Friday, September 30, 2011

30 September 1962 - Santos Liberate The Cup

On 30 September 1962, a brace from Pelé helped Santos capture their first Copa Libertadores, beating two-time defending champions Peñarol in a replay.

Peñarol were appearing in their third straight final after winning the first two editions of the tournament in 1960 and 1961. Santos, meanwhile, were in the final for the first time. The two teams had finished the first two legs with one win each, with the Brazilians taking a 1-2 victory in Montevideo and the Uruguayans returning the favor in São Paulo, 2-3.

Level with two points each, the tournament rules required a replay at a neutral venue to determine the winner. Playing before a crowd of 60,000 at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires, Peñarol were wrong-footed early when their midfielder Omar Caetano put the ball into his own net in the 11th minute. Peñarol were unable to put the ball into Santos' net, however, while 20-year old Pelé, who had scored twice in the first round, doubled his tournament tally with goals in the 48th and 89th minutes to seal the 3-0 victory.

It proved to be the start of a strong international run for Santos, who went on to repeat as Copa Libertadores champions in 1963 while following both wins with victories in the Intercontinental Cup.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

29 September 1988 - Real Madrid Complete Their Trophy Bingo Card

On 29 September 1988, Real Madrid won their first Supercopa de España, despite losing to Barcelona 2-1.

It was the last major domestic trophy that Real had yet to win (though they did win the tournament's predecessor, the Copa Eva Duarte, in 1947). When the Supercopa started in 1982, Real Madrid, as Copa del Rey winners, played La Liga champions Real Sociedad, but lost 1-4 on aggregate. When Real Madrid next qualified by winning the league in 1986 and 1987, the competition was not held in either year.

In 1988, they won the league for a third straight time, setting up a Supercopa meeting against Copa del Rey champions Barcelona. They got off to a great start, winning the first leg 2-0 at the Bernabéu with late goals from Míchel (71') and Hugo Sánchez (78'). That carried over into the second leg on 29 September, played at Camp Nou, when striker Emilio Butragueño put them up 0-1 in the 14th minute.

That proved to be the decisive goal, as Barcelona midfielder José Mari Bakero netted a brace (37', 77') to bring the aggregate score to 3-2. That's how it ended, with Madrid taking the honors.

Since then, they've gone on to win it a total of eight times, including 1989, when they won it automatically as winners of both the Copa del Rey and the league.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

28 September 1893 - Porto Open Their Doors

On 28 September 1893, inspired by a recent trip to England, a Portuguese wine merchant named António Nicolau d'Almeida founded a new club. Named FC Porto, they went on to win a number of honors, including several national titles and European trophies.

The club struggled a bit at first and even became defunct shortly after its inception, but it was revived in 1906 by club president José Monteiro da Costa. They won their first league title in 1935, finishing just two points clear of rival club Sporting. Their most successful period came in the 1980s and '90s, when they won the league eleven times, including five straight from 1995 to 1999.

During that period, they also reached European heights, winning their first European Cup trophy in 1987 with a 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the final. That same year, they also won the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. They have since added to their international honors, winning the Champions League (2004) and the UEFA Cup/Europa League (2003, 2011).

They just came off a very successful 2010-11 season. In addition to the Europa League, they won their 25th league title, their 20th Taça de Portugal, and their 18th Portuguese Supercup (a record tally).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

27 September 1879 - The Birth Of The Birmingham Derby

On 27 September 1879, Birmingham City hosted the first Birmingham derby, beating Aston Villa by the score of 1-0. Since then, Villa has gotten the better of their crosstown rivals, winning the greater share of the teams' 117 meetings.

For that first match, Birmingham were still going by their original name, Small Heath Alliance (pictured). The contest was played at their Muntz Street ground, which drew heavy criticism for Villa players as being "only suitable for pot-holing."

The first competitive match in the derby came in the FA Cup in 1887, with Villa taking a 2-1 victory. Out of their 117 total matches, 51 have gone to Villa and 37 to Birmingham City, with 29 draws. The derby's top scorer is Villa's Billy Walker, who found the net 11 times between 1919 and 1934. City's top scorer is Joe Bradford, with 8 goals from 1920 to 1935.

Several players have switched teams over the years, including a few who moved directly from one team to the other. The highest profile switch came in 1986, when Villa great Dennis Mortimer (who won the European Cup with Villa in 1982) joined Birmingham after a season at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Managers have also made the crosstown move, starting in 1982 when Villa manager Ron Saunders joined Birmingham. In 2011, manager Alex McLeish left Birmingham for Aston Villa after Birmingham were relegated from the Premier League. Due to that relegation, there is no derby on the fixture list for the foreseeable future.

