Friday, May 31, 2013

31 May 1972 - Ajax Sets The Standard

On 31 May 1972, Ajax won the second of three straight European Cups, beating Inter 2-0 with both goals coming from Johan Cruyff.

The reigning European Cup champions, Ajax had already claimed a domestic double that season, winning both the Eredivisie and the KNVB Cup. Cruyff, the 1971 Ballon d'Or winner, had finished the season as the league's top scorer with 25 goals.

Inter, meanwhile, after winning the tournament in 1964 and 1965, were back in it for the first time since finishing as runners-up to Celtic in 1967, and were hoping to redeem their season after finishing a disappointing fifth in Serie A.

The two teams met at De Kuip in Rotterdam, where a partisan crowd of 61,354 gathered for the event. They were rewarded with what some commentators described as "Total Football's greatest moment," as the free-flowing and constantly-shifting Ajax side unlocked Inter's defensive catenaccio formation, with Cruyff scoring in the 47th and 78th minutes.

Ajax repeated as champions in 1973, then again in 1995, while Inter claimed a third title in 2010.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

30 May 2012 - Cal Cruises Into History

On 30 May 2012, the 99-year old US Open Cup saw one of its biggest upsets when amateur side Cal FC beat the MLS's Portland Timbers.

Based out of Thousand Oaks, California and competing in La Gran Liga de Oxnard of the United States Adult Soccer Association, the fifth tier of the US football pyramid, Cal FC's team included a mix of former professionals and perpetual amateurs. They were coached by US international-turned-commentator Eric Wynalda and his Fox Football Fone-In co-host Nick Webster.

Playing in their first US Open Cup, they started with a 3-1 win over the defending PDL champions Kitsap Pumas in the first round, followed by a second-round rout of the USL-Pro Wilmington Hammerheads, 4-0. That sent them into the third round, where they drew Portland, who were just entering the competition.

The top-flight side hosted the match and dominated it statistically, taking 43 shots to Cal's 11, but that barrage failed to lead to a goal. Their best opportunity came in the 80th minute, when the referee awarded a penalty kick to Portland, but striker Kris Boyd sent the ball over the bar. Then, in extra time, Cal forward Artur Aghasyan--who had played briefly for Real Salt Lake in 2011, making four appearances--found the back of the net, beating Portland keeper Troy Perkins in the 95th minute to secure the 0-1 victory for the underdogs.

Unfortunately for Cal FC, they could not maintain that form and lost 5-0 to the Seattle Sounders in the next round. But their win over Portland remains an iconic moment in the competition.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

29 May 1991 - Red Star Rises Over Europe

On 29 May 1991, Red Star Belgrade won their first major European trophy, beating Marseille on penalties in the European Cup final.

It was the first time in the final for both teams, who reached it by virtue of their prolific offenses. Marseille forward and captain Jean-Pierre Papin was the tournament's leading scorer with six goals, while midfielder Phillippe Vercruysse, with five, was a substitute for the final. Red Star, meanwhile, relied primarily on the pairing of striker Darko Pančev (5 goals) and midfielder Robert Prosinečki (4).

It was the defenses, however, who shined in the final, held at the Stadio San Nicola in Bari. A crowd of 58,000 watched as both teams struggled to create chances against each other and played to a scoreless draw through extra time.

Red Star went first in the ensuing penalty shootout, with Prosinečki scoring the opening goal. Right back Manuel Amoros then stepped up to take Marseille's first attempt. He tried sending the ball to the right of keeper Stevan Stojanović, but Stojanović guessed correctly and knocked it away. That turned out to be the decisive stop, as the players for both sides all converted their next attempts until Red Star's final shot, taken by Pančev, secured the win, 0-0 (5-3).

It remains Red Star's only appearance in the final, though they went on to win the Intercontinental Cup later that year, beating Colo Colo 3-0. Marseille returned to the final in 1993 and beat Milan 1-0.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

28 May 1970 - Don"t Try To Tell Me They Weren't Taking It Seriously

On 28 May 1970, Swindon Town won the inaugural Anglo-Italian Cup, beating Napoli 3-0 in a final that had to be abandoned in the 79th minute.

