Monday, April 30, 2012

30 April 1974 - That's The Penalty For Setting High Expectations

On 30 April 1974, the FA sacked England manager Alf Ramsey, who led the team to World Cup glory in 1966.

Ramsey took charge of England in May 1963 after a successful time at Ipswich Town. He began his new job in bold style, claiming that they would win the upcoming 1966 World Cup as hosts. And he made good on his promise. After opening the tournament with a scoreless draw against Uruguay, England reeled off five straight victories, including a 4-2 win over West Germany in the final to lift the cup.

But the decline started soon after. In 1968, England finished third out of four teams in the European Championships and, two years later, they were eliminated by West Germany in the first knockout round of the 1970 World Cup. West Germany again proved to be their nemesis in 1972, ending England's qualification campaign for the 1972 European Championships.

The final straw for Ramsey came in October 1973, when a draw with Poland prevented England from qualifying for the next year's World Cup. Although he remained in charge for another six months, the failure to reach the World Cup effectively sealed his fate. The FA finally dropped the curtain on his tenure at the end of April despite his overall record of 69 wins, 27 draws, and only 17 losses in 119 matches played.

He later had a brief spell in charge of Birmingham City (1977-78) and another as technical director of Panathinaikos (1979-80) but could not recapture the success he had with Ipswich and England. He died of a heart attack in 1999 and, in 2002, was an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

29 April 1978 - It Was A Hell Of An Effort, Though

On 29 April 1978, Borussia Mönchengladbach beat Borussia Dortmund by the Bundesliga record margin of 12-0. And it still wasn't enough.

Gladbach had dominated the league over the previous few years, winning the title in 1970, 1971, 1975, 1976, and 1977. But going into the final day of the 1977-78 season, they were sitting in second place behind Köln. The two teams were level on points, but Köln had a ten-goal advantage in differential and were playing their final match of the season away at the league's last-place team, St. Pauli.

A crowd of 38,000 people showed up at Gladbach's Rheinstadion and watched as the hosts gave their best effort to retain the title. Going up against Dortmund's second-choice keeper, Peter Endrulat--who had reportedly been told earlier in the day that the club was not going to renew his contract--Gladbach built a 6-0 lead by the break with goals from Jupp Heynckes (1', 12', 32'), Carsten Nielsen (13'), Karl Del'Haye (22'), and Herbert Wimmer (38').

At the break, Dortmund manager Otto Rehhagel asked Endrulat if he wanted to come out of the game, but the keeper gamely chose to play on. He later said he wished he hadn't, as Heynckes (59', 77'), Nielsen (61'), Del'Haye (66'), Ewald Lienen (87'), and Christian Kulik (90') proceeded to add another six goals to Gladbach's tally. The 12-0 scoreline remains the highest margin of victory in Bundesliga history, beating the previous record set by Gladbach in their 11-0 win over Schalke in 1967.

Unfortunately for Gladbach, twelve goals weren't enough, as Köln beat St. Pauli 5-0 to preserve a three-goal differential over Gladbach and take the title.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

28 April 2004 - You Know Clash Of The Titans? This Was Nothing Like That

On 28 April 2004, San Marino recorded their first win in 65 attempts, beating Liechtenstein 1-0 in a friendly.

Although founded in 1931, the football federation of San Marino--situated on the northeastern part of the Italian peninsula--did not enter a team into an official FIFA competition until 1990. Their early years were ones of frustration, as the small nation went up to their fourteenth match before avoiding defeat, finally earning a draw  with Turkey in a qualifier for the 1994 World Cup.

By 2004, San Marino had suffered defeat in 61 of their 64 matches, earning additional draws at Latvia in 2001 and at Liechtenstein in 2002. When they hosted Liechtenstein in 2004 for the pair's second meeting, San Marino was ranked 164 by FIFA, twenty-two spots behind the visitors.

A meager crowd of only 700 people turned out at the Stadio Olimpico for the match. But they were rewarded with a goal from San Marino striker Andy Selva (pictured) in the fifth minute. It was his fourth international goal and only the eleventh in the history of the national team. San Marino managed to hold the slender lead until the end, finishing the day as 1-0 winners to taste victory for the first time.

Unfortunately for San Marino, they quickly returned to their previous level of futility, having lost all forty-five subsequent matches for an overall record of 1 win, 3 draws, and 105 losses.

Friday, April 27, 2012

27 April 2003 - A Beach Ball Sunday In Glasgow

On 27 April 2003, visiting Celtic fans created a surreal scene at Ibrox by dumping hundreds of beach balls onto the pitch.