Monday, September 26, 2011

26 September 1970 - The Number Of This Beast Was 10

On 26 September 1970, DC United playmaker Marco Etcheverry was born in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Widely regard as one of Bolivia's greatest players, he was named in 2005 as one of the MLS All-Time Best XI.

Nicknamed "El Diablo," he started his professional career in 1986 and played for a handful of teams in South America and Spain before moving to DC United in 1996 for the inaugural MLS season. By that time, he was an established Bolivian international, with over 30 caps, including a single appearance in the 1994 World Cup in which he was sent off for a foul on Germany's Lothar Matthäus only three minutes after coming on as a substitute.

In that first season in DC, he was instrumental in leading United to the MLS Cup, including scoring the only goal in DC's victory over the NY/NJ MetroStars in the Eastern Conference semifinals en route to being named the tournament MVP. In eight seasons with DC, he won two more MLS Cups (1997, 1999), the US Open Cup (1996), and two Supporters Shields for having the league's best record (1997, 1999).

Individually, he was named the league MVP in 1998 and was included in the MLS All-Star team in each of his first four seasons. By the time he left DC in 2003, he was the club's leader in several statistical categories including assists (101) and appearances (191).

After leaving DC in 2003, he played briefly for Bolívar (where he had played in 1990-91), then retired in 2004.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

25 September 1963 - Finney Finally Makes A Move

On 25 September 1963, English center forward Tom Finney, who had spent all 14 seasons of his professional career at Preston North End, came out of retirement for one match. For another club.

One of the most dominant players of the era, Finney signed with Preston, his hometown club, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. But the suspension of football during the conflict meant that he did not make his debut for them until 1946. He was a standout for an otherwise largely unimpressive side, winning the Footballer of the Year award in 1953-54 and again in 1956-57. He stayed with them through the 1959-60 season, scoring a total of 210 goals in 473 appearances before injuries forced his retirement in 1960.

In 1963, George Eastham, the manager of defending Irish League champions Distillery FC, asked the then-41 year old Finney to play for them in a European Cup tie against Benfica, who had won the competition in 1961 and 1962. After convincing Finney that the offer was legitimate, the forward agreed to suit up for the Northern Irish club, but only for the first home leg. It was the only time in his professional career that he played an official match for a club other than Preston.

A crowd of over 19,000 turned out at Windsor Park in Belfast to watch the contest, as Distillery took the lead three times, only to see Benfica equalize each time. An 80th-minute goal from Eusébio in the 80th minute ended the match at 3-3. In the second leg, playing without Finney, Distillery lost 5-0.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

24 September 1962 - The Rise Of The Super Ranger

On 24 September 1962, two-time European Golden Boot winner and current Rangers boss Ally McCoist was born in Bellshill, Scotland.

The striker, nicknamed "Super Ally," started his professional career in 1979 with St. Johnstone. He had a breakout season in 1980-81, scoring 22 goals in 38 league appearances, which led to a move to Sunderland. But after two unsuccessful seasons there, he returned to Scotland, signing with Rangers in 1983 for a fee of £185,000.

Rangers hadn't won the league since 1978, but with McCoist contributing 34 goals, they won it in 1987 and followed that one with nine straight between 1989 and 1997. In both 1992 and 1993, McCoist matched his tally of 34 league goals, winning the European Golden Boot for both seasons. Along the way, McCoist also won nine Scottish League Cups and the 1992 Scottish Cup. While at Rangers, he made 61 appearances for Scotland, where his 19 goals rank him fifth on their list of all-time scorers.

His played the last three seasons of his career for Kilmarnock (1998-2001), then moved into management. In 2004, he served under Scotland manager Walter Smith, then moved with Smith back to Rangers in January 2007. Upon Smith's retirement in 2011, McCoist took the reins for the 2011-12 season and currently has the team on the top of table after an emphatic 4-2 victory over Celtic gave them six wins and a draw in their first seven matches.

Friday, September 23, 2011

23 September 1919 - Better Late Than Never

On 23 September 1919, the Italian Football Association declared Genoa the champions of the top flight. For the 1914-15 season.

In the 1914-15 season, the Italian title was determined by a tournament that divided the country into a Northern bracket on one side and a Central and Southern bracket on the other. Genoa won their group in the Northern bracket qualification round, then won their semifinal group as well, to reach a final Northern group that included Torino, Inter, and Milan.

With one match left to play in the Northern final group, and Genoa leading by two points, the outbreak of World War I forced the cancellation of the competition. The Central and Southern bracket had not even reached the semifinal stage. Thus the league did not have an official winner for the 1914-15 season.

