Thursday, May 31, 2012

31 May 1961 - Goal-line Technology Is Not A New Issue

On 31 May 1961, Benfica won their first European Cup, beating Barcelona 3-2. It was the first final for both teams and the first European Cup not won by Real Madrid.

Since the first European Cup Final in 1956, Real Madrid had won it five straight times. But in the 1960-61 competition, they were eliminated in the first round by Spanish rivals Barcelona, who then advanced to the final with wins over Spartak Hradec Králové and Hamburg (the latter in a playoff). They had also beaten Lierse in the premilinary round. Benfica, meanwhile, reached the final with wins over Hearts, Újpesti Dózsa, AGF, and Rapid Wien.

In the final, played before a crowd of 33,000 at the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern, Barcelona took the lead with a header from forward Sándor Kocsis in the 20th minute. But Benfica quickly rallied and were up 2-1 at the break thanks to a goal from captain José Águas (pictured) in the 30th minute and an own goal from Barcelona goalkeeper Antoni Ramallets (32'), who attempted to knock the ball away, but sent it off the bar and across the goal. Ramallets and the other Barcelona players argued that the ball did not cross the line, but the referee did not hesitate to award the goal.

A powerful 55th-minute volley from inside-left Mário Coluna extended Benfica's lead and proved to be the decisive goal, as Barcelona left winger Zoltán Czibor pulled one back in the 75th minute to set the final margin at 3-2 in favor of the Portuguese.

Benfica returned to the final six more times, but won it only once more, repeating as champions in 1962. Barcelona also returned six times, winning it in 1992, 2006, 2009, and 2011.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

30 May 2011 - Revenge Is A Dish Best Served From A Higher Division

On 30 May 2011, Swansea returned to the English top flight for the first time since 1983 by beating Reading in a promotion playoff.

It was the culmination of a rapid rise through the lower divisions for Swansea, who were in League Two in 2005. They were promoted to League One for the 2005-06 season, then to the Championship for the 2008-09 season. Reading, meanwhile, returned to the Championship that season after a two-year spell in the Premier League.

In the summer of 2009, Reading manager Steve Coppell resigned and was replaced by Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers lasted just over six months in the job before the club announced his departure by mutual consent in December 2009. Then, at the end of the season, Rodgers took charge of Swansea.

In the 2010-11 season, he led Swansea to a third-place finish while Reading finished in fifth. The two teams advanced in the League One promotion playoffs to meet in the final at Wembley. There, playing before a crowd of over 86,000, Swansea roared to a 3-0 lead at the break with goals from Scott Sinclair (21' (pen), 22') and Stephen Dobbie (40'). A Swansea own goal four minutes into the second half closed the gap to 3-1, then Reading's Matt Mills scored in the 57th minute to bring Reading within one.

That was as close as they got, though, as Sinclair completed his hat-trick with an 80th-minute penalty kick to seal the 4-2 victory. The win made Swansea the first Welsh team to play in the Premier League and they did well, finishing their first season there in 11th place.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

29 May 2011 - It Really Shouldn't Be That Difficult

On 29 May 2011, DC United beat Portland 2-3, but not without a little penalty kick controversy.

Portland, in their first MLS season, were hosting DC at Jeld-Wen Field. In the 64th minute, with DC leading 0-1, the referee awarded a penalty kick to Portland after defender Dejan Jaković dragged Portland striker Kenny Cooper down in the box. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid guessed correctly and blocked the shot, but was flagged for coming off his line too early.

Cooper took the re-kick with Hamid blocking the shot again, but the keeper was once more flagged for coming off his line. Replays confirmed the linesman's call on both shots, though the second one was slightly more subjective, as Hamid's movement was relatively minor. For the third attempt, Portland replaced Cooper with Jack Jewsbury, who buried the kick to level the score.

The ordeal turned out to be a minor footnote as DC won 2-3 after Chris Pontius converted a penalty kick of their own and Josh Wolff added a late cushion.

Monday, May 28, 2012

28 May 1980 - Forest Climbs To The Top (Again)

On 28 May 1980, Nottingham Forest repeated as European Cup champions, making them the first team to win the tournament more times than their domestic league.

Forest won the previous tournament over Malmö, while Hamburg were making their first appearance in the final. Both had ousted prior champions in the semifinals, with Forest beating three-time winners Ajax 2-1 on aggregate and Hamburg eliminating six-time winners Real Madrid 5-3. The latter was particularly poignant, as the final was played at Madrid's home ground, the Bernabéu.

Forest's Trevor Francis, who scored the winning goal in 1979, was out injured, but they found another hero in winger John Robertson (pictured). In the 20th minute, Robertson played the ball to forward Garry Birtles, who held it up under pressure, then sent it back to a charging Robertson, who fired it low to the keeper's left, just edging it inside the post. It turned out to be the winner as the game ended 1-0.

