Gap

On 7 September 1977, Liverpool midfielder Ian Callaghan made his third England appearance--a record 11 years and 49 days after his previous one.

A Liverpool player since the start of his professional career in 1960, Callaghan (pictured at far left) earned his first England cap at he age of 24 in a June 1966 friendly against Finland (England won 3-0). His second came the following month in the World Cup, as England beat France 2-0 in the group stage. It was his only appearances of the tournament, which England went on to win. Although his failure to take part in the final meant that he did not receive a winner's medal at the time, he eventually received one in 2009, along with all of the other squad members. 

Despite his perfect record, he then went over a decade without playing for the national team. He continued to star for Liverpool, however, winning a total of five league titles, two FA Cups, two UEFA Cups, and two European Cups between 1964 and 1978.

In 1977, after missing England's previous 108 games, he returned to the national team for a friendly against Switzerland, which ended as a scoreless draw. The gap of 11 years and 49 days between caps remains an England record.

He made a fourth and final appearance the following month in a 2-0 win over Luxembourg.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

6 September 1978 - There's No Player Like Homare

On 6 September 1978, former Japan national team captain and FIFA World Player of the Year Homare Sawa was born in Tokyo.

She started her footballing career at the age of thirteen with L.League champions Yomiuri Beleza, making thirteen appearances for them in 1991. She remained there for a total of ten seasons, scoring 79 goals in 136 appearances while winning league titles (1991-93). She spent two more spells with Beleza from 2004 to 2009 then again in 2011, winning another six league titles.

In between, she played in the United States for the Denver Diamonds (1999), Atlanta Beat (2001-03), and Washington Freedom (2009-10). 

Sawa received her first call-up to the Japanese national team in 1993 and played a key role in their run to the quarterfinals in the 1995 Women's World Cup. She starred for them in the next four World Cups, and eventually captained them to the trophy in 2011 with a win over the United States on penalties in the final. That performance helped her win the 2011 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Award.

She won silver with Japan at the 2012 Summer Olympics, then announced her immediate retirement from international football. She played club football in Japan for Kobe Leonessa from 2010 until 2015, when she retired completely.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

5 September 1931 - The Death Of John Thomson

On 5 September 1931, Celtic goalkeeper John Thomson died after colliding with a player during an Old Firm match. He was 22.

Thomson signed with Celtic in 1926 at the age of 17 and, by February 1927, he had become the team's first-choice keeper, helping them win that year's Scottish Cup. Only 5 feet 9 inches tall, he was small for the position, but made up for it with an impressive leaping ability and a willingness to challenge for any ball.  His assertive style of play led to severe injury in 1930, as a diving save left him with a broken jaw, several cracked ribs, and two lost teeth. In that same year, he received his first call-up to the Scottish national team.

Then, in September 1931, an undefeated Celtic visited Ibrox to play Rangers in the first Old Firm derby of the season. Early in the second half, with the match scoreless, Thomson went for a loose ball and collided with Rangers striker Sam English, whose knee struck the keeper in the head. The incident left Thomson with a fractured skull and a ruptured artery. He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent an operation to reduce swelling in his brain, but it was unsuccessful and he died later that night.

Approximately 30,000 people attended his funeral in Cardenden, with many of them reportedly walking there from Glasgow, 55 miles away.

Monday, September 4, 2017

4 September 1955 - The European Cup Kicks Off

On 4 September 1955, Sporting hosted the first European Cup match, drawing 3-3 with Partizan in Lisbon.

Gabriel Hanot, editor of the French magazine L'Equipe, spurred the creation of the tournament, originally named the European Champions' Club Cup. The magazine selected sixteen initial participants--each from a different country--chosen to represent a cross-section of the best European clubs (though some of their preferred teams, such as Chelsea, declined the invitation). They were then placed them directly into a two-legged knockout round.

Sporting were chosen from Portugal despite finishing the previous season in third place. Partizan had fared even worse, finishing fifth in the Yugoslavian league.

A crowd of 33,000 watched that first match, played at Lisbon's Estádio Nacional, and were rewarded when Sporting midfielder João Martins (pictured) scored the opening goal in the 14th minute. Partizan winger Miloš Milutinović equalized in the 45th minute, then put the visitors ahead five minutes later. At the same time, the referee compounded Sporting's frustration, ejecting defender João Galaz from the match.

Despite being down to ten men, Sporting drew level with a 60th-minute goal from winger Joaquim Almeida, then fell behind again after a Partizan forward Stjepan Bobek in the 73rd before Martins salvaged a draw, scoring his second of the day in the 78th minute. 

