Saturday, December 31, 2016

31 December 1924 - Barrow Carries The Day(s)

On 31 December 1924, Gillingham and Barrow met for the fifth time in three weeks to resolve their FA Cup sixth round qualification match-up, with Barrow finally edging a win, 2-1.

The teams, both from Division Three, first met in that season's tournament on 13 December, playing to a scoreless draw in Gillingham. Five days later, they met for a replay at Barrow and again drew, this time 1-1 after extra time thanks in part to a penalty converted by Barrow's Harold Kay. On 22 December, they met at a neutral site and again finished 1-1 after extra time. Another Kay penalty ensured that the fourth meeting, played on 30 December at a neutral site, also ended 1-1, to set up a fifth meeting the next day.

Although the attendances had declined from the first match (9,000) to the fourth (2,325), a crowd of 4,242 showed up to watch the fifth meeting, which, like the previous two, was played at a neutral ground. There, Barrow finally secured the 2-1 victory with goals from Fred Laycock and Jim Carrick. In all, the teams had played a total of almost nine and a half hours.

Barrow's reward was a first round match-up against Division Two side Blackpool. They played to a scoreless draw at home, then fell to Blackpool 0-2 in the replay.

Friday, December 30, 2016

30 December 2009 - And A Little Extra For The Home Supporters

On 30 December 2009, Rangers striker Kris Boyd became the Scottish Premier League's all-time leading scorer with a 5-goal haul against Dundee United.

Boyd began his career in the SPL with Kilmarnock, scoring 63 times in 153 league appearances from 2000 to 2006. In January 2006, when he joined Rangers for a transfer fee of £500,000. There, he got off to a flying start by scoring a hat-trick in his debut, a 5-0 win over Peterhead in the third round of the Scottish Cup.

By the time Dundee United arrived at Ibrox in December 2009, Boyd had won one SPL title (2008-09), one Scottish League Cup (2007-08) and back-to-back Scottish Cups (2007-08, 2008-09). He was also sitting on a total of 155 league goals, three behind the SPL record of 158, set by Celtic's Henrik Larsson from 1997 to 2004.

He matched the record before the half-hour mark, starting with a penalty kick in the 20th minute, followed by a long-range effort four minutes later, then a tap-in finish in the 29th minute. He went through a relatively quiet period until deep into the second half before finally breaking Larsson's record with a fourth goal in the 75th minute, then adding another for good measure in the 80th minute. One minute later, manager Walter Smith substituted him and he exited to a massive ovation from the home supporters. Rangers won 7-1.

Boyd left Rangers at the end of the season after collecting another league title and a Scottish League Cup, and increasing the SPL goal record to 164. After spending time in England, Turkey, and the United States, he returned to Rangers in 2014, though they were in the Championship at the time. In 2015, he returned to the SPL with Kilmarnock, his current club, and has since increased his record to 172.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

29 December 1980 - Arrivederci, Gigi

On 29 December 1980, Luigi "Gigi" Peronace, the first football agent in England, died of a heart attack in Montevideo. He was 55 years old.

The Calabria-born Peronace (pictured at far left) held a variety of roles in football, including serving as a translator for Juventus managers William Chalmers and Jesse Carver. He also served as Carver's business manager at Tornio, but left there in 1954 to become the transfer manager at Lazio.

He moved into agency in 1957, when he was contacted by then-Leyton Orient manager Alex Stock, who was interested in taking charge of an Italian club. Peronace helped negotiate a deal with Roma and Stock became their manager later that year. That same year, he was involved in bringing Leeds United forward John Charles to Juventus for a British-record fee of £65,000 (almost double the previous record).

Peronace helped shatter that record when he negotiated the sale of Denis Law from Manchester City to Torino for £100,000. He then beat it again when he helped Law move back to Manchester (this time for Manchester United) for £115,000. Meanwhile, he was also involved in Jimmy Greaves' switch from Chelsea to AC Milan and Joe Baker's move from Hibernian to Torino, then later helped Liam Brady join Juventus from Arsenal.

He wasn't only an agent--in addition to serving as general manager for the Italian national team for the 1978 World Cup and the 1980 European Championship, he helped organize the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1970 (it was later named the Gigi Peronace Memorial).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

28 December 1982 - The Supercopa Gets Real

On 28 December 1982, Real Sociedad won the inaugural Supercopa de España, overcoming a first-leg deficit to beat Real Madrid 1-4 on aggregate.