It was part of a period of English dominance in the tournament, with Liverpool winning it in 1977 and 1978, Forest in 1979 and 1980, then Liverpool again in 1981 and Aston Villa in 1982 for six straight English wins. Hamburg broke the streak in 1983 when they returned to the final and beat Juventus 1-0.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

27 May 2007 - Cacho Fue Muy Macho

On 27 May 2007, Pachuca won their fifth Primera División title, beating América 3-2 on aggregate in the Clausura final.

Pachuca had a slightly easier road to the final than América; their semifinal opponent, Cruz Azul, whom they had beaten 3-1 in the first leg, was suspended for the second leg by the FMF for fielding an ineligible player. So Pachuca enjoyed some additional rest while América completed their semifinal victory over Guadalajara.

In the final, Pachuca hosted the first leg and won 2-1, with both of their goals coming from Juan Carlos Cacho. But in the second leg, América drew level on aggregate with a 69th-minute free kick from Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Then, with time winding down, Pachuca sent the ball into a crowded box where it somehow found its way through several América defenders to Cacho, who tapped in the winner.

It was another victory in a tremendous eighteen-month period for Pachuca, who had already won that year's CONCACAF Champions League to go along with the previous season's Clausura and Copa Sudamericana and would go on to win the 2007 North American Superliga.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

26 May 1993 - A Hill Too High To Climb

On 26 May 1993, São Paulo repeated as Copa Libertadores champions despite losing the second leg of the final to Universidad Católica, 2-0.

The Brazilians won the tournament for the first time in 1992, beating Newell's Old Boys on a penalties. For the 1993 final, they did their best to prevent going to another shootout, winning the first leg against Católica by the score of 5-1 (including an own goal by Católica defender Daniel López). The Chileans' only goal that day was a penalty kick by forward Juan Carlos Almada (pictured) in the 85th minute.

In the second leg, played at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago, Católica did their best to overcome the deficit, going up 1-0 with a 25-yard blast from midfielder Ricardo Lunari in the 9th minute that beat the keeper to the top corner. Then, just six minutes later, the referee awarded a penalty kick to Católica and Almada again converted. The keeper, diving to his right, did well to get a hand to it, but the shot was too strong.

Despite the rapid 2-0 lead, that would prove to be day's last goal, as São Paulo clamped down on defense and prevented Católica from narrowing the aggregate margin any further. It remains Católica's only appearance in the final, while São Paulo went on to win it for a third time in 2005.

Friday, May 25, 2012

25 May 1934 - The Valise Derby

On 25 May 1934, a doctor's bag made a surprise appearance in a controversial derby between Peñarol and Nacional, nicknamed "the valise derby."

The Montevideo rivals were playing in the final of the Copa Uruguaya. With the match scoreless, a Peñarol player sent in a cross that carried past the box and out of bounds. But the ball struck a medical bag belonging to the Nacional physio and rebounded back onto the pitch, when Peñarol put it into the back of the net. The Nacional players immediately protested the goal, with two of them getting sent off by the referee before he eventually disallowed it.

The confusion delayed the game long enough that it could not be completed before dark, so the remainder of the match was postponed until 27 August. When they resumed, the undermanned Nacional held Peñarol to a draw, forcing a subsequent replay, which Nacional won 3-2.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

24 May 1927 - Chile's Masters Of The Universe

On 24 May 1927, three clubs merged to form Universitario de Deportes. Now known as Universidad de Chile, it is one of the country's most successful clubs with 15 league titles.

The three clubs were Internado FC, Atletico Universitario, and Nautico Universitario, who agreed to merge in order to strengthen their candidacy for Chile's new national league, the Liga Central. The new club adopted Nautico's owl logo and originally played in the white shirts and blue shorts of Internado. But by 1930, they switched to the royal blue shirt that they use today. Shortly afterward, they became affiliated with the Universidad de Chile, then changed their name in 1934.

They joined the Chilean Primera División in 1938 and won their first title in 1940. Their most successful period came between 1959 and 1969, when, led by striker Carlos Campos (pictured), they won six additional titles. They fell off in the 1970s and '80s, resulting in relegation to the second division in 1988, but they returned to the top flight in 1989 and proceeded to win another eight titles. (Their total of 15 is second only to Colo-Colo's 29.) Their most recent one, the 2011 Clausura, was part of a double that included that year's Copa Sudamericana.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

23 May 1954 - It Had To Be The Shoes

On 23 May 1954, Hannover won their second German championship, beating Kaiserslautern 5-1. And they did it with a little tactical advantage in footwear.