After the conclusion of the war, play resumed in 1919. Not wanting to leave the champions' seat vacant, the Italian Football Association awarded the 1915 title to Genoa based on their position before the suspension of the competition. It was the seventh overall title for the Rossoblu, who lost several players and club founder James Richardson Spensley to the conflict. They proceeded to claim additional titles in 1923 and 1924, but have won none since.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

22 September 2007 - City Sends Schmeichel Mixed Messages

On 22 September 2007, fresh off a string off seven successful appearances, 20-year old Manchester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel signed a new 4-year deal worth a reported £18,000 per week. And played for the club only three more times.

Schmeichel, the son of Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, signed his first professional contract with City in 2004, but spent the majority of the first few years of his contract on loan. But injuries to keepers Andreas Isaakson and Joe Hart before the start of the 2007-08 season pushed Schmeichel to the forefront.

He started City's first seven matches of the season, earning a record of four wins, one draw, and two away losses (both by the narrow score of 1-0) and getting his new deal as a reward. But, in the meantime, Joe Hart returned to fitness and manager Sven-Göran Eriksson chose him for City's next match, a 3-1 victory over Newcastle.

Hart became the permanent starter, relegating Schmeichel to the bench. He spent portions of the season on loan with Cardiff City, then Coventry City, before returning to Manchester for 2008-09. But he was still stuck behind Hart and made only three appearances for City that season, one as a substitute.

In August 2009, he joined Notts County, managed at the time by Eriksson, and then joined Leeds United in May 2010. In June 2011, Schmeichel rejoined Eriksson, this time at Leicester City, his current club.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

21 September 2003 - And The Gunners Kept Rolling Along

On 21 September 2003, Arsenal preserved their unbeaten streak by the narrowest of margins, drawing 0-0 after a missed Manchester United penalty.

When the Gunners arrived at Old Trafford, they were enjoying a modest seven-game unbeaten streak that stretched back to the last two matches of the previous season--a season that had ended with United beating Arsenal to the top of the final table after some heated confrontations between the two sides. In February 2003, Arsenal won a heated FA Cup contest over United in a match that saw a slew of yellow cards. Then, in April 2003, the teams played to a draw after Arsenal defender Sol Campbell received a straight red for an elbow to the face of United's Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

Campbell missed the match on 21 September, but the emotions still ran high. The day's first yellow card went to United's Roy Keane in the 21st minute, with seven more to follow. Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira was ejected in the 80th minute after receiving a second yellow for a confrontation with United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

In the 91st minute, the referee awarded United a penalty for Martin Keown's challenge on striker Diego Forlan. Van Nistelrooy stepped up to take the kick, despite missing his previous two attempts. True to form, he slammed the ball against the bar, drawing an emotional taunt from Keown.

The match ended as a scoreless draw and Arsenal proceeded to go undefeated for the remainder of the season.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

20 September 2009 - Seriously, Nobody Noticed That The Window Was Closed?

On 20 September 2009, Levski Sofia lost to their rivals CSKA Sofia 2-0 due in part to the absence of four key players. But it was the reason for the absences that made international headlines.

Earlier that month, the defending Bulgarian league champions received a fax from Russian Premier League champions Rubin Kazan offering to buy the four players--center back Youssef Rabah, right back Zhivko Milanov, midfielder Darko Tasevski, and winger Zé Soares--for a total of €7 million. The quartet traveled to Russia on 19 September to meet with Rubin and undergo medical examinations. As a result, they missed the match against CSKA.

When the players arrived in Russia, Rubin denied any interest in the players and claimed no knowledge of the purported offer. Indeed, the Russian transfer window was closed. The supposed transfer was a hoax.

Speaking about the incident, Tasevski said "I feel oppressed and I'm angry. Things could've been different if we played against CSKA." The match proved to be critical, as Levski finished one point behind CSKA in the final table (though they were both well behind champions Litex Lovech).

A subsequent investigation revealed that several large bets were placed on CSKA to win the derby, leading to speculation that the transfer hoax was intended to tip the scale in favor of a CSKA victory. To date, the culprits remain unidentified.

Monday, September 19, 2011

19 September 1961 - There's No Place Like Home In The Intercontinental Cup

On 19 September 1961, Peñarol won their first Intercontinental Cup, beating Benfica in a replay at the Estadio Centenario. They went on to win the competition twice more to become its most successful team.

The Uruguayans had participated in the inaugural Intercontinental Cup the year before, but lost to Real Madrid over two legs. In 1961, they returned to the cup to face Benfica, but lost the first leg 1-0 in Lisbon on 4 September. Thirteen days later, they hosted the Portuguese side at Montevideo and won convincingly by the score of 5-0. Under the rules at the time, the cup was decided on points and not goal differential, so they went to a replay to determine the winner.

Meeting again the Estadio Centenario, Peñarol took a quick lead with a 5th-minute goal from inside forward José Sasía. Half an hour later, Benfica forward Eusébio, who was then in his second season with the club and had not played in the first two matches, found a 35th-minute equalizer. But just five minutes after that, Sasía converted a penalty to restore the lead for Peñarol and they held on to claim the 2-1 victory.