At the time, Celtic were second in the league, eight points behind Rangers, who had already won the Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup (the latter over Celtic in the final). But Celtic were doing better in Europe. While Rangers had crashed out of European competition back in September, Celtic had three days earlier beaten Boavista 2-1 on aggregate to advance to the UEFA Cup final in Seville the next month.

The Celtic supporters took the opportunity to taunt their Old Firm rivals by sneaking hundreds of beach balls into the stadium, then throwing them onto the pitch while singing "while you're watching the Bill, we'll be in Seville." Rangers captain Barry Ferguson appreciated the humor in the act and even claimed to have spotted his own father-in-law among those with a beach ball.

Celtic proceeded to win the match 1-2, but Rangers got the last laugh. They won the league title to claim a treble on the season, while Celtic went on to lose to Porto 3-2 in the UEFA Cup final.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

26 April 1903 - Madrid Gets Athletic

On 26 April 1903, a group of students founded Atlético Madrid. They have since become one of Spain's most successful clubs, winning the league and the Copa del Rey nine times each.

The initial group of students consisted of Basques who were Athletic Bilbao and who considered the new club to be a Bilbao youth affiliate. They called the new club Athletic Club de Madrid and even adopted Bilbao's blue and white stripes, though they changed to their current red and white stripes by 1911 (reportedly attributable to their purchase that year of shirts from Southampton FC).

They joined La Liga in 1928, but were relegated to the Segunda División two years later. A few ups and downs later, and a merger with Zaragoza's Aviación Nacional, they returned to the top flight for the 1939-40 season and proceeded to win two straight titles. They won two more in 1950 and 1951 under manager Helenio Herrera. They have since added five more, including their most recent one in 1996, part of a league and Copa del Rey double that season.

Atlético have also enjoyed success in Europe. They won the Cup Winners' Cup over Fiorentina in 1962 and reached the European Cup final in 1974 (where they lost to Bayern Munich). In 2010, they won the Europa League final over Fulham, then claimed the UEFA Supercup by beating Inter 2-0.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

25 April 1985 - The Toffees Taste Sweet Victory In Europe

On 25 April 1985, Everton claimed one of their greatest wins, beating Bayern Munich 3-1 at Goodison Park.

Both Everton and Bayern Munich were enjoying strong seasons that would end with both of them winning their leagues. Their match-up came in the European Cup Winners' Cup semifinals, with the two teams playing to a scoreless draw in Munich on 10 April in the first leg.

At Goodison for the return leg, Bayern took the advantage with a 37th-minute goal from striker Dieter Hoeness. Down 0-1 at the break, Everton manager Howard Kendall reportedly pointed out that, in the second half, they were going to be shooting toward the Gwladys Street end, location of the most rabid home supporters, and told his players "Just kick toward Gwladys Street, the fans will suck it into the goal."

It didn't take long. The Toffees equalized in just the 47th minute with a strike from forward Graeme Sharp. Striker Andy Gray then put them ahead in the 73rd minute before winger Trevor Steven completed the comeback and sealed the win with a goal in the 87th minute.

The win sent Everton to the final where they proceeded to beat Rapid Wien 3-1 for their first and only piece of European silverware.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

24 April 1996 - I Think There's A Greek Play About This

On 24 April 1996, Iceland striker Arnór Guðjohnsen was replaced at the break by his son, Eiður. It was the closest the two ever got to playing together professionally.

The occasion was a friendly against Estonia in Tallinn. Arnór, then 34 years old, had played for Iceland since 1979 while playing his club ball for a number of teams including Anderlecht and Bordeaux. His 17-year old son, Eiður, who was then playing for PSV, was making his debut for the Iceland senior squad.

The two had hoped to play together, but Eggert Magnússon, the president of the Icelandic Football Federation wanted that historic moment to happen on home soil, so he instructed manager Logi Ólafsson not to field them at the same time against Estonia. Still, when Eiður replaced Arnór at the break, it was the first time in the history of the national team that a son came on as a substitute for his father. Iceland went on to win the match 0-3 with a hat-trick from Bjarki Gunnlaugsson (6', 20', 30').

Unfortunately for the Guðjohnsens, they never did get to play alongside each other. One month after the win over Estonia, Eiður broke his ankle while playing for the U18s and did not recover before the end of his father's international career.

Monday, April 23, 2012

23 April 1904 - Manchester City Turns Silver

On 23 April 1904, Manchester City won their first major trophy, beating Bolton in the FA Cup final. But it was not without controversy.