Partizan went on to win the second leg 5-2 on 12 October (with Milutinović scoring four) to advance to the quarterfinals, where they lost to eventual champions Real Madrid.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

3 September 1892 - They Got Better

On 3 September 1892, Manchester United played their first league match, losing 4-3 to Blackburn Rovers. Although it was an inauspicious start to an inauspicious season, United have since become the league's most decorated team, winning the title a record twenty times.

For the first season, the club still went by their original name of Newton Heath. Founded in 1878, they attempted to join the Football League upon its creation in 1888, but were rejected for four years. Finally admitted for the 1982-93 season, they opened the campaign away at Blackburn where they lost 4-3.

They proceeded to go winless for their next five matches, losing another three and finished the season dead last in twentieth place. But they avoided relegation by beating Small Heath FC (later known as Birmingham City) in a playoff. Their next season, however, did see them drop into the Second Division for several years before finally returning in 1906 and winning their first league title in 1908.

Since then, they have increased their total to 20, with their most recent title coming in 2013.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

2 September 1961 - Vamos Valderrama

On 2 September 1961, midfielder Carlos Valderrama was born in Santa Marta, Colombia. He went on to become the national team's appearance leader with 111 caps.

Nicknamed "El Pibe" (the Kid) and easily recognized for his bushy blonde perm, Valderrama started his career with Unión Magdalena in 1981. By 1985, he was with Deportivo Cali and made his national team debut in a 3-0 loss to Paraguay and went on to captain the team for three successive World Cups (1990, 1994, 1998).

In the 1990 World Cup, he provided the assist for a stoppage-time equalizer against West Germany to send Colombia into the Round of 16 for the first and only time. He retired from international play after the 1998 tournament, having made a record 111 appearances.

Two years before that, he became one of the high-profile signings for the new American league, MLS, joining the Tampa Bay Mutiny for the league's first season in 1996. He later played for the Miami Fusion (1998), had another spell with Tampa Bay (1999-2000), and then one for the Colorado Rapids (2001-02) before retiring as the league's second-ranked all-time assist leader with 114 (he has since dropped to fourth in the assist table after being passed by Landon Donovan and Brad Davis).

Friday, September 1, 2017

1 September 1992 - Like I Needed Another Distraction In My Life

On 1 September 1992, the first Championship Manager video game hit store shelves. The series has since become one of the most successful in UK history.

The game, written by brothers Paul and Oliver Collyer, was first released on the Amiga and Atari platforms, but soon moved to PCs. Pitched as "the most realistic football management simulation ever," it allowed players to manage teams from the top four divisions in English football through the league and cup competitions (including European tournaments).

It initially drew criticism for the lack of graphics, which resulted from the game's focus on managerial decisions instead of match play, but later versions allowed the user to watch the matches unfold. One version, Championship Manager 4, became the fastest-selling PC game of all time in the UK.

The Collyer brothers formed their own company, Sports Interactive, to develop the game. In 2004, a split with publisher Eidos Interactive resulted in the Collyers and SI losing the rights to the Championship Manager name. They formed a partnership with Sony and began a separate franchise under the name Football Manager. The two games now compete against each other.

In the summer of 2012, in honor of the game's twentieth anniversary, BackPage Press published a book titled Football Manager Stole My Life.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

31 August 2007 - Sevilla Can't Be Super A Second Time

On 31 August 2007, AC Milan spoiled Sevilla's bid to repeat as Super Cup champions, beating the Spanish side 3-1 in Monaco.

Sevilla, as winners of the UEFA Cup in 2005, played their first Super Cup in 2006, beating the reigning Champions League winners Barcelona 0-3. They won the UEFA Cup again in 2006 to set up their 2007 meeting with that year's Champions League winners, AC Milan.

Playing before a crowd of 17,822 at the Stade Louis II, Sevilla staked their claim with a 14th-minute goal from Brazilian playmaker Renato. The score resulted from a corner kick that Renato headed down to the feet of Milan keeper Dida, who misjudged the bounce and allowed the ball to get past him into the net. Despite pressure from Milan at the other end, particularly from striker Pippo Inzaghi, Sevilla still held the 0-1 lead at the break.

Shortly after the restart, however, Inzaghi headed the equalizer home (55') and Milan claimed the lead seven minutes later with a thundering volley from left back Marek Jankulovski to the far post (62'). Milan sealed the win in the 87th minute after Sevilla left back Ivica Dragutinović conceded a penalty with a tackle from behind on Madrid striker Kaká, who dutifully converted the kick to stretch the margin of victory to 3-1.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

30 August 1995 - Grêmio Gets A Little Greedy

On 30 August 1995, Grêmio won their second Copa Libertadores, beating Atlético Nacional on points over two legs.