Founded by Italian agent Gigi Peronace, who had dealings with several English clubs, that first tournament included a total of twelve teams--six from each country. The Italian clubs--Napoli, Juventus, Lanerossi, Roma, Fiorentina, and Lazio--all hailed from Serie A, finishing between third and tenth at the end of the previous season. Meanwhile, only four of the English clubs--Wolverhampton, West Brom, Sunderland, and Sheffield Wednesday--had been in the top flight for 1969-70 (and both Sunderland and Wednesday were relegated). The other two teams were Middlesbrough and Swindon, both from the Second Division.

Swindon were unusually prepared for the competition, however. As the 1969 League Cup champions, they played a two-game series that year against the Coppa Italia holders, Roma, and won 5-2 on aggregate. They continued that dominance in the Anglo-Italian Cup, winning three of their four group-stage games against Juventus and Napoli. Their one defeat was a 1-2 loss to Napoli and they got an opportunity to avenge that result when they met Napoli again in the final, played at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples.

There, Swindon midfielder Peter Nobles put them up 0-2 with goals in the 24th and 58th minutes. Forward Arthur Horsfield added a third in the 62nd minute, prompting a section of the home fans to hurl rocks and bottles onto the pitch. The police responded with tear gas, which served only to further aggravate the supporters, who then began to start fires and rip seats out of the concrete. With eleven minutes left, the referee sent the players into the dressing room and abandoned the match.

Despite the incidents, the Anglo-Italian Cup continued to be played annually through 1973 and was revived briefly from 1992 to 1996.

Monday, May 27, 2013

27 May 1970 - The Students Become The Masters

On 27 May 1970, Estudiantes de la Plata won their third consecutive Copa Libertadores, beating Peñarol on points after a second-leg draw in Montevideo.

The Argentinians had an unblemished record in the final, winning their two previous appearances, over Palmeiras in 1968 and Nacional in 1969. Peñarol, meanwhile, won the first two titles in 1960 and 1961, then finished as runners-up in 1962 and 1965 before winning it a third time in 1966.

They met for the first leg at Estadio de la Plata, where only an 87th-minute goal from Estudiantes center back/defensive midfielder Néstor Togneri separated the two teams. But it was enough to give Estudiantes two points, which meant they just needed a draw in the second leg to lift the trophy. And a draw is what they got, as the teams played to a scoreless finish at Peñarol's Estadio Centenario. 

It was the first time any team had won three straight tournaments. Estudiantes had an opportunity to get a fourth consecutive title when they returned to the final in 1971, but they lost to Nacional, then Independiente went on to surpass Estudiantes' record by winning four straight from 1972 to 1975.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

26 May 1993 - I Hope They Enjoyed It While It Lasted

On 26 May 1993, Marseille won the Champions League trophy, but they were not allowed to defend it the following season.

Under the auspices of club president Bernard Tapie, Marseille rose to elite status in the late 1980s and early 1990s, winning four consecutive Ligue 1 titles from 1989 to 1992. They also reached the European Cup final in 1991, but lost to Red Star Belgrade in a penalty shootout, 0-0 (5-3).

After a disappointing second-round exit from the tournament in 1991-92, they returned to the final in 1993, where they met four-time champions AC Milan in Munich. Although the game featured three of the tournament's four top scorers--Marco van Basten for Milan and Franck Sauzée and Alen Bokšić for Marseille--an unheralded player scored the day's only goal, as Marseille center back Basile Boli found the back of the net in the 43rd minute. They remain the only French club to win the competition.

French authorities subsequently found Tapie and Marseille guilty of match-fixing during the 1992-93 Ligue 1 season. As a result, they were stripped of their 1993 league title and demoted to Ligue 2 for the next season. They were allowed to keep their Champions League trophy, but were barred from participating in the 1993-94 tournament.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

25 May 1967 - The Lisbon Lions Roar

On 25 May 1967, Celtic became the first British club to win the European Cup, beating Inter 2-1 in Lisbon. Notably, fourteen of Celtic's fifteen players and coaches were born within 10 miles of Celtic Park.

Inter won back-to-back European Cups in 1964 and 1965, then defeated defending champions Real Madrid in the 1967 semifinals to reach their third final in four years. Celtic, meanwhile, were in the tournament for the first time.

In just the seventh minute, the referee awarded Inter a penalty when Celtic right back Jim Craig fouled forward Renato Cappellini in the box. Sandro Mazzola converted the ensuing kick to put the Italians up 1-0, allowing them to pull back into their defensive catenaccio formation favored by manager Helenio Herrera.