Six teams--the five regional Oberliga champions and one runner-up--qualified for the German championship tournament and were split into two groups. The two group winners then contested the final, which was played at the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg.

Before the match, eight of Hannover's eleven starters were given new Puma boots with a special feature--screw-in studs. Puma had been developing the technology for several years, first releasing the "Super Atom" model in 1951. When Kaiserslautern won the German championship in 1953, seven of their players wore the Super Atom. By 1954, however, Puma had developed an improved style dubbed the "Brasil" and Hannover quickly adopted the new boots.

They must have been quite an improvement. Even though Kaiserslautern took a 13th minute lead, Hannover reeled off five straight goals to take the title with an overwhelming 5-1 victory (including one Kaiserslautern own goal from defender Werner Kohlmeyer in the 48th minute). It was their second title, with the first having come in 1938.

After seeing the success of the Brasil, West Germany used the boot for their 1954 World Cup team which won the tournament over Hungary. Coincidentally, the German team included five members from Kaiserslautern side (including Kohlmeyer), but not one player from Hannover.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

22 May 2011 - A Goal In Time For Pavlyuchenko

On 22 May 2011, a pair of goals from Spurs striker Roman Pavlyuchenko relegated Birmingham and set a new Premier League record.

On the last day of the season, Birmingham went into their match against Tottenham in the table's seventeenth place, one spot above the relegation zone and level on points with eighteenth-place Blackpool and nineteenth-place Wigan.

Playing at White Hart Lane, Birmingham--who had won that season's League Cup--went down 1-0 to a goal from Pavlyuchenko in the 49th minute, but drew level thirty minutes later with a strike from Craig Gardner. Then, as they pushed forward for the goal they needed to secure their top-flight survival, Pavlyuchenko struck again with a match winner in the 93rd minute to seal Birmingham's drop. (As it turned out, even a draw would not have been enough for Birmingham, as Wigan won their match at Stoke.)

For Tottenham, the win kept them in fifth place and qualified them for the next season's Europa League.

Pavlyuchenko's goal was the 1,063rd of the Premier League season, setting a new English scoring record for a 38-game season.

Monday, May 21, 2012

21 May 2005 - Turbine Takes Djurgårdens For A Spin

On 21 May 2005, Turbine Potsdam won their first UEFA Women's Cup, beating Djurgårdens 1-5 over two legs.

It was the fourth edition of the tournament, which had been dominated by German and Swedish teams up to that point. Frankfurt were the first winners in 2002 over Umeå, then Umeå lifted the cup in 2003 and 2004 (the latter over Frankfurt). But Frankfurt did not qualify for the 2004-05 tournament and Umeå were eliminated by Djurgårdens in the quarter finals.

The two teams met in Stockholm on 15 May for the first leg of the final, with Turbine Potsdam winning 0-2 with goals from their forward pairing of Conny Pohlers (34') and Anja Mittag (53'). In the second leg, played six days later before a crowd of 8,677 at the Karl-Liebknecht Stadion in Potsdam, the hosts quickly resumed their momentum, extending the aggregate lead to 4-0 in the first ten minutes with goals from striker Petra Wimbersky (2') and Pohlers (9').

Djurgårdens got one back in the 10th minute with a goal from Kristin Bengtsson, but Pohlers restored the margin with a 16th-minute strike, effectively ending the contest.

Potsdam returned to the final in three more times (2006, 2010, 2011), and won it again in 2010.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

20 May 1966 - Three Out Of Four's Not Bad

On 20 May 1966, Peñarol won their third Copa Libertadores, beating River Plate with two extra-time goals in a playoff.

The Uruguayans were the most experienced side in the tournament's history up to that point, having appeared in  three previous finals (as winners in 1960 and 1961 and as runners-up in 1963), while River Plate were playing in their first one. But the Argentine side reached it by beating the 1965 champions, Independiente, in the semifinal group stage.

The final was scheduled for two legs, with the winner decided on points. Peñarol won the first leg in Montevideo on 12 May by the score of 2-0, but River Plate rallied six days later to win 3-2 in Buenos Aires with a 69th-minute goal from midfielder Ermindo Onega to force a playoff match.

Playing before a crowd of 40,240 in Santiago's Estadio Nacional, Onega struck twice in the first half (29', 42') to lift the Argentinians to a 2-0 lead. But Peñarol narrowed the margin in the 65th minute with a goal from striker Alberto Spencer, then drew level six minutes later with a River Plate own goal.

Still 2-2 at the end of regulation, the match went to extra time, where Peñarol dominated. Spencer scored in the 102nd minute to take the lead, then forward Pedro Rocha found the back of the net in the 109th minute to cap the 4-2 comeback.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

19 May 1968 - It Was Just A Formality, Really

On 19 May 1968, Iran won their first Asian Cup, beating defending champions Israel 2-1 in Tehran.