Both teams had won the tournament once before, with Grêmio taking the honors in 1983 and Atlético in 1989. Grêmio returned to the final in 1984, but were unable to defend their title, losing to Independiente.

They entered the competition in 1995 as Copa do Brasil holders and, after finishing second to Palmeiras in the group stage, advanced with wins over Olimpia, Palmeiras, and Emelec to reach the final. Atlético, meanwhile, entered as Colombian top flight champions and, after also finishing second in their group (to Millonarios) reached the final with victories over Peñarol, Millonarios, and River Plate (on penalties).

Grêmio won the first leg of the final 3-1 on 23 August in front of their own supporters at the Estádio Olímpico, thanks in part to an opening own-goal from Atlético's Víctor Marulanda in the 35th minute. They followed that with strikes from Mário Jardel (43') and Paulo Nunes (55') before Juan Pablo Ángel pulled one back for Atlético in the 72nd minute.

In the second leg, played one week later at Atlético's Estadio Atanasio Girardot, the hosts again opened the scoring with a 12th-minute goal from Víctor Aristizábal. They held the lead deep into the second half, but needed another goal to preserve their hopes of lifting the trophy--the rules at the time decided the winner on points, then by goal differential, so a 1-0 win would draw them level with Grêmio on points, but leave them down a goal on differential.

Then, as Atlético pushed for a second, they conceded an 85th-minute penalty kick that was converted by Dinho to seal the win for the Brazilians. Grêmio returned in 2007, but finished as runners-up to Boca Juniors, while Atlético won the tournament in 2016 over Independiente del Valle. 




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

29 August 2002 - They Should Have Saved Some Of Those Goals For Later

On 29 August 2002, Zenit St. Petersburg secured their record victory, beating FC Encamp 8-0 in the qualifying round of the UEFA Cup.

It was the second leg of the tie, with Zenit having beaten the Andorrans 0-5 away two weeks earlier. In the rematch, Encamp would have been forgiven for hoping for a closer margin of victory and, for the first half, it appeared they might get it, as Zenit were up only 2-0 at the break with goals from Sergei Osipov (14') and Predrag Ranđelović (21').

The visitors maintained that margin for the first twelve minutes of the second half, but then the floodgates opened. Aleksandr Spivak led the assault on Encamp's goal in the 57th minute, followed by additional strikes from Osipov (69') and Ranđelović (71', 73') to stretch the lead to 6-0. Darius Miceika added a seventh in the 86th minute, then striker Andrei Nikolaev--making his first Zenit appearance--completed the 8-0 rout three minutes later.

Although the combined 13-0 result qualified Zenit for the UEFA Cup proper, their campaign ended in the first round with a 4-3 aggregate loss to Swiss club Grasshopper.

Monday, August 28, 2017

28 August 1947 - The Captain Of The Kop

On 28 August 1947, Liverpool and England captain Emlyn Hughes was born in Lancashire. He went on to win four league titles and two European Cups while being named England's Footballer of the Year in 1977.

Hughes started his professional career with Blackpool in 1964, but made only 28 league appearances there before moving to Anfield in 1967 for a transfer fee of £65,000. Although Liverpool had won the league title in 1966, they went without silverware in Hughes' first four seasons.

They returned to their winning ways in the 1972-73 season, winning both the league and the UEFA Cup. Hughes took over as skipper and more honors followed, including three more league titles (1976, 1977, 1979), another UEFA Cup (1976), back-to-back European Cups (1977, 1978) and an FA Cup (1974). In the meantime, he made 60 appearances for England, wearing the armband for several games in 1974.

In 1977, Liverpool narrowly missed out on a treble, losing to Manchester United in the FA Cup final. Later that year, Hughes became the second consecutive Liverpool player (and third in four years) to win the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year Award.

He left Liverpool in 1979 and spent time with Wolves, Rotherham (as player-manager), Hull City, Mansfield Town, and Swansea City before retiring in 1984. He died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 57.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

27 August 2011 - Last One Out Gets The Lights

On 27 August 2011, the Western New York Flash won the WPS Championship, beating the Philadelphia Independence on penalties, 1-1 (5-4). It turned out to be the last WPS Championship, as the league folded soon afterward.

The Flash were an expansion team playing in the first league season, but they had acquired several players from the previous season's champions, FC Gold Pride, who had dissolved in 2010. They picked up where the Pride left off, topping the regular season table with a record of thirteen wins, two draws, and two losses that sent them directly into the playoff final.

