Thursday, August 17, 2017

17 August 2011 - Barça Gets Off To A Super Start

On 17 August 2011, Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-2 to take their 10th Supercopa de España (and the first one over their Clásico rivals).

The competition, which kicks off the Spanish season, pits the reigning La Liga champions against the Copa del Rey holders in a two-legged series, home and away. Real Madrid and Barcelona had met there four teams previously, in 1988, 1990, 1993, and 1997, with Real Madrid claiming the honors each time. But Barça had the recent edge, carrying a six-match unbeaten streak against Madrid in the league (with five wins), as well as eliminating them in the previous season's Champions League. (Madrid, however, had beaten Barcelona in the 2011 Copa del Rey Final).

The two teams met at the Bernabéu on 14 August for the first leg, where they drew 2-2, then reconvened at Camp Nou three days later. There, Andres Iniésta opened the scoring in the 15th minute after an incisive through pass by Lionel Messi left him one-on-one with keeper Iker Casillas, who fell victim to a chip. Cristiano Ronaldo equalized from short range five minutes later, but Messi restored the lead just before the break.

Real Madrid drew level again in the second half through an 82nd-minute goal from striker Karim Benzema, but Messi had the last word with the match-winner in the 88th minute.

That season, Real Madrid went on to win the league, while Barcelona won the Copa del Rey, setting up another Supercopa meeting in 2012.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

16 August 1981 - The Sumner Sets On Fiji

On 16 August 1981, New Zealand notched their record victory, beating Fiji 13-0 in a World Cup qualifier. It is also Fiji's record loss.

The All Whites were looking to reach their first World Cup, having not entered the competition from 1930 through 1966, then not qualifying for the 1970, 1974, and 1978 tournaments. They started their campaign for Spain '82 in April 1981 by drawing 3-3 with Australia, then beating Fiji away 0-4.

By mid-August, they were at the top of the table in their qualifying group, three points clear of Australia, who had two games left to play. New Zealand's last match was in Auckland against Fiji, who had just lost to Australia 10-0. 

New Zealand wasted no time in taking the lead, going up 3-0 in the first nine minutes with goals from striker Steve Wooddin (2'), midfielder and captain Steve Sumner (pictured) (8'), and midfielder Grant Turner (9'). By the break, additional goals from Sumner (45') and Turner (31'), plus strikes from Duncan Cole (36') and Brian Turner (40') put the hosts up 7-0.

Sumner then ran rampant in the second half, scoring four more times (55', 60', 72', 86') to take his tally on the day to six, a national team record. The other two goals were added by Keith Mackay (48') and Brian Turner (85') to reach 13.

The result secured qualification for New Zealand and sent them to Spain, where they unfortunately finished last in their first round group with losses to Brazil, Scotland, and the Soviet Union.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

15 August 2011 - It's Not the "English" Premier League Anymore

On 15 August 2011, Swansea City became the first non-English side to play in the Premier League when they visited Manchester City on the season's opening day.

Despite being based in Wales, Swansea have played in the English league system since their founding in 1912. From 1981 to 1983, they played in the English top flight, following in the footsteps of fellow Welsh side Cardiff City, who spent three different spells in the First Division from 1921-29, 1952-57, and 1960-62. But no club from outside England had reached the top flight since the formation of the Premier League in 1992.

That changed in 2011, as Swansea finished the 2010-11 Championship season in third place, then beat Nottingham Forest and Reading in the promotion play-offs. Their reward was an opening day date at title challengers Manchester City.

Swansea held their own for the first half, playing an attractive passing game that allowed them to control possession and go into the break with a scoreless draw. But Manchester City exploded in the second half, getting goals from Edin Džeko (57'), Sergio Agüero (68', 90'+1), and David Silva (71') to finish the day as 4-0 winners.

While Manchester City went on to win the league title that year, Swansea rallied and finished in an impressive 11th place, the highest of that season's newly-promoted teams.

Monday, August 14, 2017

14 August 1971 - Keegan Gets Off To A Flying Start

On 14 August 1971, 20-year old Kevin Keegan debuted for Liverpool, scoring in a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest. He went on to score a total of 100 goals for them over six seasons, winning three league titles, an FA Cup, and the European Cup.

Keegan started his professional career with Fourth Division Scunthorpe in 1968 and made 141 appearances there before moving to Liverpool in the summer of 1971 for a transfer fee of £35,000. Initially a midfielder, his scoring ability prompted manager Bill Shankly to move him to forward.