They went on to win it again in 1966 and 1982 to become the first team to win the Intercontinental Cup three times. Their tally has since been matched by four other clubs--Nacional, AC Milan, Real Madrid, and Boca Juniors--but has never been exceeded.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

18 September 2010 - Saint-Étienne's Brief Return To Glory

On 18 September 2010, Saint-Étienne, Ligue 1's most successful club, returned to the top of the table for the first time in 29 years. Unfortunately for them, their stay at the summit was short.

Founded in 1919, Saint-Étienne won their first Ligue 1 title in 1957, then dominated the league through the '60s and '70s, winning another eight titles between 1964 and 1976, as well as reaching the European Cup final in 1976. They claimed their tenth and last title in 1981, which remains a Ligue 1 record. Then, aided by scandals and financial woes, the club spent the next couple of decades struggling to recapture their past glory and even suffered a few relegations into the second division (though never for very long).

In the 2009-10 season, they limped to a 17th-place finish in Ligue 1, never rising higher than 12th in the table. But they got off to a strong start the following season with three wins and a draw out of their first five matches and climb to the league's third position.

Matchday 6 saw them host Montpellier, who were sitting one spot back in fourth at the time. Saint-Étienne winger Dimitri Payet (pictured, center) opened the scoring in the 21st minute by splitting two defenders and powering the ball into the lower right corner. Striker Emmanuel Rivière doubled the lead with a 32nd-minute header and Payet finished the day with a 66th-minute free kick off the left upright.

The 3-0 victory put Les Verts into the top spot thanks to a better goal differential than Toulouse, whose draw on the same day saw them slip to second. They stayed at the top for only three weeks, however, and finished the season in 10th.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

17 September 2002 - Bordeaux's Beautiful Symmetry

On 17 September 2002, Bordeaux won by a record margin, beating Slovakian club ŠK Matador Púchov by the score of 6-0.

The teams met at the Stade Chaban-Delmas for the opening leg of their UEFA Cup first-round match-up. Playing before a crowd of 12,700, it took the hosts a while to take the lead with the day's first score coming from center back David Sommeil in the 23rd minute, but the goals flowed regularly after that. A 36th-minute strike from forward Christophe Dugarry extended the lead to 2-0 and his second-half replacement winger Pascal Feindouno, pushed it to 3-0 in the 61st minute.

Pauleta (pictured), Ligue 1's top goalscorer the previous season, contributed a 68th-minute penalty kick, followed by a Matador own-goal from Pavol Vavrik ten minutes later. Finally, striker Jean-Claude Darcheville found the net in the 89th minute to complete the 6-0 rout.

Matador did slightly better in the second leg, losing 1-4, then returned to the competition the following season, drawing 1-1 at home with Barcelona before losing the second leg 8-0. Bordeaux, meanwhile, advanced to the third round of the 2002-03 tournament where they lost to Anderlecht.

The 6-0 scoreline remains Bordeaux's record win, matched in the reverse by their record loss, a 6-0 defeat to Parma in 1999 (also in the UEFA Cup).

Friday, September 16, 2011

16 September 1979 - A Good Day To Tie

On 16 September 1979, the Serie A season kicked off with eight matches, seven of which ended in draws.

Goals were at a premium that day, as eleven of the sixteen teams in action failed to find the net, resulting in five scoreless draws: Ascoli-Napoli, Avellino-Lazio, Cagliari-Torino, Perugia-Catanzaro, and Roma-Milan. The other ineffective attack came from Pescara, who were on the wrong end of the day's only unbalanced result, losing 2-0 to Inter.

There were also two score draws, both of which ended 1-1: Fiorentina-Udinese and Juventus-Bologna.

Other leagues have experienced similar days, with eight draws out of eleven English First Division matches on 10 September 1966 and eight draws out of ten matches in the thirteenth round of the Argentine Clausura (though the matches occurred over a period of three days). On a percentage basis, the record goes to Scotland, with draws in all six Premier Division matches played on 22 January 1994.

[Special thanks to the Guardian's John Ashdown for the information, published in his Knowledge column on 3 May 2011.]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

15 September 1965 - It's True, Defense Wins Championships

On 15 September 1965, Inter won their second consecutive Intercontinental Cup, beating the same team they beat for their first one.

They won it the previous year over Argentina's Independiente, in both teams' first appearance in the competition. They split the first two legs before Inter clinched the title in a replay, winning 1-0 at the San Siro.

The same two teams met again in 1965. Inter won the first leg in convincing fashion, beating Independiente at the San Siro by the score of 3-0. At the time, the contest was decided on points, so an Independiente win by any score in the second leg would send the teams to another replay.