And it worked, for a while. But in the 63rd minute, Craig sent the ball in for Tommy Gemmell, who beat the Inter keeper Giuliano Sarti to draw Celtic level. Then, in the 84th minute, they took the lead when Stevie Chalmers scored the winner. Afterward, manager Jock Stein delivered a not-so-veiled criticism of Inter's defensive style, saying "We did it by playing football; pure, beautiful, inventive football. There was not a negative thought in our heads."

Celtic returned to the final in 1970, but lost to Feyenoord. Inter made it there twice more, losing to Ajaz in 1972, but beating Bayern Munich in 2010.

Friday, May 24, 2013

24 May 1966 - Long Live The King

On 24 May 1966, forward Eric Cantona was born in Marseille. He went on to become one of Manchester United's greatest and most iconic players.

He made his professional debut in November 1983 with Auxerre. He got off to a slow start, including a loan spell and a break for national service, but began to show signs of his future prowess in his last two seasons there, scoring  25 goals in 79 appearances. That led to a high-priced move to Marseille in 1988, followed by short spells with Nîmes (1991) and Leeds United (1992).

Manchester United came calling in 1992, signing him for £1.2M. He scored only 9 times in that first season, but was instrumental in helping United claim the inaugural Premier League title, their first league championship since 1967. The following season, he delivered 25 goals across all competitions as United claimed a league and FA Cup double, earning the nickname "King Eric" from United's supporters.

Before he retired in 1997, he added another Double (1996) and a fourth league title (1997). But his time at Old Trafford was not free from controversy. One of the most notable incidents occurred in January 1995, during an away match against Crystal Palace, when he leapt into the stands to kick one of the home supporters. He received a suspension for the rest of the season and a fine of £20,000, plus a sentence of 120 hours of community service.

Since his retirement, he has spent time acting and, most recently, joined the revived New York Cosmos as Director of Soccer.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

23 May 2002 - There's A Reason It's Called A Home Advantage

On 23 May 2002, Frankfurt hosted and won the first UEFA Women's Cup Final, beating Umeå 2-0.

Although UEFA first held a tournament for women's international teams in 1969, and has organized a regular European championship since 1982, the 2001-02 Women's Cup was its first club competition for its distaff members. Including a single-match qualifying round, a total of 33 teams participated.

Both Frankfurt and Umeå impressed in the early rounds, winning their groups without a loss and setting goal differentials of +24 and +10, respectively (Frankfurt's differential was reached primarily in a single game when they beat CSC Yerevan 18-0 in their final match of the group).

They both made their way through the knockout rounds to reach the final, played at the Waldstadion in Frankfurt. There, a crowd of just over 12,000 gathered to watch a closely-fought match that remained scoreless deep into the second half.

Then, in the 68th minute, defender Steffi Jones, a German international and Frankfurt native, scored the opening goal to put the hosts in front. The defenses for both sides continued to dominate for the remaining minutes before midfielder and captain Birgit Prinz (pictured) added a second for the home team in the 89th minute to set the final margin at 2-0.

The two teams met twice more in the tournament final, with Umeå winning in 2004 and Frankfurt winning in 2008.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

22 May 1969 - A Little Easier The Second Time Around

On 22 May 1969, Estudiantes won their second Copa Libertadores, beating Nacional 2-0 in the final's second leg.

The Argentinians had won the previous year's tournament, but it had taken them sixteen matches to do it, including a three-match final against Palmeiras that Estudiantes won in a replay. But as holders, they received a bye into the 1969 semifinals, where they won both games against Universidad Católica by identical scores of 3-1 to reach the final.

There, they faced Nacional, who had reached the final twice before, but lost to Argentinian teams both times (Independiente in 1964 and Racing in 1967). They played a full thirteen-game schedule to get there a third time, giving them a distinct disadvantage against the well-rested Estudiantes side.

Nacional hosted the first leg in Montevideo on 15 May and lost 0-1 to a 66th-minute goal from Eduardo Flores. In the second leg in La Plata one week later, Flores scored again to put Estudiantes up 1-0, then Marcos Conigliaro stretched the margin to 2-0 in the 37th minute and complete the victory.

Estudiantes went on to win the competition again in 1970, becoming the first team to lift the trophy in three consecutive years.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

21 May 1998 - Lilly Blooms

On 21 May 1998, Kristine Lilly became the world's most-capped female international, making her 152nd appearance for the US in a win over Japan.