In addition to being their first Asian Cup title, it was Iran's first time in the competition. They did not enter in 1956, they did not qualify in 1960, and they withdrew from the 1964 tournament, which was hosted and won by Israel.

As hosts of the 1968 edition, Iran qualified automatically, but they quickly demonstrated their ability once the tournament began, winning their first three matches over Hong Kong (2-0), China (4-0), and Burma (3-1). Under the competition's round-robin format, the six points Iran earned from those wins were enough to clinch the title before they faced Israel, as Burma, their closest challenger, had already completed all of their matches and had only five points.

Playing before a crowd of 30,000 at the Amjadieh Stadium, Israel jumped to a 56th-minute lead with a goal from midfielder Giora Spiegel, but Iran rallied with goals from striker Homayoun Behzadi (75') and midfielder Parviz Ghelichkhani (86') to win 2-1 and complete their perfect record of four wins in four games.

Iran repeated as champions in 1972 and 1976, while Israel was expelled from the Asian Football Confederation in 1974, then joined UEFA in 1994.

Friday, May 18, 2012

18 May 2011 - Porto Closes The Door On An Amazing Season

On 18 May 2011, Porto won their third trophy of the season under new manager André Villas-Boas, beating their Portuguese league rivals Braga in the Europa League Final.

Villas-Boas had taken charge of Porto at the start of the season, having previously served as manager for the British Virgin Islands (1998-99) and Portuguese top flight team Académica de Coimbra (2009-10). In between, he served as an assistant for José Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea, and Inter.

Returning to Porto as manager in June 2010, he guided the club to an amazing season that saw them win the Primeira Liga without losing a single game--they won 27 and drew three of their 30 matches (including two wins over Braga). They also won the Taça de Portugal.

Their Europa League campaign was equally impressive, winning 11 of 14 matches on their road to the Final (they lost twice, once to Sevilla and once to Villareal, but advanced on away goals and aggregate score, respectively). In the Final, played before a crowd of 45,391 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the tournament's top goalscorer, Falcao, grabbed his 17th strike of the competition in the 44th minute. It proved to be the match-winner, as the day ended 1-0 to Porto.

It proved to be the last season at Porto for both the striker and his manager. Falcao moving to Atlético Madrid in August 2011 and had another successful season, scoring 36 goals in all competitions. Villas-Boas took charge of Chelsea in June 2011, but was sacked in March 2012 after a series of disappointing results.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

17 May 1974 - Bayern Delivers A Beating

On 17 May 1974, Bayern Munich won the first of three consecutive European Cups, beating Atlético Madrid 4-0 in a replay.

It was the first time in the final for both teams, who played to a 1-1 draw two days earlier, with both goals coming late in extra time to force a replay. They returned to the Heysel Stadium in Brussels on 17 May and did not have to wait long for Bayern to stake their claim to the trophy.

In the 28th minute, forward Uli Hoeness (pictured) outraced the Atlético defenders to a long ball played out of Bayern's own half, then pushed the ball between the keeper's legs to open the scoring. Exactly thirty minutes later, his striking partner Gerd Müller, the Bundesliga's top scorer for six of the previous eight seasons, powered a shot into the top of the net from a tight angle.

Müller extended the lead to 3-0 with another goal in the 71st minute. Not to be outdone, Hoeness got a second of his own in the 83rd minute to push the final margin to 4-0.

It was the completion of a double for Bayern, who had just won their third straight Bundesliga title. They went on to win the tournament again in 1975 over Leeds United and in 1976 over Saint-Étienne, then once more in 2001 over Valencia.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

16 May 1968 - Estudiantes Were Quick Learners

On 16 May 1968, Estudiantes beat Palmeiras in a playoff to win the first of three consecutive Copa Libertadores trophies.

They qualified for the tournament--their first--by finishing as runners-up in the Argentina Primera División behind Independiente. But they beat their league rivals twice in the cup's first round and twice more in the second on their way to the final.

There, they met Palmeiras in what was scheduled as a two-legged tie, home and away. Estudiantes won the first match, played in La Plata on 2 March, by the score of 2-1, but lost the second 3-2 in São Paulo to set up a playoff at the neutral venue of Montevideo's Estadio Centenario.

There, a crowd of 55,000 turned out to see Estudiantes take a 1-0 lead with a goal from forward Felipe Ribaudo in the 13th minute. Their defense managed to stifle the Palmeiras attack, which included Tupázinho, the tournament's leading scorer with 11 goals, then Estudiantes forward Juan Ramón Verón delivered an 82nd-minute strike to seal the 2-0 victory.