But under manager Helenio Herrera, Inter had mastered the defensive style known as catenaccio. And playing before a hostile crowd of 80,000 at La Doble Visera, they practiced it to perfection, shutting Independiente out for the fourth time in five meetings to claim their second title.

The 1965 victory was Inter's last appearance in the competition, while Independiente went on to win it in 1973 and 1984.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

14 September 1901 - The Man Who Lit The Fuse

On 14 September 1901, Arsenal legend Alex James was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland. A deep-lying playmaker, he guided the Gunners to their first major trophy.

An inside forward, James began his professional career in 1922 with Raith Rovers, making 98 league appearances before moving to Preston North End in 1925. In four seasons at Deepdale, he scored 53 goals in 147 league appearances. But disputes over his pay and the club's refusal to release him for international duty with Scotland prompted his move to Arsenal in 1929 for a transfer fee of £8,750.

Although Arsenal, like Preston, were restricted by the maximum weekly wage of £8, they supplemented James's salary by landing a position for him at a London department store as a "sports demonstrator" for £250 per year. He repaid the club by helping them win the 1930 FA Cup, scoring the first goal in a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town in the final.

At Highbury, James flourished as the primary playmaker, playing a critical role in the club's first title-winning season in 1930-31. Additional titles followed in 1933, 1934, and 1935, making Arsenal the period's most dominant side. They won another FA Cup in 1936 and four Charity Shields with James before he retired 1937.

After serving in World War II, he returned to Arsenal as a youth coach in 1949. He died of cancer in 1953 at the age of 51.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

13 September 2006 - A Big Bid For A Bit Of Best

On 13 September 2006, a shirt worn by George Best in a record-breaking performance sold at auction for £24,000.

The shirt in question was the one worn by Best for Manchester United in a Fifth Round FA Cup match against Northampton Town on 7 February 1970. United won 2-8 with Best providing six of the goals, a record haul for the competition at the time. In 1996, a participant in a newspaper competition won the shirt as a prize, then held on to it for 10 years before putting it up for auction at Christie's, where it was expected to fetch between £20,000 and £30,000. Several bidders attempted to claim it and it eventually went to an anonymous buyer.

The auction included other football memorabilia, including the Fulham shirt worn by Bobby Moore in his last English league match (£3,600) and the 1970 FA Cup winners' medal awarded to Chelsea captain Ron Harris (£13,200). The day's biggest disappointment was the shirt worn by Brazilian midfielder Rivelino in the 1970 World Cup. Although Christie's expected the shirt to go for somewhere between £25,000 and £35,000, it failed to find a buyer.

Monday, September 12, 2011

12 September 1964 - A Red Letter Day

On 12 September 1964, Football League referees handed out a single-day record six red cards.

Of those, only one occurred in the top flight, as Leicester City playmaker David Gibson was sent off in a 3-2 loss at Leeds United. Meanwhile, in Division Two, Newcastle's Ron McGarry and Coventry City's Brian Wood were both ejected in a match Newcastle won 2-0.

Division Four had most of the day's ejections, with Aldershot's Dick Renwick seeing red in a scoreless draw with Notts County, while Stockport County's Ian Sandiford and Torquay United full back Colin Bettany were sent off in a match that Torquay won 1-0.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

11 September 1963 - A Second For Santos

On 11 September 1963, Santos overpowered Boca Juniors to win their second consecutive Copa Libertadores. And just like the previous one, Pelé provided the clinching goal.

The final was played over legs; in the first, played at the Maracaña in Rio de Janeiro, Santos won 3-2 with a trio of first-half goals from Coutinho (2', 21') and Antônio Lima dos Santos (28'). Under the rules in place at the time, the winner was determined by points, with two points for a win and one point for a draw, with goal differential not taken into account. So, in the second leg, the best Boca could hope for was a win to force a deciding replay.

Playing before a crowd of about 50,000 at the Estadio Camilo Cichero in Buenos Aires, they looked on track to meet that goal after taking a 1-0 lead in the 46th minute thanks to a goal from striker José Sanfilippo. But only four minutes later, Coutinho scored an equalizer. Then, while Boca pressed forward for a life-preserving goal, Pelé struck, finding the net in the 82nd minute and snuffing Boca's hopes for a replay.

The goal was Pelé's fifth of the tournament, making him its second-highest scorer behind Sanfilippo, who had 7.

While the win denied Boco their first Copa Libertadores title, they went on to become one of the most successful teams in the competition, winning it a total of 6 times between 1977 and 2007. Santos, meanwhile, won it for a third time in 2011.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 September 2008 - Theo Is The Future And The Future Is Now

On 10 September 2008, Theo Walcott scored his first hat-trick. And it just happened to make him the youngest player ever to do so for England.