A forward/midfielder, Lilly earned her first cap in 1987 when she was sixteen years old and became a regular fixture in the line-up by 1991, helping the US to win the first Women's World Cup. A third-place finish followed in 1995 before the team took gold at the 1996 Olympics.

In 1998, the team traveled to Kobe for a friendly against Japan. It was there that Lilly made her record 152nd appearance, passing the former record of 151 set by Norway's Heidi Støre the previous year. She went on to score the opening goal in the 36th minute as the US proceeded to win 2-0.

Lilly's international career lasted until 2010 and she retired with a total of 352 caps, the most of any player, male or female.

Monday, May 20, 2013

20 May 1998 - Real Madrid's Return

On 20 May 1998, Real Madrid beat Juventus to win their seventh European Cup/Champions League trophy, more than thirty years after their sixth one.

Since winning the first five European Cups from 1956 to 1960, then another in 1966, Real Madrid had reached the final only once more, losing to Liverpool in 1981. Juventus, meanwhile, did not have Real Madrid's pedigree in the competition, having won it twice, but were playing in their third consecutive final, beating Ajax in 1996, then finishing as runners-up to Borussia Dortmund in 1997.

Juventus had also enjoyed the better domestic season that year, taking the Scudetto with a five-point lead over Inter, while Real Madrid finished fourth in La Liga.

But when they met in Amsterdam for the Champions League final, it was Real Madrid claimed the trophy with a 1-0 win, thanks to a goal from forward Predrag Mijatović in the 67th minute. They have since gone on to win it twice more (2000, 2002). Juventus returned the the final in 2003, but lost to Milan.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

16 May 1914 - A Champion Grows In Brooklyn

On 16 May 1914, Brooklyn FC won the inaugural US Open Cup, beating Brooklyn Celtic 2-1.

Originally called the National Challenge Cup, the tournament was established by the United States Football Association to compete with a similar competition started four years earlier by the American Amateur Football Association. But while that tournament was limited to amateurs, the National Challenge Cup was open to all teams across the country, making the first truly national competition in the United States.

While almost 300 teams received invitations, only 40 chose to participate. Most of those came from the northeast region, though Chicago was also represented. But, in the end, the final came down to a pair of teams from Brooklyn.

They met at Coates Field in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where a large local crowd turned out for the event. It took only three minutes for Brooklyn FC to take the lead with a goal from their captain, Percy Adamson, but Celtic equalized with a 27th-minute penalty from Thomas Campion.

The match remained level deep into the second half, then, with three minutes remaining, FC pushed ahead again when James Ford found the back of the net to win the cup, known as the Dewar Trophy (pictured). It was part of a double for FC, who also won that season's NAFBL title.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

15 May 1929 - The New World Order Begins Now

On 15 May 1929, England suffered their first defeat to a team from outside the British Isles, losing to Spain 4-3 in Madrid.

Since their first official international in 1872, England spent the next 36 years playing only Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. That changed in June 1908, when they played a pair of matches against Austria, winning 6-1 and 11-1. They followed that with another 20 matches against Continental competition and won all but one, a 2-2 draw with Belgium in November 1923.

Spain, meanwhile, played their first match in 1920 and struggled for the first few years. But in the months leading up to their meeting with England, they had notched a pair of impressive victories, beating Portugal 5-0 and France 8-1.

The two teams met in Madrid for the friendly, where England looked likely to continue their dominance, taking a 2-0 lead with both goals coming from West Brom's Joe Carter (19', 22'). Spain, however, powered back to level with strikes from Gaspar Rubio and Jaime Lazcano (reports conflict as to the timing of those goals).

England reclaimed the lead through Joe Bradford, but Lazcano (pictured) again equalized just a few minutes from the final whistle, prompting a mini pitch invasion by the home supporters. Then one minute later, amateur Severino Goiburu put Spain ahead for the first time and they held the lead for the 4-3 victory.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

14 May 1948 - Dinamo Powers Up

On 14 May 1948, Dinamo Bucureşti formed from the merger of two pre-existing clubs and has since gone on to become one of Romania's most successful teams.