The Independence were not much older, having entered the league in 2010. They finished the 2011 regular season in second, which qualified them for a semifinal match against magicJack, whom the beat 2-0 to advance to the final.

Playing at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester, former Pride forward Christine Sinclair gave the Flash a 64th-minute lead that they almost took to the final whistle. But in the 88th minute, Philadelphia winger Amy Rodriguez equalized to send the match into extra time. With the score still level at 1-1 after extra time, the match went to a penalty shootout.

There, both teams converted their first four kicks each. After Yael Averbuch scored on the Flash's fifth attempt, Western New York goalkeeper Ashlynn Harris made a diving save to deny Independence forward Laura del Rio and win the title.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

26 August 1998 - Vasco Da Gama Discovers The Path To Glory

On 26 August 1998, Vasco da Gama won the Copa Libertadores, beating Barcelona SC 1-2 in the final's second leg.

The two teams qualified for the competition by winning their domestic leagues--Brazil for Vasco and Ecuador for Barcelona--in 1997. Vasco had a more difficult road to the final, beating defending champions Cruzeiro in the Round of 16, then overcoming Grêmio and River Plate in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. Barcelona, meanwhile, advanced over Colo-Colo, Bolívar, and Cerro Porteño.

The final was played over two legs, home and away, with the winner determined by points. Vasco won the first leg, played at the Estádio São Januário in Rio on 12 August, by the score of 2-0 with goals from their forward pairing of Donizete (7') and Luizáo (35').

In the second leg, played two weeks later at Barcelona's Estadio Monumental in Guayaquil, Vasco again went up by two at the break, with the same two players providing the goals, Luizáo striking in the 24th minute and Donizete in the 45th.

Barcelona halved the margin to one with a 79th-minute goal from forward Antony de Ávila, but they could get no closer, even after Donizete received a 93rd-minute red card to reduce Vasco to ten men.

It was Vasco's first appearance in the Copa Libertadores final, while Barcelona had been there once before, finishing as runners-up to Olimpia in 1990. Neither team has returned since.

Friday, August 25, 2017

25 August 2009 - It's Like The Seventies All Over Again

On 25 August 2009, violence marred a match between West Ham and Millwall in their first meeting for over four years.

Separated by only five miles and the River Thames, the two London teams have a longstanding rivalry that dates back to their first meeting in 1897 (when West Ham were still known as Thames Ironworks). Their respective supporter groups have a history of clashes, including an outbreak of fighting at the 1972 testimonial for Harry Cripps, who had played for both teams, and a 1976 clash at New Cross Station that resulted in the death of Millwall supporter Ian Pratt, who fell under a train.

Before the 2009 meeting, the two teams had last played each other in April 2004, the sixth match in an unbeaten run for Millwall that stretched back to November 1992. Then the League Cup paired them for a second-round meeting at West Ham's Upton Park.

Neil Harris gave the visitors a 26th-minute lead, which they held for most of the match. But West Ham's Junior Stanislas equalized in the 87th minute, sending the home supporters into a frenzy and sparking a pitch invasion. In extra time, Stanislas scored again, this time from the penalty spot in the 98th minute, resulting in another invasion. Zavon Hines added a third for West Ham in the 100th minute to set the final margin at 3-1.

Fighting broke out both inside and outside the stadium, with at least twenty people getting injured and a 44-year old Millwall fan going to the hospital with a stab wound. Supporters clashed with each other and the police clashed for several hours, resulting in several arrests.

Afterward, the Football Association found West Ham guilty of failing to restrain their supporters and fined the club £115,000.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

24 August 1975 - The Rowdies Go Bowling

On 24 August 1975, the Tampa Bay Rowdies won the inaugural Soccer Bowl, beating the Portland Timbers 2-0.

The North American Soccer League, which dated back to 1968, had used playoffs since the 1969 season, but the finals had always been played at the home field of one of the participants. By 1974, league commissioner Phil Woosnam believed that a neutral venue would generate more excitement along the lines of the NFL's Super Bowl and thus the Soccer Bowl was created for the 1975 season.

Like the Soccer Bowl, both Tampa Bay and Portland were in their first NASL season. Tampa Bay, coached by former Charlton Athletic manager Eddie Firmani, won their division, then reached to the Soccer Bowl with playoff wins over Toronto and Miami. Portland, meanwhile, led by former Aston Villa manager Vic Crowe, also won their division, then advanced with wins over Seattle and St. Louis.

They met at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California, where a capacity crowd of 17,000 gathered for the event. The two teams were deadlocked at 0-0 until the 66th minute, when Tampa Bay substitute defender Arsène Auguste, who had come on only three minutes earlier, unleashed a blast from 35 yards out to beat Portland keeper Graham Brown. Striker Clyde Best then sealed the win with a goal in the 88th minute.