He made 42 appearances for Liverpool across all competitions that first season, scoring a total of 11 goals as the Reds finished third in the league table. He doubled that tally the next season, winning his first league title and the UEFA Cup. Although that was his most prolific scoring season at Anfield, he won the FA Cup in 1974, then won a league and UEFA Cup double in 1976, followed by another league title and the European Cup in 1977. 

In the summer of 1977, after making 323 appearances, he moved to Hamburg for a fee of £500,000.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

13 August 1966 - Gemmill's First History-Making Moment

On 13 August 1966, St. Mirren midfielder Archie Gemmill became the first substitute in Scotland.

The use of substitutes in football dates back to the 1860s, but as the rules became codified, they became disfavored and disallowed. By the 1950s, however, people began reintroducing them, with FIFA allowing them in qualification matches for the 1954 World Cup.

England and Scotland slowly began to reconsider the rule, with England adopting the use of a single substitute per team starting with the 1965-66 season, but even then only to replace an injured player. One year later, Scotland applied an identical rule.

Gemmill, then just 19 years old and two years into his career with St. Mirren, was the first player in Scotland to come on as a substitute, replacing an injured Jim Clunie after 23 minutes in a Scottish League Cup match against Clyde. Unfortunately for Gemmill and St. Mirren, it was a milestone made in a losing effort, as they fell to Clyde 1-0.

Gemmill went on to enjoy a lengthy career in Scotland and England (and a brief spell in the United States) that lasted until his retirement in 1984. He also earned 43 caps for Scotland, for whom he scored one of the World Cup's most memorable goals in a 1978 match against the Netherlands.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

12 August 1964 - A Small Degree Of Separation Is Enough

On 12 August 1964, Independiente won the first of their record seven Copa Libertadores titles, beating Nacional on points.

It was the fifth edition of the tournament and the first appearance in the final for both teams. They each won their first-round group with identical records of three wins and a draw to advance to the semifinals. There, Independiente topped two-time defending champions Santos by winning both legs, while Nacional did the same to Colo-Colo.

The final was played over two legs, home and away, with the champion determined by points. The teams met at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo for the first leg on 6 August, where they split the points by playing to a scoreless draw, then reconvened six days later at the Estadio de Independiente for the second leg.

The second leg was another close affair, with the teams separated only by a 35th-minute goal from Independiente's Mario Rodríguez, but it was enough for the hosts to claim the trophy.

Independiente repeated as champion in 1965, then proceeded to win it again in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, and 1984. Nacional finally won it in 1971, then again in 1980 and 1988.

Friday, August 11, 2017

11 August 1984 - Les Bleus Claim L'Or

On 11 August 1984, France and Brazil reached the first Olympic final for both teams, with France winning 2-0.

France had enjoyed more success in previous tournaments, claiming the silver medal in 1900 (albeit as one of only three participating teams). In 1908, France actually entered two teams, with one reaching the semifinals. An additional semifinal appearance followed in 1920, then they reached the quarterfinals in 1924, 1948, 1968, and 1976.

Brazil, on the other hand, did not participate in the Olympics until 1952. Though they made it to the quarterfinals that year, they suffered first-round exits in the next four tournaments. In 1976, they reached the quarterfinals again, losing to the Soviet Union.

Both teams missed the 1980 tournament in Moscow and showed up in 1984 eager to claim a medal. Brazil breezed through the group stage, winning all three of their games, then advanced to the final with victories over Canada (on penalties) and Italy (after extra time). France, meanwhile, topped their own group despite winning only one of the matches, then advanced over Egypt and Yugoslavia (on penalties).

Playing before a crowd of 101,799 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, the teams finished the first half at 0-0, but that scoreline did not last much longer. In the 55th minute, Lens striker François Brisson put France up 1-0, then his fellow striker, Daniel Xuereb (pictured)--who also played for Lens--doubled the lead five minutes later. It was Xuereb's fifth goal of the tournament, tying him with two other players for top-scorer honors.

It was the last appearance in the final for France, but Brazil returned in 1988, 2012, and 2016, winning the latter.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

10 August 2010 - The Kid Just Might Have A Future

On 10 August 2010, Neymar made his Brazil debut--and scored his first international goal--in a 2-0 win over the United States.

The 18-year old striker had risen to prominence for Santos since signing with them in 2009 and had already made three appearances for Brazil's U-17 team. His performances there led to a loud public outcry for his inclusion in Brazil's squad for the 2010 World Cup, including strong support from Brazilina legend Pelé, but manager Dunga chose not select him, claiming he was still too inexperienced.