Manchester City were making their first appearance in the final, while Bolton had been there before, losing to Notts County 4-1 in 1894. But City were the favorites for the 1904 clash, as they were sitting at the top of the First Division table, while Bolton occupied the seventh position in Division Two.

Over 60,000 people filled the stands at London's Crystal Palace for the match and watched as the two teams played a balanced game for the first twenty minutes. But in the 23rd minute, City forward Billy Meredith (pictured) collected a pass from his teammate George Livingstone and beat Bolton keeper Dai Davies with a dribble to put the ball into an open net. Some commentators later claimed that Meredith had been offside, but the goal stood and turned out to be the difference on the day.

Bolton enjoyed the better part of possession throughout the second half, but could not get the ball past City keeper Jack Hillman and lost, 1-0.

City nearly completed the double, but lost 1-0 at Everton two days later to finish as runners-up in the league to Sheffield Wednesday. They have since won two league titles and four more FA Cups, most recently in 2011.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

22 April 1978 - Forest Grows Into The Title

On 22 April 1978, Nottingham Forest won the league with a scoreless draw at Coventry City. They were the fifth (and to date last) team to win the English top flight as a newly-promoted team.

The rise was orchestrated by the managerial team of Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, who took charge of the club in January 1975. At the time, Forest were a mid-table Division Two team whose only major honors were the 1898 and 1959 FA Cups. Although they finished sixteenth out of twenty-two teams that first season under Clough and Taylor, they ended the 1975-76 season in eighth, then claimed the last promotion spot the following year with a third-place finish.

They got a strong start on their return to the top flight, winning seven of their first nine matches to take a firm grip on first place. They remained there for the rest of the season.

By the time they visited Coventry City, Forest were six points clear of second-place Everton, who had only three matches left to play (Forest had five remaining). At the time, teams earned two points for a win, so even a draw with Coventry would have put Forest out of Everton's reach. And a draw is what they got, as the match finished 0-0 to secure Forest's first top-flight title with four games left.

Before that, Liverpool (in 1906), Everton (1932), Tottenham (1951), and Ipswich Town (1962) each had won the league as newly-promoted teams, but Forest remain the last to do it. They were also the first to do it without being promoted as Division Two champions.

Their success continued under Clough and Taylor, with back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

21 April 2007 - Lyon Was Lying In Wait

On 21 April 2007, Lyon clinched their sixth consecutive Ligue 1 title, even though they didn't play that day.

The critical match was at Rennes, who were hosting second-place Toulouse. Going into the match, Toulouse were eighteen points back with six matches left to play. So in order to steal the title away from Lyon, Toulouse needed to win all six of their matches, have Lyon fail to take a point from their remaining six matches, and make up a 27-goal gap in differential between the two teams.

It was unlikely task, but Toulouse got off to a good start when they took a first half lead with a goal from midfielder Achille Emana (30'). Rennes drew level, however, with a 63rd-minute penalty kick from Jimmy Briand (pictured), then claimed the advantage with a goal from Sylvain Marveaux (75'). An own goal from Briand in the 77th minute extended a lifeline to Toulouse, but as the visitors pressed forward, Rennes midfielder Bruno Cheyrou sealed the day for the hosts with a goal three minutes from time.

As it turned out, Lyon would have taken the title anyway, as they won three and drew two of their remaining matches to finish seventeen points clear of Marseille (Toulouse finished in third).

The result made Lyon champions for a record sixth straight season, the first time any team from the "Big 5" European leagues had managed such a feat. They then extended the record to seven the following season.

Friday, April 20, 2012

20 April 2011 - Maybe This Is Why They Don't Win It More Often

On 20 April 2011, Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey for the first time in eighteen years, then proceeded to destroy it by dropping it in the path of their parade bus. 

Before then, Madrid's last tournament title came in 1993, when they beat Real Zaragoza and they last appeared in a final in 2004 (when they lost to Zaragoza).

They faced El Clásico rivals Barcelona in the 2011 final, having gone winless against them in the league, with a 1-1 home draw and a crushing 5-0 away loss. The two teams were also scheduled to meet one week later in the Champions League semifinals. Playing before a crowd of 55,000 at Valencia's Estadio Mestalla, the final remained scoreless through the first 90 minutes, due largely to the stellar play of of the two goalkeepers, Madrid's Iker Casillas and Barca's José Pinto. But in the first period of extra time, Madrid forward Ángel di María sent in a cross for his teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo, to head home in the 105th minute for the day's only goal.