The Supercopa, which features the previous season's league and Copa del Rey winners, was yet another battleground for the burgeoning rivalry between the two clubs. In 1980, Sociedad finished as league runners-up to Madrid by a single point, then won the title the following year by beating Madrid on goal differential. Meanwhile, Madrid won that season's Copa del Rey after eliminating Sociedad on penalties in the semifinals.

The two met at the Bernabéu on 13 November 1982 for the very first Supercopa match, where a 44th-minute goal from Madrid's Dutch defender John Metgod allowed the hosts to escape with a narrow 1-0 edge. In the return leg, played before a crowd of 30,000 at the Estadio Atocha in San Sebastián, Madrid held onto their lead through the first half. But shortly after the restart, Sociedad forward Pedro Uralde (pictured) scored to level the aggregate at 1-1 (53').

The teams remained deadlocked through regulation, sending the match into extra time. There, in just the 92nd minute, Sociedad forward Roberto López Ufarte put his team ahead 1-2 on aggregate. As Madrid pressed forward to find a goal, they exposed their defense and Uralde netted his second of the day (102') to stretch the aggregate lead to 1-3.

Madrid found the net one minute later, but, unfortunately for them, it was their own, as late substitute back José Salguero put the ball past his own keeper. The contest ended 0-4 (1-4 agg.) to deliver the trophy to Sociedad.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

27 December 2008 - I Doubt He Even Needed A Shower

On 27 December 2008, Chippenham Town striker David Pratt set a new world record. But it wasn't one he wanted to set.

Visiting Bashley for a Southern Premier League meeting, Chippenham's starting line-up included the 21-year old Pratt, but only for three seconds. Immediately after the opening whistle, he committed a lunging tackle on Bashley forward Chris Knowles, drawing a straight red card from referee Justin Amey. Bashley manager Steve Riley praised the ref's decision, saying "The lad's gone in with his studs showing and went straight through my player. It was a potential leg-breaker. The ref had no choice." Fortunately, Knowles was uninjured and, unlike Pratt, remained on the pitch.

Despite going down to 10 men so quickly, Chippenham took the lead in the 10th minute, but Bashley scored two late goals to earn a 2-1 victory.

Pratt's red card is the quickest ever issued to a starting player, beating the previous world record of 10 seconds set by Bologna's Guiseppe Lorenzo in 1990. The previous English record was 13 seconds, set by Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Kevin Pressman in 2000 for handling the ball outside the box. There have been a few substitutes sent off after no time, however, as they received their ejections prior to coming onto the pitch.

For his part, Pratt later said "The world record is not a big deal to me. It's not something that I'm proud of." In May 2009, he moved to his current club, Basingstoke Town, where his play in 2009-10 won him both the Manager's Player of the Year and the Supporters' Player of the Season awards.

Monday, December 26, 2016

26 December 1903 - Ghana's First Football Club

On 26 December 1903, the 22 members of Ghana's first football club, Excelsior, introduced themselves to the country with an exhibition.

The sport arrived in Ghana--then a British colony known as the Gold Coast--a few years earlier, carried there by European traders. By September 1903, it eventually worked its way to Cape Coast in central Ghana, where it captured the attention of students at the Government Boys School. Their headmaster, the enigmatically-named Mr. Briton, encouraged the boys' interest and, according to one report, 22 of them "embarked upon a secret training course in football."

After three months of night practices held under moonlight, the boys, who named their new club "Excelsior," decided to go public. On 26 December, the 22 split into two teams for an exhibition played on a pitch marked out in Victoria Park, complete with goals. Gold Coast governor Sir Fredric Hodgson attended the match.

The exhibition fomented football's popularity and more clubs followed, including Accra Hearts of Oak, Cape Coast Venomous Vipers, Cape Coast Mysterious Dwarfs, Sekondi Hasaacas and Sekondi Eleven Wise. The national team played their first match in 1950 and the Ghana Amateur Football Association eventually formed in 1957.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

25 December 1875 - The First Edinburgh Derby

On 25 December 1875, Hearts and Hibernian met for the very first time, forming one of the oldest existing rivalries in football.

Hibernian, who had been founded earlier that August, had close connections to Edinburgh's Irish Catholic population, with all players required to be members of the Catholic Young Men's Society. And they drew their name from the Roman name for Ireland. As a result, they faced sectarian isolation from many other clubs in the country, with the Scottish Football Association announcing "We are catering for Scotsmen, not Irishmen."

Fellow Edinburgh club Hearts, founded one year earlier, were the first to cross the sectarian divide, meeting Hibs at the Meadows on Christmas Day 1875 for a friendly. And, despite playing with only 8 players for the first 20 minutes, Hearts were rewarded with a 1-0 victory.