Estudiantes followed the win by beating Manchester United in that year's Intercontinental Cup, then repeated as Copa Libertadores champions in 1969 (over Nacional) and 1970 (over Peñarol). In 2009, they won it for a fourth time, beating Cruzeiro.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

15 May 1957 - Stanley Matthews' International Farewell

On 15 May 1957, Stanley Matthews made his last appearance for England, setting two national team records in the process.

The occasion was a World Cup qualifier against Denmark in Copenhagen. When Matthews stepped onto the pitch, he was 42 years, 103 days old, making him the oldest player in national team history. It was the 54th national team appearance for the outside right, bookending a career that reached all the way back to 29 September 1934, when he made his debut in a win against Wales. He would have had many more caps but for the intervention of World War II, which put a halt on international football for a seven-year period from 1940 through 1946. Still, his tenure of 22 years, 228 days remains the longest term of service for any England player.

England proceeded to beat the Danes 1-4, virtually securing their World Cup berth with one qualifier remaining. But Matthews, despite having featured in each of the preceding qualifiers for the tournament, was not called up for the final one and retired from international football soon afterward.

He continued to play at the club level, however, finally putting his boots away in 1965 at the age of 50.

Monday, May 14, 2012

14 May 1931 - France Gets The Win And The Shirts

On 14 May 1931, France got their first win over England and started a new football tradition.

Since their initial meeting in 1923, the two teams had played each other six times, all in France. England had won all six, including some by impressive margins--the three previous matches ended 0-6 (in 1927), 1-5 (1928), and 1-4 (1929).

Playing before a crowd of 30,000 at the Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir in the Paris suburb of Colombes, it appeared that the 1931 friendly was headed for a similar result when England went up 0-1 with a goal from Samuel Crooks after only ten minutes. But France equalized five minutes later with a strike from Lucien Laurent (pictured), then jumped to a 4-1 lead with goals from Robert Furois (18'), Marcel Langiller (29'), and Edmond Delfour (57'). Thomas Waring pulled one back for the visitors in the 71st minute, but Furois restored the margin when he completed his brace five minutes later to set the final score at 5-2.

After the final whistle, the French players asked to keep the shirts of their English counterparts to commemorate the victory. It was the first recorded instance of shirt-swapping, which has since become a tradition for footballers around the world.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

13 May 1976 - The Death Of Roberto Batata

On 13 May 1976, Cruzeiro forward Roberto Monteiro died in a car accident. He was 26 years old.

The Belo Horizonte-born Monteiro, nicknamed Roberto Batata after his love of french fries (called batata frita in Portuguese), joined Cruzeiro in 1969 at the age of 20. While there, he helped the club take five regional  titles, winning the Campeonato Mineiro in 1969, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975. He made a total of 281 appearances for Os Celestes, scoring a total of 110 goals in all competitions.

His played his last match on 12 May 1976, scoring a goal in Cruzeiro's 4-0 win over Alianza Lima in the Copa Libertadores semifinals. Afterward, he was traveling by car to visit his wife Denize and their eleven-month old son, Leonardo, but was involved in an accident and died as a result of his injuries.

Cruzeiro proceeded to win the Copa Libertadores the next month and dedicated their victory to his memory.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

12 May 1990 - One Touch Was All It Took

On 12 May 1990, Aberdeen outlasted Celtic in a dramatic penalty shootout to claim their fifth Scottish Cup in nine years.

After winning their first two Scottish Cups in 1947 and 1970, Aberdeen dominated the tournament in the 1980s under manager Alex Ferguson, winning it in 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1986 (along with three league titles under Ferguson in 1980, 1984, and 1985). For the 1990 Final, however, the Dons were led by Alex Smith, appointed in 1988.

They faced a familiar opponent, having played Celtic five times already that season. They met four times in the league, resulting in one win each and two draws, and also played against each other in the Scottish League Cup semifinal (which Aberdeen won to reach the final against Rangers, which they also won).

In the Scottish Cup Final, played before a crowd of 60,493 at Hampden Park, the two teams finished extra time in a scoreless draw to force the match into penalties. In the shootout, they couldn't stop scoring, so the tally rose to 8-8 before Aberdeen keeper Theo Snelders dove to his left to block the attempt from Celtic defender Anton Rogan. Defender Brian Irvine then stepped up and drove the decisive shot home to give the cup to Aberdeen, 0-0 (9-8).

Friday, May 11, 2012

11 May 2002 - Lorient Finishes On A High Note

On 11 May 2002, Lorient won their first major honor despite finishing dead last in the league. And they celebrated it with an unexpected guest.

The Ligue 1 season ended one week earlier with Lorient at the bottom of the table, having managed only seven wins and ten draws on the year. But they fared better in tournament play, finishing as runners-up to Bordeaux in the Coupe de la Ligue, then reaching the Coupe de France Final where they faced fellow league strugglers Bastia.