The two clubs that came together were Unirea Tricolor, winners of the 1941 national title, and Ciocanul, formerly known as Maccabi Bucureşti. In 1947, the new Communist government assigned control of both clubs to the Ministry of the Interior, who merged them into Dinamo Bucureşti. Both teams remained intact for the 1947-48 season, in which Ciocanul played as "Dinamo A" and finished eighth, while Unirea played as "Dinamo B" and were relegated.

The new Dinamo maintained the eighth-place finish in their first season, 1948-49, but quickly rose to the top of the table, finishing as runners-up in 1951, 1952, and 1953 before winning their first title in 1955. They have since increased their collection of league titles to eighteen, second only to rivals Steaua Bucureşti's 24, though their most recent one came in 2005. In addition, they have also won the Romanian Cup thirteen times, most recently in 2011.

Monday, May 13, 2013

13 May 2012 - Invincibles In Italy

On 13 May 2012, Juventus completed the Serie A season as undefeated champions with a 3-1 win over Atalanta.

They had finished the previous season in disappointing fashion, taking seventh place in the final table. That prompted the sacking of manager Luigi Delneri, who had held on to the post for a little over a year. The club replaced him with former Juventus midfielder Antonio Conte, who had played there from 1991 to 2003 and who had ended the 2010-11 season by guiding Serie B side Siena back to the top flight.

Juve made one other significant change over the summer, signing former Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo as a free agent.

Led by the combination of Conte on the touchline and Pirlo on the pitch, Juventus battled with Milan in a tight race for the Scudetto and finally claimed the title with an away win over Cagliari on 6 May. By that point, they had won 22 and drawn 15 of their 37 matches over the course of the season. One week later, with the championship firmly in hand, they completed their unbeaten season with the home win over Atalanta. It was the first time any team went undefeated over the course of a 38-game season and only the third undefeated Serie A season overall (Perugia did it over the course of 30 games in 1978-79 and Milan did it over the course of 34 games in 1991-92).

Counting a draw on the last day of the 2010-11 season, the win stretched Juve's overall unbeaten league streak to 39. They extended it to 49 through the first 10 games of the 2012-13 season before finally losing to Inter on 3 November. Though impressive, it still fell short of the overall Italian league record of 58, set by Milan over the course of the 1990-91 to 1992-93 seasons.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

12 May 1985 - Verona Victorious

On 12 May 1985, Hellas Verona won their first and only Serie A title with a 1-1 draw against Atalanta.

Founded in 1903, Verona joined the newly-formed Serie B in 1929 and took almost thirty years to reach the top flight for the first time, joining Serie A in 1957. Even then, it was for only one season, and they returned back to the second division in 1958. From 1968 on, they spent the majority of their time in the top flight, but rarely challenged for honors.

But they began to show signs improvement in the early 1980s, finishing as Coppa Italia runners-up in 1983 and 1984 (added to their previous final appearance in 1976) and a fourth-place league finish in 1984, which was at the time the club's best position in the final table.

That changed in the 1984-85 season. Led by their forward pairing of Preben Elkjær Larsen and Giuseppe Galderisi, Verona rose to the top of the table. By 12 May, they were ahead of Torino by four points with two games left for both teams. Because wins were worth only two points at the time, Verona needed only a draw at mid-table Atalanta to secure the Scudetto.

Atalanta, however, refused to roll over and took the lead after only 16 minutes when defender Eugenio Perico scored a header from a cross. Unshaken, Verona drove forward in search of an equalizer and finally got it in the 51st minute when Elkjær (pictured) scored with a dramatic volley. That proved to be enough, as the game ended 1-1, making Verona the Serie A champions.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

11 May 2011 - As If The Title Challenge Wasn't Exciting Enough

On 11 May 2011, with Celtic leading Hearts 0-2 at Tynecastle, manager Neil Lennon was attacked by a home supporter.

Since taking charge of Celtic in 2010, Lennon had attracted more than his fair share of unwanted attention, receiving bullets in the mail in January 2011, followed by an attempted letter bombing in March. While religious sectarianism seemed an obvious motive given its history in Scottish football, authorities believed the incidents were more likely fueled by sports rivalries.

When Celtic visited Tynecastle to play Hearts for their penultimate game of the season, they were trailing Rangers by four points, but had a game in hand. Hearts, meanwhile, were in a distant third, having already lost twice to Celtic, 3-0 and 4-0.