Since then, Hearts have enjoyed the better part of the derby, winning a total of 280 matches, including six of the last nine. Hibs, meanwhile, have won the derby 203 times, with 153 draws.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

24 December 1889 - An English Rose Transplanted

On 24 December 1889, a group of English railroad workers in Argentina's Santa Fe province founded the Central Argentine Railway Athletic Club. Now known as Rosario Central, it has become one of the country's most distinguished clubs.

The club is one of the oldest existing in Argentina, forming just over twenty years after the introduction of football to the country by English expatriates in 1868. They dominated the local Rosario League, winning a total of twelve titles between 1908 and 1938, including four straight from 1914 to 1917.

In 1939, they joined the national Argentine league, but waited until 1971 to win their first national title. They have since won three more, most recently in 1987. They also claimed international glory in 1991, winning the Copa CONMEBOL (the precursor to the Copa Sudamericana).

Central's Estadio Gigante de Arroyito has been the home to several notable players, including 1978 World Cup winner Mario Kempes (107 league appearances between 1974 and 1976) and current Real Madrid star Ángel di María (35 appearances from 2005 to 2007).

Friday, December 23, 2016

23 December 2009 - Pandev Gets Paid Not To Play

On 23 December 2009, Lega Calcio resolved a lengthy dispute between Lazio forward Goran Pandev and his boss, club owner Claudio Lotito, by ordering the club to release Pandev and pay him €160,000.

The Macedonian international had played for Lazio since 2004 and had been a key performer for the Roman club, amassing a total of 60 goals in 177 appearances through the 2008-09 season--a season in which they won the Coppa Italia. But over the summer of 2009, with Pandev entering the last year of his contract, club and player drifted apart over Pandev's demands for a wage increase. When Lazio refused to accede to his demands, Pandev asked for a transfer.

The request incensed Lotito, who referred to the forward as a "rebel" and set a transfer fee at the improbably high amount of €19M. Zenit St. Petersburg approached the club with an offer for €13M, but could not reach an agreement. Meanwhile, Lazio refused to play Pandev and, at times, forced him to train on his own.

With the stalemate showing no signs of resolution, Pandev turned to the Italian league's governing body, Lega Calcio, claiming that Lazio's treatment was a breach of contract. The body agreed and, in their December order, commanded the club to release Pandev and pay him punitive damages. Lotito vowed to appeal, telling the press "I can only say that this doesn't end here."

It did end there, however, as Pandev signed with Inter just over two weeks later.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

22 December 2007 - Bendtner Rises To The Occasion

On 22 December 2007, Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner set an English record by scoring only 1.8 seconds after coming on as a late substitute against Tottenham Hotspur.

Although Bendtner had signed with the Gunners back in 2005, he had spent the 2006-07 season on loan at Birmingham and was eager to establish a place in the Arsenal first team. By December, he had scored crucial goals in the League Cup and the Champions League, but had not yet opened his Premier League account.

His moment finally came in the North London derby, as Arsenal hosted Tottenham. With Bendtner on the bench, Arsenal took a 1-0 lead with a goal from Emmanuel Adebayor (48'), but Dimitar Berbatov (66') drew Spurs level. The visitors had a chance to go ahead in the 72nd minute after the referee awarded a penalty for a Kolo Toure foul on Berbatov, but Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia saved Robbie Keane's tame attempt.

Two minutes later, with the match level at 1-1, Arsene Wenger made an attacking change, sending Bendtner on for midfielder Emmanuel Eboue. The Danish striker immediately positioned himself near the far post for a Cesc Fabregas corner kick, then charged into the goalmouth to head the ball past goalkeeper Paul Robinson. It was Bendtner's first touch of the ball, coming only 1.8 seconds after he entered the match, and proved to be the game winner. It is also the fastest goal scored by a substitute in English football history.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

20 December 1985 - Swansea Sinks To A New Low

On 20 December 1985, the once high-flying Swansea City hit a new low, receiving a formal winding up order. Only quick work from a local businessman saved the club from dissolution.

Founded in 1912 as Swansea Town, the Welsh club joined England's Southern League one year later. In 1920, they moved to the newly-created Third Division of the English Football League and spent the majority of their existence moving among the lower tiers. Their fortunes took a positive turn in 1978 with the appointment of 28-year old manager John Toshack, the youngest manager in the league at the time.

Toshack led them to three promotions in four seasons, taking them all the way from the Fourth Division to the First. Once there, they even held the league's top spot for several weeks before finishing in sixth place at the end of their first top-flight season. The success didn't last, however, and they fell as quickly as they had risen, suffering three relegations in four seasons to end up back in Division Four for the 1986-87 season. Toshack received his dismissal in 1984.