Unfortunately for Real Madrid, they did not get long to savor the cup. As the team rode an open-topped bus into Madrid to celebrate the win, with the parade extending into the early hours of the next morning, center back Sergio Ramos dropped the trophy over the front end of the bus. It landed directly in front of the moving bus, which proceeded to run over the cup.

The trophy--the eleventh one in Copa del Rey history--shattered into several pieces, but Madrid soon received a replacement to display at their stadium.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

19 April 1925 - Colo-Colo Heats Up In Chile

On 19 April 1925, a group of former Magallanes players formed a new club. Named Colo-Colo, it has since become Chile's most successful club, with a record 29 Primera Division titles.

The splinter group, led by Chilean international striker David Arellano (pictured), left Magallanes after failing to persuade their former club to take professional status. The chose the name of a famous chief from the local Mapuche tribe, who is also represented on the club's badge.

They won their first regional title in their first season, then won two more in 1928 and 1929. Unfortunately, David Arellano did not see the latter two, as he sustained an injury during a 1927 friendly against Spanish club Real Valladolid. He contracted peritonitis and died the following day. In his memory, Colo-Colo added a black line over the badge.

Chile established the Primera Division in 1932 and Colo-Colo won it for their first time in 1937. Since then, they've won it a record total of 29 times, almost double the next-highest tally (Universidad de Chile have the second most with 15).

Colo-Colo have also enjoyed success on the international stage, winning the Copa Libertadores and Copa Interamericana in 1991, as well as the 1992 Recopa Sudamericana.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

18 April 1922 - This...Is...Spartak!

On 18 April 1922, Moscow Sport Circle expanded into football. Now known as Spartak Moscow, it is Russia's most successful club, with twelve Soviet championships and a record nine Russian Premier League titles.

Moscow Sport Circle was founded in 1921 by Ivan Artemyev and Nikolai Starostin, who quickly turned the new club's attention to football. They changed their name to Spartak Moscow in 1934 and won their first league title two years later, led by manager Mikhail Koslov and top scorer Georgy Glazkov.

They won two more titles in 1938 and 1939, then took six more in the 1950s and '60s. By the time the Soviet Union disbanded, they had a total of twelve, second only to Dynamo Kyiv's thirteen. They then dominated the new Russian league in the 1990s, winning seven titles between 1992 and 1999 (the only one they missed was 1995). They also have six titles as champions of the interim Commonwealth of Independent States.

Along the way, their rosters included players like Nikita Simonyan, their all-time top scorer, with 133 goals between 1949 and 1959.

They won their last league title in 2001, but remain constant challengers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

17 April 1990 - Bologna's Attacking Angel

On 17 April 1990, Bologna's all-time leading goalscorer and 1934 World Cup hero Angelo Schiavio passed away. He was 84 years old.

Schiavio spent his entire career with Bologna, joining them in 1922 at the age of 16. Although he made only six appearances in that first season, he soon established himself as an important member of the first time. In just his third season, Bologna won their first league title, with Schiavio providing 16 goals in 27 matches. They repeated as champions in 1929, getting 30 goals from Schiavio in just 26 games.

He made his national team debut for Italy in 1925 and was the team's top scorer in their bronze-medal winning 1928 Olympic campaign with four goals.

Italy did not participate in the 1930 World Cup, but hosted the second tournament in 1934. There, Schiavio scored a hat-trick in their opening match against the United States, which Italy won 7-1. He did not score again in that tournament until the final, when his 95th-minute strike put Italy ahead of Czechoslovakia 2-1 and captured the trophy. It was the last of his 15 international goals.

He retired in 1938, having scored a club-record 242 goals for Bologna.

Monday, April 16, 2012

16 April 1905 - Liverpool Runs The Table

On 16 April 1905, Liverpool secured their second league title. It was the first time in league history that a newly-promoted team won the top flight.

Liverpool won their first league title in 1901, but three seasons later, they finished the season as the seventeenth-placed team out of eighteen and were relegated to the Second Division. But they returned at the first opportunity and were back in the top flight for the 1904-05 season.

Their return started poorly, with three losses in their first three matches. They turned things around quickly, however, winning twelve of their next fifteen to reach the top of the table by mid-December. Their good form continued into the second half of the season, with Preston North End in hot pursuit.