Brazil replaced Dunga with Mano Menezes on 24 July 2010 and, two days later, the new coach included Neymar in his first squad, picked to face the United States in a friendly. The teams met in New Jersey, with Neymar starting for Brazil.

He did not take long to make an impact. In just the 29th minute, he got onto the end of a cross from André Santos and headed it past US keeper Tim Howard. His teammate Pato doubled the lead right before the break and the day ended as a 2-0 victory for Brazil.

Since then, Neymar has become a star for the national team, scoring 52 goals in 77 appearances and winning the Olympic gold medal in 2016.   

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

9 August 1973 - Inzaghi Crosses The Line

On 9 August 1973, Italian striker Filippo "Pippo" Inzaghi was born in Piacenza. He went on to become one of the country's most prolific scorers.

He signed his first professional contract in 1991, joining his hometown club, Piacenza Calcio, but made only three appearances before moving to Leffe in 1992. A series of other moves followed, including stays at Verona, another turn at Piacenza, Parma, and Atalanta before he joined Juventus in 1997.

In his first season with Juve, he scored a career-high 27 goals in 47 appearances across all competitions as the club won Serie A and reached the Champions League final. After four seasons in Turin, he moved to AC Milan, where he proceeded to win two more league titles (2004, 2011) and two Champions League trophies (2003, 2007). Meanwhile, he also won the World Cup with Italy in 2006.

Known for playing on the edge of the offside line, his style of play once prompted Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson to say "That lad must have been born offside." He retired in 2012, having scored a career total 288 goals in 623 club appearances (with another 25 goals for the national team). Seventy of those goals came in UEFA club competitions, ranking him second overall in that category just behind Raúl González (77).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

8 August 2009 - One Man's Record Loss Is Another's Job Audition

On 8 August 2009, Norwich suffered their worst home defeat in club history, losing 1-7 to Colchester on opening day.

Norwich had ended a four-year run in the Championship, England's second division, with relegation to the third-tier League One at the end of the 2008-09 season. Many observers tipped them for a quick return to the Championship, with their first hurdle coming at home against Colchester, who had themselves just dropped into League One in 2008.

Playing before a crowd of 25,217, Norwich's plans quickly came undone as Colchester striker Kevin Lisbie scored in just the tenth minute, then his striking partner Clive Platt scored three minutes later. By the break, a stunned Norwich were down 0-5, with additional goals from Platt (19') and Lisbie (38') sandwiched around one from David Fox (22').

Norwich eventually managed to bag one of their own, with a 72nd-minute strike from Cody McDonald, but Colchester substitute David Perkins restored the margin four minutes later. Then Scott Vernon, who had come on for Lisbie, added insult to injury with a 90th-minute tap-in to end the day at 1-7.

The loss cost manager Brian Gunn his job as the club sacked him six days later. To replace him, they hired Colchester manager Paul Lambert, who guided them to promotion at the end of the season, then to the Premier League in 2011.

The 1-7 scoreline remains their worst home loss, but the worst overall defeat was a 10-2 drubbing at Swindon Town in 1908.

Monday, August 7, 2017

7 August 1999 - What's Black, White, And Red All Over?

On 7 August 1999, Alan Shearer marked his 100th appearance for Newcastle by receiving the first red card of his career.

The striker joined Newcastle, his hometown club, in 1996 after five seasons at Southampton and four at Blackburn Rovers (with whom he won the Premier League in 1995) and had made 99 appearances for the club prior to the start of the 1999-2000 season. He had acquired the nickname "Mary Poppins" for his squeaky-clean public image, due in large part to the fact that he had never been sent off.

That changed in 1999. Newcastle were hosting Aston Villa in the season opener and the match remained scoreless deep into the second half. In the 70th minute, Shearer, who was already on a yellow card, battled Villa's Colin Calderwood for the ball, leaving the defender on the ground. Referee Uriah Rennie ruled that Shearer was guilty of "excessive use of the elbows" and showed the striker a second yellow, ejecting him from the match. Villa went on to win 0-1 with a 75th-minute goal from Julian Joachim.

Just over two years later, Shearer received a second red in a match against Charlton, but it was later rescinded.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

6 August 2003 - That's How You Make A First Impression

On 6 August 2003, Manchester United lost to Sporting in a friendly that introduced them to the Portuguese side's dynamic young winger, Cristiano Ronaldo.

United were in Lisbon to help Sporting inaugurate their new home, the Estádio José Alvalade. The Red Devils had just completed a four-game tour of the United States and seemed to be suffering from tired legs as the hosts romped to a 3-1 victory with goals from Luís Felipe (26') and João Pinto (62', 81'). Even United's consolation goal came courtesy of the Portuguese, as defender Hugo put the ball into his own net with two minutes remaining.