But the real low point came in December 1985, as financial problems led the High Court to issue a formal order winding the club up for an inability to pay its debts. With the club poised for liquidation, local businessman Doug Sharpe intervened. He took over as owner and quickly came up with a business plan to forestall the club's dissolution. In response, the court granted permission to the club to continue.

They then began the long road back to the top flight, culminating in promotion to the Premier League for the 2011-12 season.

Monday, December 19, 2016

19 December 2002 - Rowley Rests In Peace

On 19 December 2002, striker Arthur Rowley died at the age of 76. His career total of 434 goals remains an English league record.

Born in Wolverhampton in 1926, Rowley began his professional career in 1944 with West Brom. He failed to settle at the Hawthorns, however, and moved to Fulham in 1948. There, his 19 goals helped the Cottagers win the Second Division, but his scoring touch left him in the top flight and Fulham sold him on to Leicester City in 1950.

He flourished at Leicester, knocking in 28 goals in his first season there. In his second season, he increased his tally to 38, then raised it again the next year to 41. In all, he scored a total of 265 goals in 321 appearances for the Foxes, making him their second all-time leading scorer, behind Arthur Chandler (273 in 419 appearances). His best season was 1956-57, when his total of 44 set a club record for a single season.

In the summer of 1958, Leicester manager Dave Halliday sold Rowley to Shrewsbury as player-manager (an unpopular move among Leicester fans and one that contributed to Halliday's sacking later that year). Rowley continued to score in waves, netting 38 times in his first season there--and setting another club record for single season. By the time he retired from playing in 1965, he was the club's all-time leading scorer with 152 league goals.

He remained with Shrewsbury as manager for another three years and later took charge of Sheffield United (1968-69), Southend United (1970-76), and Knighton Town (1976) before retiring for good.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

18 December 1926 - Rochdale's Big Day

On 18 December 1926, Rochdale got their biggest margin of victory, beating Chesterfield 8-1. They got five goals from center forward Albert Whitehurst, who was in the midst of a record-setting year.

The match was a Third Division contest, played at Rochdale's Spotland Stadium. When the day started, the Dale were flying high in second place, despite having just finished back-to-back draws with Walsall and Rotherham United, but Chesterfield were only one spot lower in third, making a near top-of-the-table clash.

And although Chesterfield had a potent attack of their own--having beaten Barrow 8-1 the previous month--the day belonged to Rochdale. Whitehurst, in his fourth season there, delivered five of the goals, part of his club-record tally of 44 goals on the season.

The result kept Rochdale in second and dropped Chesterfield down to seventh, which turned out to be their finishing spots for the season. Whitehurst remained with the Dale for one more season before moving to Liverpool in 2008.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

17 December 2006 - The Only Stat That Matters

On 17 December 2006, Barcelona dominated Internacional in the Club World Cup Final in all statistical categories but one--the score.

Playing before a crowd of 62,128 at Yokohama's International Stadium, Barcelona had better possession than the Brazilians (57% to 43%) and also outshot them 17 to 10. Meanwhile, Internacional played a cynical game, delivering more than twice as many fouls (25) as they received (10).

Only two of Internacional's shots were on goal, but it was the last one that counted. Substitute forward Luiz Adriano corralled a long pass near the midfield stripe and maneuvered around defender Carles Puyol to slide a pass toward his fellow substitute, Adriano Gabiru. Defender Rafael Márquez stepped up to challenge him, but slipped, leaving the striker one-on-one against goalkeeper Victor Valdés. Valdés did well to get a hand on Adriano Gabiru's shot, but the ball still ended up in the net for the game's only goal.

Friday, December 16, 2016

16 December 2006 - An Expensive Sheet Of Stationery

On 16 December 2006, a note belonging to German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann sold at auction for €1 million. It was the cheat sheet that helped him guide Germany past Argentina in a quarterfinal shootout at the 2006 World Cup.

Although Lehmann made his national team debut in 1998, he spent the first several years stuck behind Oliver Kahn and did not play in the 1998 or 2002 World Cups. But he finally supplanted Kahn as Germany's number one for the 2006 tournament and had an impressive run, giving up two goals in their opening match, then keeping three straight clean sheets to set up the quarterfinal meeting with Argentina.

The Argentines took a 49th-minute lead with a goal from Roberto Ayala, but Miroslav Klose's 80th-minute equalizer sent the match into extra time, which finished 1-1 to set up a penalty shootout. In preparation, Germany's goalkeeper coach, Andreas Koepke, gave a note to Lehmann with a listing of some of Argentina's likely shooters and their tendencies. Lehmann kept it in his sock and checked it before every kick.