Only 19 years old at the time, Walcott had risen to prominence at Southampton (2004-06) before moving to Arsenal in January 2006. After only a half season in London, England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson surprised everyone by including Walcott in his squad for the 2006 World Cup. The winger made his first start for the senior England team in a May 2006 friendly against Hungary, becoming the youngest debutant in the national team's history.

After falling out of favor with Eriksson's replacement, Steve McClaren, Walcott returned to the national team set-up under McClaren's successor, Fabio Capelli, and got his first competitive England start on 6 September 2008 in a World Cup qualifier against Andorra. He failed to score in that match, but got his chance four days later in a qualifier against Croatia.

Playing before a crowd of 35,000 at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, Walcott scored his first senior England goal in the 26th minute, as an attempted clearance by Croatia deflected off one of their own players. It landed at Walcott's feet on the right wing and he fired it across the keeper into the far bottom corner. The second goal was a nearly identical shot, delivered in the 59th minute.

The best goal of the three was the final one. In the 82nd minute, with England winning 1-3, forward Wayne Rooney sent a perfectly-placed pass to Walcott, who was sprinting down the right side. He outpaced his marker, took a couple of touches to move the ball across the box to the left, and slipped it under the keeper into the right corner. He was 19 years and 178 days old at the time, making him not only the youngest player to score a hat-trick for England, but the youngest to score for them in a World Cup qualifier. They remain his only three goals, however, in 18 total appearances for England.

Almost two years later, he got his first club hat-trick, scoring three in Arsenal's 6-0 win over Blackpool on 22 August 2010.

Friday, September 9, 2011

9 September 1970 - Van Daele Seals The Deal

On 9 September 1970, Feyenoord won the Intercontinental Cup, beating Estudiantes 1-0 in the final's second leg. It was the fourth international trophy for the Rotterdam club, who have since won three more.

Feyenoord qualified for the competition by winning the European Cup over Celtic six months earlier. Around the same time, Estudiantes won their third Copa Libertadores, beating Peñarol in the final to set up the meeting with Feyenoord.

The Argentinians took an early 2-0 lead in the first leg, played on 26 August at La Bombanera in Buenos Aires, but Feyenoord clawed their way back in the second half to earn a 2-2 draw. In 1969, the tournament had moved away from a points system to decide the winner by aggregate score, including the away goals rule, so the draw put Feyenoord into a good position to win the final.

Playing before a home crowd at De Kuip in Rotterdame, Feyenoord relied on defense to hold the visitors to a scoreless draw in the first half. Sensing an opportunity to attack in the second half, Feyenoord manager Ernst Happel replaced striker Coen Moulijin with Joop van Daele (pictured at right), who rewarded the coach's faith by scoring the day's only goal to give Feyenoord the win, 2-3 on aggregate.

The trophy came in the midst of Feyenoord's most successful period, coming on the heels of that European Cup win and victories in the Intertoto Cup (1967, 1968) and followed by another Intertoto Cup (1973) and the UEFA Cup (1974).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

8 September 1969 - Wales Adds Some Speed

On 8 September 1969, former Welsh national team captain and current manager Gary Speed was born in Mancot, Wales. With 85 appearances for the national team, he remains the most-capped outfield player for Wales and the second most-capped player overall.

In 1990, while playing for Leeds United, Speed earned his first cap in friendly against Costa Rica, which Wales won 1-0. He retired from international play after a 3-2 loss to Poland in an October 2004 World Cup qualifier. It was his 85th cap, just seven shy of goalkeeper Neville Southall's all-time record, but ten more than the next highest outfield player, striker Dean Saunders.

He continued his club career for another six years, with spells at Everton (1996-98), Newcastle (1998-2004), Bolton (2004-08), and Sheffield United (2008-10). He moved directly into coaching with Sheffield United, taking over as manager in August 2010.

Although he had signed a three-year contract with Sheffield United, Wales lured him away in December 2010. Since then, he has guided the Dragons to a record of 2 wins and 5 losses, including a close 1-0 defeat to England at Wembley earlier this week.

[Update: Speed died in November 2011, reportedly by suicide, though the coroner could not determine whether he had intended to kill himself.]

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

7 September 2010 - Togo Or Not Togo, That Is The Question

On 7 September 2010, Bahrain secured a 3-0 win over Togo. Or so they thought.

The friendly, played in Bahrain, was their third match under new manager, Josef Hickersberger, who was still waiting for his first win after draws with China and Qatar. And Bahrain thought they got it in convincing fashion with a brace from striker Jaycee Okwunwanne (9', 45') and a penalty kick from striker Ismail Abdul-Latif (67').

