Wednesday, April 26, 2017

26 April 1903 - Madrid Gets Athletic

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

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

They joined La Liga in 1928, but were relegated to the Segunda División two years later. A few ups and downs later, and a merger with Zaragoza's Aviación Nacional, they returned to the top flight for the 1939-40 season and proceeded to win two straight titles. They won two more in 1950 and 1951 under manager Helenio Herrera. They have since added five more, including their most recent one in 2014. They won their tenth Copa del Rey in 2013.

Atlético have also enjoyed success in Europe. They won the Cup Winners' Cup over Fiorentina in 1962 and reached the European Cup final in 1974 (where they lost to Bayern Munich). They were the Champions League runners up in 2014 and 2016, losing both times to Real Madrid. In 2010, they won the Europa League final over Fulham, then claimed the UEFA Supercup by beating Inter 2-0.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

25 April 1985 - The Toffees Taste Sweet Victory In Europe

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

24 April 1954 - Liverpool Sinks

On 24 April 1954, Liverpool ended 50 consecutive seasons in the top flight with a 3-0 loss to Blackpool. They would not return for eight years.

Founded in 1892, Liverpool joined the Football League in 1893 and had been in the First Division since the 1905-06 season. In 1947, they won their fifth league title, but they had finished no higher than eighth in the intervening years and dropped all the way to 17th in 1953.

The 1953-54 season started poorly, with five losses in their first eight matches. They hit bottom on 19 December after a 5-1 loss to Manchester United and remained there for the remaining 19 weeks. At one point, they set a current club record by going 14 matches without a win.

They rallied in early April, rattling off four wins in six matches, but it was not enough to lift them up from last place. A loss at home to Cardiff City on 17 April guaranteed their relegation. A win against Blackpool in their last match would have put them above Middlesbrough on goal average, but Blackpool won 3-0, firmly sticking Liverpool on the bottom.

They remained in Division 2 until 1962 when Bill Shankly, in only his second full season in charge, guided them back to the top flight, where they have remained ever since.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

23 April 1904 - Manchester City Turns Silver

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

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

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

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

City nearly completed the double, but lost 1-0 at Everton two days later to finish as runners-up in the league to Sheffield Wednesday. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

22 April 1978 - Forest Grows Into The Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

21 April 2007 - Lyon Was Lying In Wait

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, April 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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