Argentina's Julio Cruz converted their first kick, but Lehmann stopped their second attempt, diving to his left to catch Ayala's shot (for Ayala, the note said "long wait, long run right"). He nearly stopped their third attempt, then--with Germany up 4-2--he again dove to his left to deny the shot from Esteban Cambiasso (whose name wasn't even on the list) and secure the victory.

Lehmann kept the note, then donated it to a charity auction where it was purchased by a German utility company, Energie Baden-Wuerttenberg.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

15 December 1952 - The Prince Of Denmark Is Born

On this day in 1952, Danish international striker Allan Simonsen was born in Vejle. He went on to become the first player to score in all three of the European Cup, UEFA Cup, and Cup Winners' Cup finals, and was the first Danish player to be named European Footballer of the Year.

He started his professional career in 1971 with his hometown club, Vejle BK, where he helped the club to the Danish league title in his first season. They repeated as champions in 1972, complemented with a victorious Danish Cup campaign. Simonsen's play drew the attention of defending Bundesliga champions Borussia Mönchengladbach, who signed him later that year.

Although it took his a while to acclimate to his new German surroundings, he ultimately became a key player for his new club, scoring 76 goals in 178 league appearances between 1972 and 1979. Along the way, he won three Bundesliga titles (1975, 1976, 1977), two UEFA Cups (1975, 1979), and one German Cup (1973). They also reached the final of the European Cup in 1977, but lost 3-1 to Liverpool, with Simonsen scored the Germans' lone goal. His performance in that 1976-77 season made him the 1977 European Footballer of the Year.

In 1979, after scoring the winning goal in that year's UEFA Cup Final, he moved to Barcelona. In three seasons there, he added the Copa del Rey (1981) to his silverware collection, then scored another match-winning goal in European competition to beat Standard Liège in the 1982 Cup Winners' Cup.

After a short time with Charlton Athletic (1982-83), Simonsen finished his playing career back in Vejle, winning yet another Danish league title in 1984 before retiring in 1989. He has since moved into management with Vejle (1991-94), the Faroe Islands (1994-2001), and Luxembourg (2001-04), and is currently the general manager for Danish club FC Fredericia.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

14 December 1994 - The Hardman Cometh (To Wales)

On 14 December 1994, 30-year old English midfielder Vinnie Jones received his first international call-up--for Wales.

Jones, who was born the English town in Watford, had made his reputation as the leader of the Wimbledon FC "Crazy Gang" that won the 1988 FA Cup over Liverpool. Self-proclaimed as one of football's hardest men, he lived up to the billing by playing with a reckless abandon and earning a slew of red cards along the way. While at Wimbledon, he committed two of his most infamous acts--inflicting a 1986 knee injury on Spurs defender Gary Stevens that eventually ended his career and grabbing Newcastle midfielder Paul Gascoigne by the testicles in 1987.

By 1994, he had rejoined Wimbledon after spells with Leeds United (1989-90), Sheffield United (1990-91), and Chelsea (1991-92) and was hoping to make the move into international football. With England looking elsewhere, he qualified to play for Wales through his maternal grandmother and duly received his first call-up by manager Mike Smith.

To his credit, Jones quickly embraced his new team, learning the Welsh national anthem in short order and reportedly getting a tattoo of a dragon over his heart. But Wales were a side in decline and lost on his debut to Bulgaria, 0-3, in a European Championship qualifier.

Jones went on to make a total of nine appearances for Wales, and even captained the team, but never got to taste international victory. And his "Crazy Gang" behavior followed him as, in just his fourth game, he was ejected in the 27th minute for stepping on an opposing player's groin in a 1-0 loss to Georgia.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

13 December 2006 - The Passing Of An American Pioneer

On 13 December 2006, American soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt passed away in Dallas. He was 74 years old.

Heir to an oil fortune, Hunt was an enthusiastic supporter of both both soccer and American football. In 1959, after being turned down for a National Football League franchise, he helped found the rival American Football League and formed his own team, the Dallas Texans. He later moved the team to Kansas City, renaming them as the Chiefs, and they eventually joined the NFL when the two leagues merged in 1970. 

His interest in soccer was sparked by a 1962 trip to Ireland, where he took in a Shamrock Rovers match. Five years later, he helped establish the North American Soccer League and founded the Dallas Tornado, who went on to win the league title in 1971.