Afterward, in fact, Hickersberger lamented the lack of competition from Togo, saying "They were not fit enough to play 90 minutes; the match was very boring, and basically it was not good for us because we wanted to get information about the strength of our team, especially playing with many of our professionals. This was a wasted opportunity on a FIFA date, and I’m very sad about it." And then things got strange.

Christophe Chao, the Togo sports minister, denied that any Togo team ever took the pitch against Bahrain, claiming that nobody in Togo had been informed of such a game. Moreover, none of the 18 people listed on the pre-match roster submitted to Bahrain minutes before the match was a Togo international.

As it turned out, a Togo assistant coach named Tchanile Bana organized the match and falsely represented the team as Togo's national side. He had committed a similar fraud earlier in the year by organizing a match against Egypt without the knowledge or consent of the Togolese authorities. He had received a two-year ban from all football activities after that match, which Togo extended to three years after learning of his involvement in the match against Bahrain.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

6 September 2006 - Just When You Think It Couldn't Get Any Worse

On 6 September 2006, Germany handed a record loss to a team used to losing, beating San Marino 0-13 in a European Championship qualification match.

The third-smallest nation in Europe (behind the Vatican and Monaco), San Marino is a republic wholly contained within Italy. Their national team played their first unofficial match in 1986 and their first official one in 1990. They lost both matches. In fact, throughout their history, San Marino have lost almost every match they've played--out of 107 official matches, they have drawn three and won one (a 1-0 victory over Liechtenstein in 2004).

Before the match against Germany, San Marino's worst defeat had been a 10-0 loss at the hands of Norway in 1992. But playing at San Marino's Stadio Olimpico, the Germans were closing in on hat number by the break, beating keeper Aldo Simoncini six times goals from Lukas Podolski (11', 43'), Bastian Schweinsteiger (28'), Miroslav Klose (30', 45'), and Michael Ballack (35').

The second half continued the pattern of the first, with more goals from Schweinsteiger (47') and Podolski (64', 72'), as well as strikes from Thomas Hitzlsperger (66', 72') and Manuel Friedrich (87'). Then, in the 90th minute, with Germany leading 0-12, the referee awarded them a penalty kick, which Bernd Schneider converted for the final tally of 13.

Although the scoreline set a new record for San Marino, it wasn't Germany's greatest win. That came in the 1912 Summer Olympics with a 16-0 victory over Russia.

Monday, September 5, 2011

5 September 2009 - Anywhere Else, This Might Be Surprising

On 5 September 2009, Colombia's win over Ecuador turned tragic when a grenade exploded during the post-match celebrations, killing one person and injuring at least 30 others.

The two teams met at the Estadio Atanasio Girardot in Medellín for a World Cup qualifier. Playing before a crowd of 42,000, the match was deadlocked for the first 82 minutes until substitute Colombian striker Jackson Martínez (pictured) scored his first goal for the national team. Martínez played his club ball for Medellín and his goal sent the home supporters into a frenzy. Their excitement grew when striker Teófilo Gutiérrez added a second goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to seal the victory.

As joyous Colombian supporters celebrated the win through the streets of Medellín, the grenade exploded in one of the central plazas, the Parque San Antonio. In addition to the lone fatality, three others were seriously wounded, while the remaining injuries were not life-threatening. Although the Parque San Antonio had been the site of a 1995 terrorist attack that killed 23 people, police believed that the 2009 explosion was unrelated. Instead, they suspected that one of the celebrating supporters mishandled the grenade, setting it off accidentally.

Colombia proceeded to split their last two qualification matches, losing to Chile and winning against Paraguay, to finish just outside the region's World Cup slots.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

4 September 1867 - Born On A Wednesday

On 4 September 1867, the Wednesday Cricket Club decided to add football as a way to keep their players fit during the winter. The new sport's popularity grew quickly, however, and soon became the dominant activity of the club, now known as Sheffield Wednesday FC.

The club, which took its name from the fact that it played its matches on Wednesdays, met at Sheffield's Adelphi Hotel on 4 September (itself a Wednesday, of course) and "decided to form a football club in connection with the above influential cricket club, with the object of keeping together during the winter season the members of this cricket club." They played their first football match the following month and eventually joined the Football League in 1892.

They enjoyed a lot of early success, winning the FA Cup in 1896 then back-to-back league titles in 1903 and 1904. After a second FA Cup in 1907, they went into a brief decline, dropping down to Division 2 in 1920, but regained their winning ways in 1926 with a return to the top flight followed by two more league titles (1929, 1930) and another FA Cup (1935).

They have spent the majority of their existence in the top flight, and were founding members of the Premier League in 1992. But they have won only one major trophy--the 1991 League Cup--since World War II and are currently playing in League One, the third tier of the English football pyramid.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

3 September 1989 - This Makes Me Wonder If Professional Wrestling Is Big In Chile

On 3 September 1989, a World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Chile was halted after Chile's goalkeeper, Roberto Rojas, appeared to be struck by a flare thrown from the stands and fell to the ground bleeding.