The third match in the series followed the pattern of the first two, with Celtic going up 0-2 in the 49th minute thanks to Gary Hooper's second goal of the day. It was at that point that Hearts supporter John Wilson jumped the barrier and tried to attack Lennon, but was quickly wrestled to the ground by a combination of police and stewards, then apprehended.

Celtic went on to win the match 0-3, but ended up finishing in second by a single point. Wilson was later convicted of breaching the peace and received an eight-month jail sentence.

Friday, May 10, 2013

10 May 1930 - The Beginning Of A Beautiful Rivalry

On 10 May 1930, England and Germany met for the first time in a full international, playing to a 3-3 draw in Berlin.

Unofficial representative teams for the two countries played twice in 1899 with England dominating both matches, 13-2 and 10-2. Shortly afterward, England played two matches against combined German and Austrian teams and won both, 6-0 and 7-0.

But their trip to Berlin in 1930 was their first meeting since the establishment of an official German team in 1908. The game looked likely to follow the pattern of those earlier meetings when England went up 0-1 with an 8th-minute goal from Joe Bradford, but Germany's Richard Hofmann (pictured) brought the hosts level in the 21st minute.

The two traded goals again as Bradford put England back in front in the the 31st minute and Hofmann scored another equalizer eighteen minutes later. He then completed his hat-trick in the 60th minute to give Germany the lead. They held it for twenty minutes until David Jack found the net to finish the game 3-3.

Since then, the two teams have formed a fierce rivalry, including England's famously controversial win over Germany in the final of the 1966 World Cup.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

9 May 2010 - Chelsea, Champions

On 9 May 2010, a record win over Wigan lifted Chelsea to their fourth league title and sent them on the way to their first Double.

It was the last day of the Premier League season and Chelsea were at the top of the table, but they had only a one-point lead over Manchester United, who had won the league for the last three seasons. Needing a win to secure the title, they were hosting Wigan at Stamford Bridge while United were playing Stoke City at Old Trafford.

Chelsea wasted little time in staking their claim to the trophy, going up 1-0 after only six minutes with a goal from Nicolas Anelka. Wigan regained their composure and managed to right their defensive ship for a time, but lost defender Gary Caldwell about ten minutes before the break when he fouled Frank Lampard in the box and received a straight red card. Lampard converted the ensuing penalty to put the Blues up 2-0.

With Wigan down to ten men and the hosts having one hand on the trophy, the second half was all Chelsea's.    They got a goal from Salomon Kalou (54'), another from Anelka (56'), and a hat-trick from Didier Drogba (63', 68' (p), 80'), before a final strike from Ashley Cole in the 80th minute sealed the 8-0 win. It was Chelsea's biggest margin of victory in a league game (later matched against Aston Villa in 2012) and also helped set the Premier League record for most goals in a season at 103, beating the previous record of 97 set by Manchester United in 1999-2000.

Chelsea went on to complete the Double that year, beating Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final on 15 May.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

8 May 1996 - N'Gotty Got It

On 8 May 1996, Paris Saint-Germain won their first and only major European trophy, beating Rapid Vienna in the Cup Winners' Cup Final.

It was the first time in the tournament final for PSG, but the second for Rapid, who finished as runners-up to Everton in 1985. They met at King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, where a crowd of  37,000 gathered for the occasion.

The people in the stands were anticipating a furious offensive clash, with both teams featuring some of the tournament's top scorers--Carsten Jancker (6 goals) and Christian Stumpf (4) for Rapid and Youri Djorkaeff (4) and Patrice Loko (4) for PSG. But what they got was a tight match decided by the day's single goal.

And that goal came from an unlikely source. PSG defender Bruno N'Gotty (pictured), who had not scored at all that year, found the back of the net in the 28th minute to deliver the trophy to the Parisians.

N'Gotty and PSG returned to the final the following year, but lost to Barcelona, 1-0.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

7 May 2007 - Arsenal Ladies Do Some Heavy Lifting

On 7 May 2007, Arsenal Ladies won the Women's FA Cup to complete a record-making Sextuple.

Arsenal had already completed a dominating league season in which they won all 22 games to claim their ninth title. They also won their ninth League Cup that season, as well as their first UEFA Cup. In addition, they took that season's Community Shield and the London County FA Women's Cup, making the Women's FA Cup the final piece of silverware needed to complete a full sweep of all available trophies.