After the demise of the NASL, Hunt continued to promote the sport in the US. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Major League Soccer, which debuted in 1996 with two Hunt-owned teams, the Columbus Crew and the Kansas City Wizards. In 2003, he acquired a third team, FC Dallas and owned all three until his death.

He received several honors and awards over the course of his life, including induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992 and the placement of his statute outside the Columbus Crew Stadium. In 1999, the U.S. Soccer Federation renamed the U.S. Open Cup in his honor. Now known as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, it is the country's longest-running soccer competition.

Monday, December 12, 2016

12 December 2001 - The Death Of The World's Greatest Goalscorer

On 12 December 2001, former Slavia Prague forward Josef "Pepi" Bican passed away at the age of 88. His career total of over 1,460 goals is the greatest tally in the recorded history of football.

Born in Vienna in 1913, Bican began his professional career in 1931 with Rapid Vienna and two years later earned his first cap for Austria. He stayed with Rapid for three years, scoring 184 goals in 144 appearances in all competitions. In 1934, he moved across town to Admira Vienna, where he continued his blistering scoring pace, knocking in another 119 goals in 85 appearances across all competitions. He also got his first silverware, winning the league in 1936 and 1937.

He moved to Slavia Prague in 1937 and remained there until 1948 (a year after making the switch, he also switched his international team, exchanging Austria in favor of Czechoslovakia). His form followed him, as he was Europe's top scorer in each season from 1939-40 to 1943-44 (admittedly while many leagues were suspended for World War II). In all, he made 427 recorded appearances for Slavia Prague, including friendlies, scoring an incredible total of 832 goals.

He retired as a player in 1956, having spent brief periods with Sokol Vítkovice (93 goals from 1949 to 1951), Hradec Králové (18 goals from 1952 to 1953), and Dynamo Prague (81 goals from 1953 to 1956). His career total of 1,468 makes him the highest goalscorer in world history, over subsequent--and more familiar--luminaries such as Pelé (1,284 in all competitions) and Gerd Müller (1,461 in all competitions).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

11 December 1988 - PSV's Penalty Luck Runs Out

On 11 December 1988, Nacional eventually claimed the Intercontinental Cup, beating PSV Eindhoven in a penalty shootout that reached a total of 20 kicks.

Playing before a crowd of 62,000 at the National Stadium in Tokyo, the Copa Libertadores champions went up in the 7th minute with a powerful header from Uruguayan midfielder Santiago Ostolaza off a corner kick. They held onto their lead until the 75th minute, when PSV's Brazilian striker Romário delivered an equalizer with a header of his own.

Level at 1-1 after 90 minutes, the match went to extra time, where PSV took the lead with a 110th-minute penalty kick from center back Ronald Koeman, who sent his shot straight down the middle. But nine minutes later, with PSV looking almost certain to win, Ostolaza struck again with another header to send the match into penalty kicks.

Penalty kicks had been kind to PSV earlier in the year, as they topped Benfica in the European Cup 0-0 (6-5). But after five kicks each, the two teams were still level, having converted three each. After Ostolaza converted the ninth kick for Nacional to stay level at 6-6, PSV right back Barry van Aerle missed his kick, opening the door for the Uruguayans, who won 2-2 (7-6) after Tony Gómez converted his attempt.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

10 December 1997 - This Is How Hao Does It

On 10 December 1997, striker Hao Haidong enjoyed a record day en route to a banner year for Chinese top flight champions Dalian Wanda.

The 27-year old spent the first ten years of his career with rivals Bayi FC, where he had scored 19 goals in 48 league appearances. But in 1997, he moved to Dalian for a club-record fee of 2.2 million yuan. Dalian were already a successful side, having won the Chinese top flight title in 1994 and 1996 (having gone undefeated in the latter season with 12 wins and 10 draws), but the addition of Hao improved both club and player.

At Dalian, Hao began scoring at a blazing pace, eventually winning the league's golden boot with a total of 14. But his biggest haul came on 10 December when he put four past the keeper in a 5-2 rout of Guangdong Hongyuan. It matched the single-match goal record set by Hu Zhijun in 1994 and, though it has been repeated on six subsequent occasions, it has never been topped.

Dalian proceeded to win the league title that season with 15 wins, 6 draws, and 1 loss to better their points tally from the previous season, and also won that year's Chinese Super Cup. They repeated as league champions in 1998 with Hao repeating as the golden boot winner. Before he left for Sheffield United in 2005, he was the league's all-time top scorer with 96 goals in 185 appearances (though he was later passed by Li Jinyu, who scored 120 goals in 251 appearances between 1999 and 2010).

Friday, December 9, 2016

9 December 1984 - Percudani Pounces On Liverpool

On 9 December 1984, Independiente won their second Intercontinental Cup, beating Liverpool 1-0.