Playing at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro in their group's last qualification match, Chile and Brazil were even on points. Brazil had a better goal differential and could qualify with a draw, while Chile needed a win to advance to the World Cup in Italy. Their prospects took a hit, however, when Brazilian striker Careca scored in the 49th minute to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.

In the 70th minute, with the score still 1-0, a Brazilian supporter in the stands threw the flare in the direction of Rojas, who fell to the ground clutching his face. He was taken off the pitch on a stretcher, with blood running down his face. Citing fears for their safety, the Chilean team walked off the pitch and the match was abandoned.

Subsequent review of the video from the match revealed that the flare was thrown by a Brazilian supporter named Rosemary de Mello, but also showed that it never struck Rojas. Investigators determined that his injury was self-inflicted, using a razor concealed in one of his gloves. They also concluded that Chile's manager, Orlando Aravena, orchestrated the feigned injury with Rojas and team doctor Daniel Rodriguez in the hope that the officials would award the match to Chile or, alternatively, call for a replay.

Instead, the match went down as a 2-0 victory for Brazil, while Rojas, Aravena, and Rodriguez each received lifetime bans from FIFA. In addition, team captain Fernando Astengo received a five-year ban for taking the team off the pitch, while Chile were barred from participating in the 1994 World Cup. In 2001, FIFA lifted the ban on Rojas, who was working as a trainer in São Paulo at the time.

Friday, September 2, 2011

2 September 1920 - Well, That's One Way To Win A Match

On 2 September 1920, Belgium took the gold medal at the Summer Olympics after their opponent in the final, Czechoslovakia, walked off the pitch in protest after only 40 minutes.

The Czechs had rolled through the preliminary rounds, racking up scores of 7-0 over Yugoslavia, 4-0 over Norway, and 4-1 over France. Belgium, as hosts, entered the tournament one round later and advanced with convincing wins over Spain (3-1) and the Netherlands (3-0). Their referee in the match against the Netherlands was 72-year old Englishman John Lewis, who drew high praise from the Belgian press for his officiating. L'Action Nationale, the Belgian national newspaper, said that Lewis "refereed the game magnificently" and called for him to take charge of the final. He did, along with two English linesmen.

The match was played before a crowd of 35,000 at the Olympic Stadium in Antwerp. Belgium took an early lead with a 6th-minute penalty from Robert Coppée, then doubled their lead in the 30th minute with a goal from Henri Larnoe. Things continued to get worse for Czechslovakia when Lewis ejected left back Karel Steiner in the 40th minute. That proved to be the final straw for the Czechs, who immediately walked off the pitch and did not return, so the result was awarded to Belgium.

Czechoslovakia filed a subsequent protest, complaining that both goals were the result of incorrect calls from Lewis and the linesmen, whom they claimed had been biased. Specifically, they complained that "The majority of the decisions of the referee Mr. Lewis were distorted and it was obvious that it gave the public the wrong impression in regard to our game. Also both Belgian goals were the result of incorrect decisions of the referee and we seek a rigorous investigation on that point."

Their complaint was dismissed, however, and Belgium retained the gold medal. It remains the only time in a major tournament that one of the finalists was disqualified.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

1 September 2001 - Liverpool Beats Germany

On 1 September 2001, England beat Germany 5-1 in a World Cup qualifier, with all five of their goals coming from Liverpool players.

The two teams have a longstanding rivalry, highlighted by England's win over West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final. Going into the qualifier, the overall record stood at ten wins for England, eleven for Germany (including two on penalty kicks), and three draws. Germany had gotten the better of England in their most recent matches, winning six of the last seven.

In the qualifier, played at the Olympiastadion in Munich, Germany looked likely to continue their winning ways when forward Carsten Jancker opened the scoring in just the 6th minute. But striker Michael Owen (pictured), coming off a treble-winning season with Liverpool, equalized six minutes later. The teams remained evenly matched through the remainder of the first half, but Owen's Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard blasted the ball into the German net from distance to put the visitors ahead.

The second half belonged to England, as Owen notched his second goal in the 48th minute, then completed his hat-trick in the 66th-minute after latching on to a precision pass from Gerrard and blasting the ball over keeper Oliver Kahn.

The day's last goal came from yet another Liverpool player, forward Emile Heskey, who completed the rout in the 74th minute.The four-goal margin of victory was the highest in the rivalry's history, beating the previous record of three set by England in 1935, 1938, and 1985.

England went on to win the qualification group and Germany finished second. But the Germans got the last laugh in the tournament proper, finishing as losing finalists while England fell in the quarterfinals (both teams were eliminated by Brazil).