Bastia had gotten the better of Lorient in the league, with a win and a draw in their two meetings. But in the final, played before a crowd of 60,000 at the Stade de France, it was Lorient who claimed the advantage with a goal from captain Jean-Claude Darcheville. In the 47th minute, the forward beat Bastia defender Christophe Deguerville to a long ball, then chipped keeper Ali Boumnijel for the day's first and only goal.

During the post-game celebration, prankster Rémi Gaillard, wearing a replica Lorient shirt, made his way onto the pitch and proceeded to join in their celebrations. The players failed to recognize him as an intruder as he proceeded to have his photo taken with them and the cup, and even lined up with the team to shake hands with French President Jacques Chirac.

Lorient spent four seasons in Ligue 2 before returning to the top flight in 2006.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

10 May 1986 - Twice The Joy For Liverpool, Twice The Agony For Everton

On 10 May 1986, Liverpool completed their Double by beating rivals Everton in the FA Cup Final, 3-1.

The Reds had already beaten their Merseyside neighbors to the league title one week earlier, finishing the season with eleven wins and a draw in their last twelve matches to claim their sixteenth title in club history. Their last match was a 1-0 win over Chelsea that pushed them two points clear of runners-up Everton in the final table.

The Toffees were looking for redemption in the FA Cup Final, played before a crowd of 98,000 at Wembley. And an early goal from forward Gary Lineker put them on the right track, sending them up 1-0 in the 27th minute. Liverpool keeper Bruce Grobbelaar parried Lineker's first attempt, but knocked it back into the path of the striker, who converted with a follow-up shot.

Then Liverpool took over in the second half. Forward Ian Rush beat Everton keeper Bobby Mimms to provide the 56th-minute equalizer, followed six minutes later by the go-ahead goal from midfielder Craig Johnston. Rush then sealed the win with a second goal of the day, a low angled shot from six yards out in the 83rd minute.

The win was also notable for the fact that Liverpool's team was the first in an FA Cup Final not to have a single Englishman in their starting XI.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

9 May 1945 - Heynckes The Hometown Hero

On 9 May 1945, striker Josef "Jupp" Heynckes was born in Mönchengladbach where he went on to become his home team's all-time top scorer.

Heynckes made his professional debut in 1964 with Borussia Mönchengladbach, then in the second-tier Regionalliga West. But his 23 goals in 25 league appearances that first season helped the club earn promotion to the Bundesliga for the following season. He played only two more season there before transferring to Hannover in 1967.

He did well at Hannover, scoring 35 goals in three seasons, but returned to Gladbach for the 1970-71 season which ended with them as league champions. Additional titles followed in 1975, 1976, and 1977--along with the 1975 UEFA Cup--as Heynckes established himself as one of the world's premier strikers. He was the league's top scorer in 1974 and 1975, with 30 and 29 goals, respectively. He retired from playing in 1978 having scored a club record total of 292 goals in 400 appearances for Gladbach (plus another 35 in 101 appearances for Hannover).

He moved immediately into management, taking charge of Gladbach from 1979 to 1987, then again from 2006 to 2007 . His resume includes a long list of other teams, including Athletic Bilbao (twice), Schalke, Benfica, and Real Madrid (with whom he won the Champions League in 1998). He is currently in his third stint as manager of Bayern Munich, where he won the Bundesliga in 1989 and 1990.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

8 May 1971 - The Gunners Double Their Pleasure

On 8 May 1971, Arsenal completed the Double with an extra-time win over Liverpool in the FA Cup Final, 2-1.

They had taken the league title five days earlier with an away victory over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, then met Liverpool at Wembley. The two teams had split their two league meetings that season, with each team winning 2-0 at home.

A capacity crowd of 100,000 watched as they played the first 90 minutes to a scoreless draw. Liverpool controlled the better part of the first half, but were unable to beat Arsenal keeper Bob Wilson, while his Liverpool counterpart, Ray Clemence, denied a handful of chances at the other end. In the second half, the hot sun began to take its toll as both sets of players began to suffer cramps and fatigue. The best chance of the half came in the 77th minute, when Arsenal midfielder George Graham sent a header off the post.

But it was Liverpool who took the lead in just the second minute of extra time, as left winger Steve Heighway fired the ball past Wilson from the edge of the penalty area, beating the keeper at the near post. Just nine minutes later, though, Arsenal leveled the score after striker John Radford, facing away from goal, sent a speculative ball over his head and into the area, where Arsenal substitute midfielder Eddie Kelly got to it and prodded it toward the goal. At the time, it appeared that Graham took the last touch before the ball crossed the line, but replays later confirmed the goal as Kelly's, making him the first substitute to score in an FA Cup Final.