The Argentinians were making their sixth appearance in the competition after a 10-year absence and a previous record of four losses (1964, 1965, 1972, 1974) and one win--a 1-0 victory over Juventus in 1973. Liverpool, meanwhile, were in it for only the second time after losing 3-0 to Flamengo in 1981.

Playing before a crowd of 62,000 at Tokyo's National Stadium, Liverpool's attack featured the high-scoring forward pairing of Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush (Rush was Europe's top scorer that season with 32 goals in 41 league appearances). But it was 19-year old Independiente striker José Percudani (pictured) who got the day's only goal. He sprinted past the Liverpool defense to latch on to a pass that had been sent from beyond the midfield stripe, then beat goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar with a tidy left-footed finish.

It turned out to be the last time in the competition for either club, though Liverpool made an appearance in the 2005 edition of its successor, the FIFA Club World Cup, losing 1-0 to São Paulo.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

8 December 1929 - The Beginning Of A Beautiful Rivalry

On 8 December 1929, Lazio and Roma faced off for the first time, with Roma winning thanks to a late goal from striker Rodolfo Volk.

Tensions existed between the two teams even before that first match. Roma were founded in 1927, consolidating three other clubs based in the Italian capital in an effort to build a team that could compete with the more powerful northern clubs. Lazio, founded in 1900, resisted inclusion in that group, the only major team from Rome to do so.

Their first meeting was a Serie A match, played at Lazio's Campo Rondinella. Roma claimed victory as Volk's 73rd-minute goal was the only one of the day. Since then, they have extended the total to 181 times, with Roma winning 53 to Lazio's 38. Roma have dominated the derby recently, going undefeated for seven matches, with five wins and two draws. They also hold the record for the longest winning streak, however, taking six consecutive matches from 1950 to 1953.

The rivalry--known as the Derby della Capitale--has become one of the more heated derbies in football, with several incidents of violence on both sides. The worst moment came in 1979, when a Roma supporter fired a flare into the crowd, killing Lazio supporter Vincenzo Paparelli.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

7 December 1997 - The Passing Of A Leeds Legend

On 7 December 1997, former Leeds United captain Billy Bremner died after being hospitalized for pneumonia. He was 54 years old.

Born in the Scottish city of Stirling, Bremner joined Leeds United in 1959 at the age of 17 and played there for 18 seasons. He became a regular starter in just his second season and helped them earn promotion to the top flight in 1964 under manager Don Revie.

He played with an intensity and toughness that belied his small stature (he was 5' 5"), earning the respect of teammates and opponents alike. In 1966, he took over as captain and pushed Leeds to domestic and European heights, winning the League Cup (1968), FA Cup (1972), two league titles (1969, 1974), and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups (1968, 1971), while also reaching the finals of the European Cup (1975) and Cup Winners' Cup (1973). His career was not without controversy, however, as he developed a reputation for dirty play and once received a suspension for fighting with Liverpool's Kevin Keegan.

By the time he left Elland Road in 1976, he had made 772 appearances for the club, only one match behind their all-time leader, Jack Charlton. He moved to Hull City briefly (1976-79), then joined Doncaster Rovers (1979-81) as player-manager. He returned to Leeds in 1985 as manager, then moved back to Doncaster in 1989 and retired in 1991.

In December 1997, he contracted pneumonia, then died of a suspected heart attack just two days short of his 55th birthday.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

6 December 2010 - Just Another Step In Their Plan For World Domination

On 6 December 2010, FIFA and France Football magazine announced the three finalists for the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or. And all three were from FC Barcelona.

The award was a combination of France Football's Ballon d'Or, started in 1956, and FIFA's World Player of the Year award, which began in 1991. In 2010, the two organizations agreed to merge their awards, calling the new honor the FIFA Ballon d'Or.

They announced their shortlist of 23 players on 27 October, then culled the list to the top three vote-getters on 6 December. The three were Barcelona's Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, and Lionel Messi, who had won both the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2009. Although Barcelona had won La Liga in 2010, the inclusion of Xavi and Iniesta was due in part to their World Cup-winning run with Spain the previous summer. But Messi went on to win the award when it was announced in January 2011.

It was not the first time that a single club took the top three spots in Ballon d'Or voting: AC Milan did it in 1988, when Marco van Basten beat out Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, then again in 1989, when van Basten won it again, that time over Rijkaard and Franco Baresi.