It was the only Soccer Bowl appearance for Portland. Tampa Bay returned twice more, but lost to the New York Cosmos in 1978 and to Vancouver Whitecaps in 1979.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

23 August 1995 - Like A Phoenix Rising From The Ashes

On 23 August 1995, the former Heysel Stadium hosted a football match for the first time in almost ten years, as Germany beat Belgium in a friendly.

Originally opened on 23 August 1930, the stadium was the location of one of football's greatest tragedies when it hosted the 1985 European Cup Final between Juventus and Liverpool. Approximately an hour before kick-off, a retaining wall collapsed, leaving 600 people injured and killing 39 others.

It was the last football match played at the stadium for several years, though it continued to be used for other events. By 1995, however, it had undergone a $50 million renovation and re-opened as the home of the Belgian national team.

For the first match in the new structure, renamed King Baudouin Stadium, Belgium hosted Germany in a friendly. A crowd of 33,000 watched as the Germans won 1-2 with goals from Andreas Möller (6') and Fredi Bobic (84'). Belgium's lone goal was provided by Michaël Goossens (17').

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

22 August 1998 - But The Real Victory Was That They Got To Live In Mallorca

On 22 August 1998, Mallorca won their first major honor, beating Barcelona in the Supercopa de España. And they did it only one year after promotion from the second division.

Played over two legs, that year's Supercopa was a rematch of the previous season's Copa del Rey final. Barcelona won that one over newly-promoted Mallorca on penalties--1-1 (5-4) after taking the shootout to eight kickers each--but since they also won the league that year, Mallorca qualified for the Supercopa as Copa del Rey runners-up.

The teams met in Mallorca on 18 August for the first leg, where a crowd of 12,000 watched the hosts surrender an early goal, then come back to win 2-1 on an 81st-minute strike from midfielder Jovan Stanković (Stanković had also scored the only goal for Mallorca in the Copa del Rey final).

The return leg saw a substantially larger turnout, as 55,000 passed through the turnstiles at Barcelona's Camp Nou. They were rewarded with a 29th-minute goal from Mallorca striker Dani García, who was starting his first season with Mallorca after transferring from Real Madrid.

It turned out to be the day's only goal, securing the trophy for Mallorca. They returned to the competition in 2003 after winning that year's Copa del Rey final, but finished as runners-up to Real Madrid.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

20 August 2003 - Pizarro Was Quick On His Feet

On 20 August 2003, Claudio Pizarro scored the fastest goal in the history of the Peruvian national team, coming just 18 seconds into a friendly against Mexico.

The teams met at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where Pizarro (pictured) got the game off to a quick start, unleashing a left-footed blast from just outside the penalty spot to put Peru up 1-0. It was the first goal conceded by Mexico in six matches.

They did not wait long to concede again, though, surrendering a second goal to midfielder Carlos Zegarra in the 31st minute, then a third to Nolberto Solano two minutes later.

Down 3-0 at the break, Mexico eventually got on the scoreboard in the 54th minute with a goal from Mariano Trujillo. It was the last goal of the day, but not the last bit of excitement. A 68th-minute brawl resulted in the ejection of four players, two from each side--Pizarro and John Galliquio for Peru, Omar Briceño and Jared Borgetti for Mexico.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

19 August 1995 - To Be Fair, He Never Claimed To Be A Psychic

On 19 August 1995, pundit Alan Hansen criticized Manchester United's season-opening loss to Aston Villa, stating "you can't win anything with kids." United proved him wrong, however, going on to win a league and FA Cup double.

United had ended the previous season without a trophy, the first time that had happened since 1989. And, before the start of the 1995-96 season, they sold three key players--Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, and Andrei Kanchelskis--without bringing in replacements, preferring instead to rely on rising young players like David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Gary Neville, all of whom were just 20 years old when the new season started.

Playing before a crowd of 34,655 at Villa Park, the hosts jumped to a comfortable 3-0 lead with goals from Ian Taylor (14'), Mark Draper (27'), and Dwight Yorke (36') before Beckham scored a consolation goal in the 82nd minute to end the day 3-1 to Villa.

Speaking later on Match of the Day, Hansen made his now-famous pronouncement, adding that "the trick to winning the championship is having strength and depth, and they just haven't got it." But United followed that loss with a ten-game unbeaten streak that included eight wins and pushed them up to second in the table. By March, they claimed the top spot and held it for the remainder of the season, then won the FA Cup final over Liverpool.