Then, in the 111th minute, Arsenal striker Charlie George delivered the winner with a right-footed blast from outside the penalty area. It was Arsenal's fourth FA Cup, but their first since 1950.

Monday, May 7, 2012

7 May 2011 - A Tip Of The Hat For Ronaldo

On 7 May 2011, Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo scored the fastest hat-trick in club history as they beat Sevilla 2-6.

The match came on the heels of Madrid's loss to Zaragoza, which kept them eight points behind league leaders Barcelona with four matches remaining, so they had something to prove. Sevilla were no pushovers, sitting in the table's sixth spot, but they were no match for Madrid on the day.

Playing at Sevilla's Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, the visitors were already up 0-3 at the break with goals from Sergio Ramos (21'), Ronaldo (31'), and Kaká (42'). Sevilla striker Álvaro Negredo scored first in the second half (61'), but then Ronaldo delivered his record-breaking performance.

In the 65th minute, he intercepted a pass at the top of the Sevilla box, beat one defender, then fired the ball past the keeper from close range. Five minutes later, he beat the keeper again from inside the box after a pass beat Sevilla's offside trap. In the 75th minute, he latched on to a long cross and volleyed the ball home from just  a few feet away. In all, the three goals encompassed a span of just over 10 minutes, beating the previous club record of 26 minutes, 56 seconds (set by Ronaldo against Málaga two months earlier).

The flurry extended Madrid's lead to 1-6, though Negredo scored once more to end the day at 2-6. In an unusual coincidence, Madrid duplicated the scoreline in their next visit to the  Sánchez Pizjuán in December 2012 with three more goals from Ronaldo.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

6 May 1998 - An Italian Affair In Paris

On 6 May 1998, Inter won their third UEFA Cup, beating Serie A rivals Lazio 3-0.

There had been three previous all-Italian UEFA Cup Finals, including Inter's first win in 1991 when they beat Roma. They won it again in 1994 over Casino Salzburg and returned to the Final in 1997, but lost to Schalke. Lazio, meanwhile, were making their first appearance in a Final.

For the 1998 edition, UEFA abandoned their previous two-legged format for a single match, which was played at the Parc des Princes in Paris. A crowd of 44,412 turned out to see the teams face each other for a third time that season--Lazio had gotten the better of Inter in the league, drawing 1-1 in Milan and winning 3-0 in Rome. But Inter wasted little time in staking their claim to the UEFA Cup, going up 1-0 when forward Iván Zamorano beat Lazio keeper Luca Marchegiani from close range in just the 5th minute. Zamorano nearly doubled the lead shortly after the break, but his shot rebounded off the post.

Center back Javier Zanetti did doubled the lead in the 60th minute with a blast from outside the box that curled into the top right corner of the net. Ten minutes later, Inter's record signing Ronaldo (pictured) capped the victory by beating Marchegiani with a dribble, then rolling the ball into the empty net.

It was Inter's last European trophy until they won the Champions League in 2010.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

5 May 1998 - Boca's First Step To Forty

On 5 May 1998, Boca Juniors beat Huracán 2-4. It was the first of their Argentinian record forty-match unbeaten streak that included two league titles.

The run coincided with the arrival of manager Carlos Bianchi (pictured), who had won three league titles and the Copa Libertadores as the boss of Vélez Sársfield from 1993 to 1996 and had just spent a brief spell in charge of Roma.

Boca struggled in Bianchi's first season, the 1998 Clausura. The win over Huracán came in the fifteenth match of the season and Boca followed it with three more wins and a draw to finish in the table's sixth spot. But they continued their unbeaten run in the next season, the 1998 Apertura, to finish as undefeated champions with a record of thirteen wins and six draws.

The streak continued for another sixteen matches in the 1999 Clausura before Boca lost to Independiente 4-0 on 6 June 1999. The overall record of forty unbeaten matches beat the previous high mark of thirty-nine set by Racing in 1965-66 and also helped Boca claim the Clausura title to repeat as champions.

Although the streak stopped at forty, Bianchi continued to enjoy success at Boca, winning one more league title, two Copa Libertadores trophies, and one Intercontinental Cup before his departure in 2001. He then returned in 2003 and added another league title, another Copa Libertadores trophy, and another Intercontinental Cup before leaving again in 2005.

Friday, May 4, 2012

4 May 1996 - Tampa Bay Was Generous To A Fault

On 4 May 1996, the New York/New Jersey MetroStars got their first win, beating the Tampa Bay Mutiny in a shootout.

Playing in the inaugural MLS season, the MetroStars lost their first three matches before hosting Tampa Bay at Giants Stadium, where a crowd of 38,621 turned out to see the debut of new MetroStars midfielder Roberto Donadoni, who had just moved from AC Milan the previous week. They were missing first-choice keeper Tony Meola, however, who was replaced in goal by Zach Thornton.