At the start of the day on 16 April, Preston were five points back with three games left to play. Liverpool were away to Bolton, where they lost 3-2. But fortunately for them, Preston also lost, falling 2-0 at Sunderland. That result put the title out of Preston's reach and made Liverpool the champions.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

15 April 1965 - The Pattern Holds For Independiente

On 15 April 1965, Independiente won their second consecutive Copa Libertadores, beating Peñarol in a playoff.

Established five years earlier as the Copa Campeones de América, the tournament had already fallen into a pattern, with Peñarol winning the first two (1960 and 1961) and Santos winning the next two (1962 and 1963). Independiente won the 1964 edition, priming them to follow the pattern and repeat as champions in 1965.

The final was scheduled for two legs, home and away. On 9 April, Independiente won the first leg in Argentina 1-0 with an 83rd-minute goal from midfielder Raúl Bernao. But Peñarol dominated the second leg in Uruguay on 12 April, going up 3-0 in the first 46 minutes en route to a 3-1 victory. Under the rules at the time, the winner was determined on points, not goal differential, so the split results meant that a playoff was required.

For the playoff, the teams met at the neutral Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Chile. There, Independiente surged to a 3-0 lead of their own with goals from Carlos Pérez (10'), Bernao (27'), and Roque Avallay (33'). Peñarol winger Juan Joya pulled one back one minute before the break, but the match finished as a 4-1 win for Independiente after Osvaldo Mura restored the three-goal margin in the 82nd minute.

Peñarol went on to win the 1966 tournament, then became the first team not to repeat as champions when they failed to reach the 1967 final.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

14 April 2007 - It Was A Good Run While It Lasted

On 14 April 2007, a 1-1 draw with Peterborough secured Torquay's relegation, ending a 79-year stay in the Football League.

Formed in 1899, Torquay United joined the league for the 1927-28 season, playing in the Third Division. They moved between the third and fourth tiers for the remainder of their stay in the league, with their best season ending with a second-place Third Division finish in 1957. They also narrowly missed tournament silverware, finishing as Football League Trophy runners-up in 1989.

By the 2006-07 season, Torquay were back in the fourth tier League Two and undergoing upheaval in the backroom as the club went through a succession of chairmen and managers. Their performance on the pitch suffered; at one point in the middle of the season, they went 19 matches without a win (and 14 of those were losses).

By the time they hosted Peterborough in April, Torquay had been at the bottom of the table for three and a half months. Their relegation looked unavoidable, but they still had a slight mathematical hope. That hope, however, required a win.

Torquay's Kevin Hill fanned the flames of that hope when his diving header put them up 1-0 in the 45th minute, but the referee awarded a 71st-minute penalty to Peterborough, which Craig Mackail-Smith buried to end the day as a 1-1 draw.

The Gulls spent two seasons in the Football Conference before returning to the league in 2009. They remain in League 2 at the moment, but are currently challenging for automatic promotion, sitting in second place.

Friday, April 13, 2012

13 April 2008 - Tonight, He Dines At Anfield!

On 13 April 2008, Steven Gerrard made his 300th appearance for Liverpool. And he did it in style, scoring one goal and assisting another in a 3-1 win over Blackburn.

Born on Merseyside in 1980, Gerrard has been with Liverpool since joining them as a youth player in 1987. He became a professional in 1997 and made his first appearance in a 2-0 win over Blackburn in November 1998.

He became a regular starter in the 1999-2000 season, then won his first silverware the following season as the Reds claimed the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup. He then became team captain in October 2003.

His 300th appearance came at Anfield, where the midfielder delivered the opening goal in the 60th minute, passing through two defenders and sending the ball through the legs of a third before putting it into the back of the net. He helped double the lead 22 minutes later, providing a cross that was knocked home by striker Fernando Torres. Forward Andriy Voronin added a third in the 90th minute before Rovers got one back in stoppage time to end the day as a 3-1 Liverpool victory.

Gerrard remains with Liverpool and has since pushed his appearance count to 577.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

12 April 1964 - That's Still A £2,000 Profit, Though

On 12 April 1964, the Sunday People tabloid broke the story of a fix two years earlier between Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town. The ensuing investigation resulted in ten convictions, including a four-year prison sentence for the ringleader.

That ringleader was former striker Jimmy Gauld, who had played for several clubs in England and Scotland before a leg injury ended his career in 1961. During his playing days, Gauld supplemented his income through match-fixing. He continued that sideline into 1962, when he approached Sheffield Wednesday striker David Layne, a former teammate.

Gauld and Layne then enlisted two additional Wednesday players, Peter Swan and Tony Kay, persuading them to guarantee a loss in an upcoming match against Ipswich Town, then sitting in 21st place. They all placed bets against Wednesday, who, despite sitting thirteen spots higher, duly lost 2-0.