Playing at the City Ground in Nottingham, Arsenal faced Charlton in the final and stumbled out of the gate, falling behind after only two minutes when Charlton's Katie Holtham opened the scoring. But the margin did not hold for long, as Kelly Smith's free kick brought Arsenal level five minutes later, then captain Jayne Ludlow put them ahead in the fifteenth minute.

Ludlow scored again just before the break and Smith added another in the 80th-minute to cap the 4-1 victory.

Monday, May 6, 2013

6 May 2007 - The Red Devils Reclaim The Title

On 6 May 2007, Manchester United won their sixteenth league title after challengers Chelsea drew with Arsenal.

United started the season seeking their first league honors since 2003, with both Arsenal (2004) and Chelsea (2005, 2006) lifting the trophy in the interim. True to their mission, they claimed the top spot on 1 October and held on to it for the remainder of the season, with only Chelsea staying within touching distance. After beating Manchester City on 5 May, Manchester United were eight points clear of Chelsea, who had three games left to play.

The first of those three games was away at Arsenal. There, the defending champions suffered an early blow with the loss of defender Khalid Boulahrouz (pictured) to a red card in the 43rd minute. Compounding their injury, the foul led to a penalty that was converted by Arsenal's Gilberto Silva, putting them down 1-0 at the break.

Despite the man disadvantage, Chelsea fought back to earn a draw with a diving 70th-minute header from Michael Essien. It was the second 1-1 draw Essien had salvaged against Arsenal that season, but it wasn't enough to deny the title to United, who went on to win four of the next six trophies.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

5 May 2002 - The Italian Job

On 5 May 2002, Juventus completed a remarkable run to the Serie A title, thanks in part to a season-end collapse by Inter.

It was the last day of the season and Inter had been at the top of the table since 24 March. On 30 March, they had a six-point lead over Juventus, who were then in third, with Roma in between. But Juve went on an unbeaten run to climb into second, while an Inter loss to Atalanta and draw with Chievo saw their lead shrink to a single point. Roma had dropped to third, but were separated from the top by only two points.

All three teams were away for their final matches of the season, Inter at Lazio, Juventus at Udinese, and Roma at Torino. In his pre-match conference, Roma manager Fabio Capello took a fatalistic approach to the day, saying that he expected all three teams to win, leaving the table unchanged.

As it turned out, he was two-thirds correct. Both Juventus and Roma went on to win--0-2 and 0-1, respectively--but Inter fell hard to Lazio. Despite taking a 1-2 lead in the first half, they went into the break level at 2-2, then surrendered a pair of second-half goals to fall 4-2.

The results pushed Juventus into first, Roma into second, and Inter into third.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

2 May 1975 - The Beginning Of A Beautiful Rivalry

On 2 May 1975, the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers played for the first time, starting a rivalry that has spanned over six different leagues.

That first game in the series was Portland's first game ever. Founded earlier that year, they were starting their inaugural NASL season and opened it by hosting Seattle, who were in their second year in the league. A crowd of 8,131 showed up at Portland's Civic Stadium for the game and watched Seattle claim the win, 0-1.

But Portland got their revenge by winning their division, then eliminating Seattle in the playoffs en route to the Soccer Bowl, where they finished as runners-up to Tampa Bay.

Since then, the teams have met in the Western Soccer Alliance, the American Professional Soccer League, the A-League, the United Soccer League, and their current home, Major League Soccer. They've also played four times in the U.S. Open Cup, with Portland winning three of those. Overall, though, Seattle has the edge with a record of 42 wins, 29 losses, and 9 draws.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

1 May 1904 - Game Of Threes

On 1 May 1904, France played their first official international, drawing 3-3 with Belgium in Brussels.

The French had formed an unofficial team in 1900 under the control of the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques and competed in the Olympics that year, winning the silver medal. They played five other matches, including a 6-2 win over Belgium and four losses to England. Then, in 1904, they joined FIFA.

For their first official game, they traveled to Brussels for a friendly against Belgium. The hosts took the lead with a 7th-minute goal from Georges Quéritet, but France surged ahead within five minutes after goals from Louis Mesnier (12') and Marius Royet (13').

Quéritet brought Belgium level in the 50th minute, then they reclaimed the lead with a 65th-minute goal from Pierre Destrebecq. But with three minutes left, Gaston Cyprès scored for France to end the day as a 3-3 draw.