Monday, December 5, 2016

5 December 2009 - Clearly, They Didn't Believe In Cover Jinxes

On 5 December 2009, the Sun celebrated England's draw for the 2010 World Cup by using their opponents' names to form the word "EASY" on their cover. It turned out to be a little more difficult than they thought, however.

The draw, which had taken place the previous day in South Africa, placed England in a group with the United States, Algeria, and Slovenia. Calling it "the best English group since the Beatles," the Sun headline touted the draw as "England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks." Several commentators agreed, with former English international Jack Charlton going so far to say "I think it is probably the easiest of the World Cup groups."

It turned out to be anything but, as England struggled to draws with the United States and Algeria in their two opening matches. Going into the group's last match day, they were level on points with the United States and needed a result against leaders Slovenia to ensure their progress into the next round.

As it turned out, they advanced with a 1-0 win over Slovenia, but did so as the group's second place team after the US topped the group by defeating Algeria. The relief was short-lived, however, as both England and the US were knocked out in the next round with losses to Germany and Ghana, respectively.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

4 December 1933 - Arsenal Takes Down The Wunderteam

On 4 December 1933, Arsenal faced off against the Austrian Wunderteam and won, 4-2.

Guided by manager Hugo Meisl and captain Matthias Sidelar (pictured), Austria were one of Europe's most dominant teams of the 1930s, earning the nickname "Wunderteam." They rattled off a 14-game unbeaten streak in 1931-32, including routs of Scotland (5-0), Germany (6-0, 5-0), and Hungary (8-2). They also won the 1932 Central European International Cup with a 4-2 victory over Italy in the final.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were enjoying a successful period of their own, having recently won the 1930 FA Cup and the 1931 and 1933 league titles under manager Herbert Chapman.

Chapman was friends with Meisl, prompting the friendly. But FA rules prohibited English clubs from playing international sides, so Austria arrived at Highbury for the match thinly disguised as FC Vienna. The Times called it a "thrilling match," with Arsenal taking a 3-1 lead before the teams swapped late goals to finish the day 4-2.

Austria went on to finish fourth in the 1934 World Cup, then went into decline after the death of Meisl in 1937. Arsenal proceeded to win the league title in 1934, but manager Herbert Chapman was not there to see it, as he died on 6 January 1934, just over a month after the win over Austria.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

3 December 1906 - The Rise And Fall Of An Italian Superclub

On 3 December 1906, a group that included some former Juventus players and future Italy manager Vittorio Pozzo founded AC Torino, alternatively one of Italy's most successful and most tragic clubs.

The founders met at the Voigt brewery in Turin and included a number of former Juventus players, including Alfredo Dick, who were upset by their former club's discussions about moving out of Turin. The group also included Swiss businessman Hans Schoenbrod, who served as the club's first chairman, and 20-year old former Grasshopper Zürich player Vittorio Pozzo, who went on to manage the club before later taking charge of Italy for three separate spells, including their victorious 1934 and 1938 World Cup campaigns.

Torino won their first league title in 1928, but became Italy's dominant team in the 1940s with a team known as Il Grande Torino. They won five scudettos in the decade, including four straight from 1946 to 1949. Their run of incredible success ended in tragedy, however, as a plane crash in May 1949 killed 18 players and several club officials, journalists, and the crew.

The crash sent Torino into a decline and they have spent the majority of the intervening years moving between Serie A and Serie B, though they did win another league title in 1976. In 2005, the Italian football association expelled Torino from the league for financial reasons, but they returned later that year as Torino FC.

Friday, December 2, 2016

2 December 1997 - Rovers Get Lynched

On 2 December 1997, Wigan Athletic and Bristol Rovers matched an English record by receiving a total of five red cards--four of them in the first half.

The two teams met in a Second Division contest at Wigan's Springfield Park, where a crowd of 2,738 watched the newly-promoted Latics take an early lead against second-place Bristol City with a 20th-minute goal from midfielder Ian Kilford.

But the real excitement started in first-half stoppage time, as referee Kevin Lynch (pictured) issued a second yellow card to Rovers defender David Pritchard. As the remaining players jockeyed for position in front of the Bristol goal for the ensuing free kick, a fight broke out, resulting in three more ejections--for Wigan striker Graeme Jones and Bristol's Jason Perry and Andy Tillson.

The day's final red card came in the 71st minute, as Rovers midfielder Josh Low received a second yellow. Wigan took advantage of their 10-to-7 man advantage and got two goals from winger David Lowe (78', 85').

That last ejection matched the record of 5 set by Chesterfield and Plymouth Argyle just the previous February (with 2 and 3, respectively). It remains a joint record, happening once more in a 2002 match between Exeter City (3) and Cambridge (2).