In 1964, Gauld tried to make an additional profit by selling his story to Sunday People for £7,000. The paper published the story on 12 April and an investigation quickly followed. Gauld, Layne, Swan, and Kay were all convicted, as were six Mansfield Town players connected to another Gauld fix. Gauld received the harshest punishment, getting a four-year prison term and a fine of £5,000. Additionally, all ten players were given lifetime bans from football.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

11 April 1926 - Bethlehem Steel Takes The Fifth

On 11 April 1926, Bethlehem Steel beat Ben Millers to claim their fifth National Challenge Cup, setting a record that remains unbroken.

Despite being separated by half a continent, the two teams had developed a healthy rivalry over the previous decade. In 1916, Bethlehem Steel (pictured in a 1921 photo) were the strongest team in the eastern half of the United States, while Ben Millers were the dominant side in the powerful St. Louis soccer world. The teams met for a Christmas Day friendly that year in St. Louis to settle which team was the country's best and played to a 2-2 draw. In a rematch in New York the following year, Bethlehem Steel won 2-0.

Playing in separate leagues, both teams continued to do well in the intervening years, with Ben Millers winning four league titles (1916, 1917, 1918, 1920) and one National Challenge Cup (1920), while Bethlehem Steel had won six league titles (1913, 1914, 1915, 1919, 1920, 1921), and a record four National Challenge Cups (1915, 1916, 1918, 1919). (The National Challenge Cup has since been renamed the US Open Cup.)

Bethlehem Steel reached the National Challenge Cup Final again in 1926 as Eastern Division champions, where they met Western Division champions Ben Millers. But despite the rivalry, it turned out to be one of the tournament's most lopsided matches, as Bethlehem Steel rolled to a 7-2 victory led by a hat-trick from Archie Stark.

It was the last appearance in the Final for either team, but Bethlehem Steel's five wins remain a record (though it is shared with Maccabi Los Angeles, who matched it in 1981).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

10 April 1897 - Genoa's Genesis

On 10 April 1897, the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club expanded into football, making them the oldest existing team in Italy.

At the time, the only other football teams were in Turin--Internazionale Torino and FCB Torinese. Genoa, founded in 1893 by British expatriates, initially devoted their attentions to cricket, considering football to be suitable only for the lower classes.

But in 1897, James Richardson Spensley (pictured), an English doctor and football enthusiast, persuaded the club to open a section devoted to football. He also served as the team manager.

The team was immediately successful, winning their first Italian championship in 1989, then winning five of the next six (losing out to Milan in 1901). Meanwhile, Internazionale Torino dissolved in 1900 and Torinese followed in 1906.

In all, Genoa have won a total of nine league titles, though the most recent was in 1924. They have also won an Italian Cup (1937) and, most recently, the Anglo-Italian Cup (1996).

Monday, April 9, 2012

9 April 1938 - You Know, I Think It's Going To Catch On

On 9 April 1938, England hosted Scotland at Wembley for the first match to be shown live on television in its entirety.

The BBC expanded from radio into television in 1936. But for the first several months, the only football they showed included a recording of Arsenal's 1936-37 season opener against Everton and a short live exhibition in September 1937 between Arsenal's first team and reserves.

For their first full live match, the BBC chose the final game of the 1938 British Home Championship, played at Wembley Stadium. The outcome was irrelevant, as England had already taken the honors; their wins over Ireland and Wales left them with four points, while Scotland had managed only a single point after a draw with Ireland and a loss to Wales (those other two teams had ended their campaigns three weeks earlier and were behind England in the standings).

Nevertheless, a packed house turned out for the match and saw Scotland take an early lead with a strike from inside forward Tommy Walker, which turned out to be the only goal of the day.

Live broadcasts continued, with the next one being the FA Cup Final between Huddersfield Town and Preston North End the following month.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

8 April 1898 - The Blades Cut Bolton Down For The Title

On 8 April 1898, Sheffield United won the league with a win over Bolton. It was the start of the Blades' most successful period, followed by two FA Cups.

Founded in 1889, United had finished as league runners-up to Aston Villa in 1897. Determined to improve their position, the club announced at the start of the 1897-98 season that they were gunning for the title. And they got off to a great start, going undefeated in their first fourteen matches, winning eight.