After a scoreless first half, Tampa Bay started the second in blistering form, taking a 3-goal lead with a brace from striker Diego Viera (51', 58') and a penalty kick from midfielder Carlos Valderrama (55'). But they extended a lifeline to the MetroStars by scoring two own goals in just over one minute as Evans Wise found his own net in the 72nd minute, then Martin Vasquez did the same just 59 seconds later. MetroStars striker Giovanni Savarese completed the comeback in the 75th minute with his team's first goal of the day.

With the match level at the end of regulation, MLS rules required a shootout. Each team got five attempts, with the shooters starting 35 yards out, then having five seconds to take their shot. Ruben Hernandez and Tab Ramos scored for the MetroStars, while only Valderrama found the net for Tampa Bay, giving the hosts the victory.

Tampa Bay went on to have the league's best record at the end of the regular season, but lost to DC United in the MLS Playoffs, to end the year without an official trophy (though they did claim the fan-created Supporters' Shield).

Thursday, May 3, 2012

3 May 1952 - Newcastle Takes Two

On 3 May 1952, Newcastle repeated as FA Cup champions, beating Arsenal in the Final, 1-0.

The match paired the winners of the two previous FA Cups, with Arsenal beating Liverpool in 1950 and Newcastle besting Blackpool in 1951. Newcastle had already gotten the better of the Gunners on the league, with one win and a draw in their two meetings that season.

Playing before a capacity crowd of 100,000 at Wembley, Arsenal suffered a first-half blow when they lost right back Wally Barnes to a 35th-minute knee injury. The rules at the time did not allow substitutes, so they had to play on with ten men, but still managed to remain level through the break, 0-0.

In the second half, three more Arsenal players--center forward Cliff Holton, outside left Don Roper, and center half Ray Daniel--picked up injuries. They remained on the pitch, but with limited effectiveness. Newcastle took advantage of the opportunity and took the lead with an 84th-minute goal from their Chilean inside-left George Robledo. It ended up being the match-winner, as Newcastle claimed their second consecutive FA Cup and their fifth overall.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

2 May 1998 - The Death Of Justin Fashunu

On 2 May 1998, Justin Fashunu, Britain's first openly gay professional footballer, killed himself after being accused of sexual assault. He was 37 years old.

The London-born forward started his professional career in 1978 with Norwich and scored 35 goals for them in 90 league appearances, including one against Liverpool that was named the BBC Goal of the Season in 1980. In 1981, he moved to Nottingham Forest, who made him the first black player to command a £1 million transfer fee. He failed to settle at Forest, however, and left after one season, starting a journey that saw him at nineteen different clubs over the next fifteen years.

In 1990, he become the first (and, to date, only) professional footballer to openly identify himself as homosexual. Although his brother John--who was also a professional footballer--immediately disowned him, Fashunu said that his teammates were more accepting.

He retired in 1997 and, one year later, was in the United States to interview for a coaching position. In March 1998, a 17-year old accused Fashunu of sexually assaulting him after a party at Fashunu's rented Maryland apartment. After being questioned by police, Fashunu fled back to England and, on 2 May 1988, hanged himself in a garage. In a note, he claimed that his actions had been consensual and that his accuser was trying to blackmail him. He also said that he "had already been presumed guilty" and did "not want to give any more embarrassment to" his friends and family.

Fashunu was the inspiration for the Justin Campaign, formed in 2009 to combat homophobia in football.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1 May 2005 - Pelé Remained Unimpressed, However

On 1 May 2005, Lionel Messi notched his first goal for Barcelona in a 2-0 win over Albacete. He has since become the club's all-time leading scorer.

The forward made his league debut for the first team the previous October at the age of 17 years and 114 days, making him the youngest player to appear for the club in La Liga (though that record was subsequently broken by Bojan Krkić in 2007). He went on to make a total of seven league appearances that season, but scored only a single goal.

That goal came late in the match against Albacete, as manager Frank Rijkaard made a late substitution, putting Messi on for forward Samuel Eto'o in the 87th minute. Barcelona were already leading 1-0 and  Messi nearly doubled the lead in the  89th minute when he received a short lobbed pass from Ronaldinho, then chipped the keeper from inside the box. The referee disallowed the goal as offside, even though replays confirmed that Messi had been onside when Ronaldinho made the pass.

But just one minute later, the pair executed a nearly-identical move. Although Messi was under more pressure from the defense, he again sent a left-footed chip over the Albacete keeper from inside the box to push the final score to 2-0.

Barcelona proceeded to win the league that year for the first time since 1999. Messi, meanwhile, has since scored a total of 245 goals in 325 appearances, making him the top scorer in club history.