They had claimed the top spot early in that run, but faltered in December, losing two of their next three to drop in second. They rallied on New Year's Day, moving back to the top with the first of six straight wins. They remained there for the rest of the season, despite going winless for a string of four matches in February and March.

On 8 April, they were at Bolton and started the day three points clear of Sunderland, who had three games left to play. United went on to beat Bolton 0-1, while Sunderland lost 1-0 to Bury. The combination secured the title for the Blades with one game left to play.

They went on to win the FA Cup the following year, then again in 1902 (after finishing as runners-up in 1901). The 1898 championship, however, remains their only league title.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

7 April 2001 - Enough Cards For A Round Of Poker

On 7 April 2001, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich battled to a 1-1 league draw that included a total of fourteen yellow cards and three ejections.

The match was part of a tight title race--Bayern were in first, just one point clear of second-place Dortmund, who would claim the top spot with a win in front of their home supporters.

The visitors started strongly, with forward Roque Santa Cruz putting them ahead with a 6th-minute strike. Shortly afterward, the contest degenerated into a brutish display that held little resemblance to a football match. Bayern were the main culprits, accumulating a total of six yellow cards before the break, including two for left back Bixente Lizarazu, who was ejected in the 35th minute.

With Bayern a man down, Dortmund equalized in the 52nd minute with a goal from striker Fredi Bobic. Just three minutes later, Bayern went down to nine men as midfielder and captain Stefan Effenberg (pictured, from a different match) received a straight red, but the hosts could not capitalize on their numerical advantage and the game ended 1-1. By that time, Dortmund had a player of their own sent off, with right back Evanilson receiving a straight red in the 90th minute. In all, the referee showed ten yellows and two reds to Bayern, and two yellows and a red to Dortmund, for a league single-match record total of 15 cards.

Bayern went on to win the league that year, while Dortmund finished in third.

Friday, April 6, 2012

6 April 1996 - Someone Had To Win Eventually

On 6 April 1996, Metz won their second Coupe de la Ligue, beating Lyon on penalties, 0-0 (4-5). It was the first of three consecutive finals to go to a shootout.

Metz won the cup for the first time in 1986, when they defeated Cannes 2-1. Lyon, however, were making their first trip to the final. Despite the presence of some of Ligue 1's top scorers, including Lyon's Florian Maurice and the Metz duo of Robert Pirès and Cyrille Pouget, the teams battled to a scoreless standstill through extra time.

Their struggles continued in the shootout, as Lyon's Stéphane Roche sent the first kick over the bar (and was consoled by Metz keeper Jacques Songo'o), then Metz's Sylvain Kastendeuch did the same (but without the consolation).

They finally found the net with their next kicks, including shots by Maurice, Pirès, and Lyon goalkeeper Pascal Olmeta, to draw level at 4-4. But then, with Lyon's sixth kick, defender Marcelo sent it to his left, where a diving Songo'o met it and pushed it wide. Pouget then converted his attempt to give Metz the victory.

Metz returned to the final in 1999, but lost to Lens. Lyon returned in 2001 and won, then finished as runners-up again in 2007.

Metz - Lyon 1996 tirs aux buts by fabgrenat

Thursday, April 5, 2012

5 April 1931 - Johnny Nelson's Last Battle

On 5 April 1931, a knee injury ended the playing career of forward Johnny Nelson, one of the top all-time scorers of the original American Soccer League. He was 26.

The Scottish-born Nelson started his professional career with Yonkers Thistles, but moved to Brooklyn Wanderers (pictured) in 1923. In five years there, he made 126 appearances, scoring 101 goals. In 1928, he moved to Fall River, scoring 10 goals in 14 appearances for the Marksmen, then moved again later that year to J&P Coats, where he finished out the 1928-29 season, adding another seven goals in 12 appearances.

For the start of the 1929-30 season, he joined the New York Nationals, where he would finish his career (though they changed their name to the New York Giants in 1930). He finished as the league's top scorer for the Spring 1930 season and, in all, knocked home a staggering 105 goals for New York in 98 appearances and helped them win the title for the Spring 1931 season.

Unfortunately, he did not make it to the end of that season, as he suffered a career-ending knee injury that April. Though he was only 26, his career tally of 223 goals in 250 games ranks him second on the ASL's all-time scoring list, behind Bethlehem Steel's Archie Stark (253 goals in 293 appearances over ten seasons).

Afterward, Nelson worked as a carpet designer. He passed away in Yonkers in 1984 at the age of 79.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

4 April 1998 - This Cup Runneth Over

On 4 April 1998, Paris Saint-Germain won their second Coupe de la Ligue, beating Bordeaux on penalties, 2-2 (4-2). It was the third straight final to go to a shootout.

The teams met before a crowd of 77,700 at the Stade de France, Bordeaux started as the stronger side, with midfielder Johan Mocoud sending one shot off the post before burying a strike in the 30th minute. But the momentum shifted in PSG's favor by the end of the half, with one near miss and one shot cleared off the line.

The Parisians finally drew level in the 80th minute, after a missed penalty rebounded to forward Marco Simone, who fired the ball into the net. A few minutes later, Simone nearly put PSG ahead, but his shot hit the bar. They did take the lead in extra time thanks to a header from their captain, Raí (pictured) (107'), but Bordeaux's Jean-Pierre Papin restored equality seven minutes later with a goal from a free kick.

In the shootout, Bordeaux fell behind early, as PSG goalkeeper Vincent Fernandez blocked their first attempt, then Papin sent their second attempt wide. PSG, meanwhile, converted their first four, which was enough to secure the cup without the need for a fifth kick.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

3 April 2008 - The Death of Hrvoje Ćustić

On 3 April 2008, NK Zadar striker Hrvoje Ćustić died after getting injured in a match 5 days earlier. He was 24 years old.

Ćustić started his career with the Croatian club in 2000, but spent two season with NK Zagreb from 2005 to 2007 before returning to Zadar in the summer of 2007.

During the first few minutes of a match against HNK Cibalia on 29 March 2008, Ćustić was challenging for a loose ball and collided with an opposing players. The force of the collision pushed him over the touchline and into a concrete wall, which he struck with his head.

Medical personnel rushed him to the hospital, where he underwent surgery. His condition remained stable until 2 April, when his body temperature began to rise due to a post-surgical infection. His conditioned deteriorated and he died the following day.

Afterward, the Croatian federation postponed all league matches for the following weekend to honor his memory.

Monday, April 2, 2012

2 April 2011 - All Good Things Come To An End, Even For Mourinho

On 2 April 2011, Sporting de Gijon ended José Mourinho's remarkable home league unbeaten streak after nine years and 150 matches.

The last time a Mourinho-managed team lost a league match at home was on 23 February 2002 when Beira Mar beat Mourinho's Porto side 2-3 at the Estádio das Antas. Since then, he had gone undefeated at home in the league with both Chelsea (2004-08) and Inter (2008-10).

After joining Real Madrid in May 2010, his streak continued through most of his first season. Few people suspected it would end at the hands of Sporting de Gijon, who were sitting in the table's fifteenth spot and had won only one away game all season before arriving at the Bernabéu to face second-place Real Madrid.

But the hosts were missing two key strikers in Cristiano Ronaldo, then the league's joint-top scorer, and Karim Benzema, as well as defender Marcelo, all of whom were injured. After a scoreless 78 minutes, the visitors broke the deadlock with a 79th-minute goal from midfielder Miguel de las Cuevas (pictured) and the hosts were unable to find an equalizer. Afterward, Mourinho went into the visitors' dressing room to congratulate the team on their win.

Having gone for so long without losing a league game at home, Mourinho's next home loss came quickly, as Real Madrid lost to Real Zaragoza four weeks later.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1 April 2011 - Ironically, He Probably Could Have Used A Beer After That

On 1 April 2011, the match between Schalke and St. Pauli was abandoned after someone in the stands hit a linesman with a full cup of beer.

Playing at St. Pauli's Millerntor-Stadion, the hosts had already gone behind 2-0 after strikes from Raúl (26') and Julian Draxler (66'). They were also down to nine men, after St. Pauli defender Jan Philipp Kalle received a second yellow card in the 68th minute and midfielder Fin Bartels received a straight red for a foul on Schalke's Jefferson Farfán.

The home crowd had already been turned on the officials, pelting them with lighters and coins in the first half. But linesman Thorsten Schiffner drew particular attention after he disallowed a St. Pauli goal in the 60th minute for an offside violation. In the 89th minute, one disgruntled supporter threw a plastic cup full of beer, striking Schiffner in the back of the neck. Referee Denis Aytekin responded by immediately suspended the match.

St. Pauli manager Holger Stanislawski apologized to Schiffner and later told the press "Such scenes are unacceptable. These things should not happen in stadiums. I can only apologize to the assistant in the name of St. Pauli."

The German football association awarded the match as a 2-0 win to Schalke, who went on to finish in the Bundesliga's 14th spot, while St. Pauli's season ended in relegation.