The day wasn't a total waste for United, though. Afterward, several players spoke to manager Alex Ferguson, raving about the performance of Sporting's 18-year old midfielder, Ronaldo, and urging their boss to sign him. Although Ronaldo had already attracted the interest of Arsenal and Liverpool, United swooped in and signed him that summer for a fee of £12.24M. 

Ronaldo remained at Old Trafford for six seasons, making a total of 292 appearances in which he scored 118 goals. Along the way, he helped the club to three consecutive Premier League titles from 2007 to 2009 and won the Champions League in 2008.

In the summer of 2009, Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid for the then world-record transfer fee of £80M, a profit of almost £68M for United.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

5 August 2005 - There's No Place Like A New Home

On 5 August 2005, Bayern Munich hosted the first competitive match at the new Allianz Arena, beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-0.

Built with a capacity of 66,000 (and later expanded to 69,000) the Arena replaced the Olympic Stadium as home to both Bayern and 1860 Munich, and also serves the German national team. In recognition of its multiple tenants, it includes an exterior surface that changes color based on the team playing--red for Bayern, blue for 1860 Munich, and white for the national team.

Construction began in 2002 and the stadium officially opened on 30 May 2005 with an exhibition between 1860 Munich and Nuremberg. Bayern and the German national team faced each other there in a friendly the following day.

In that first competitive match, a Bundesliga contest, Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves scored the opening goal, curling a right-footed shot into the far top corner from just inside the box in the 28th minute. His teammate, striker Roy Makaay, doubled, then tripled, the lead with goals in the 86th and 89th minutes.

It was the start of an excellent year for the hosts, who went on to win the double that season, taking both the league title and the German Cup.

Friday, August 4, 2017

4 August 1952 - Football For The People

On 4 August 1952, the People's Republic of China played their first football match, losing 4-0 to hosts Finland.

China has had a national team since 1924, when the original Chinese Football Association formed, and they played a handful of matches over the next twenty years, including a couple of Olympic appearances in 1936 and 1948. But following the Chinese revolution, the government of the Republic of China was forced to Taiwan, taking the original association along with them.

Their departure left a gap on the mainland, where the new People's Republic of China created their own Chinese Football Association in 1949. As one of the few countries to recognize the new government, Finland  offered to host the new team and duly beat them 4-0.

Since then, China have slowly improved, qualifying for the 2002 World Cup and twice finishing as runners-up in the Asian Cup (1984, 2004).

Thursday, August 3, 2017

3 August 1950 - Lyon Takes A Leap

On 3 August 1950, a group led by Dr. Albert Trillat founded Olympique Lyonnais, one of France's most successful clubs.

They were originally part of Lyon Olympique Universitaire, a multi-sports club who established a football section in 1899 and went on to win the French title in 1910. But by the late 1940s, rifts appeared in the club over the question of whether to allow professional players. Unable to come to a resolution, a group led by Dr. Trillat left LOU to form a separate club, which they named Olympique Lyonnais.

Starting in the French second division, Lyon played their first official match on 26 August 1950, beating CA Paris 3-0. They won promotion to the top flight in 1951, but dropped back down one year later.

They won their first major honor in 1964, beating Bordeaux in the Coupe de France final, then repeated as champions in 1967 and 1973. After a lengthy lull that included another spell in Ligue 2, they roared back in 2002, winning the first of seven consecutive league titles (and another Coupe de France in 2008).

Since that historic run, they have yet to win another league title, most recently finishing in fourth, but they added another Coupe de France in 2012.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

2 August 1908 - The King Of All Clásicos

On 2 August 1908, Boca Juniors hosted River Plate in the first Superclásico between the two teams and won, 2-1.

River, the older of the two clubs, formed in Buenos Aires's La Boca district in 1901, while Boca Juniors arrived there two years later. Despite their proximity, they did not meet until 1908 in a friendly. Records from the day are sparse, but indicate that Boca won by the score of 2-1. Despite losing that first match, River got a measure of revenge by winning the first competitive meeting 2-1 in 1913.

Since then, the rivalry has grown to become one of the most passionate in football. The teams have played each other a total of 338 times, including friendlies, league matches, Copa Libertadores meetings, and other competitions. Of those, Boca have 132 wins, River have 119, and there have been 115 draws.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

1 August 2010 - A Second Big Bang For The Cosmos

On 1 August 2010, Pelé announced the return of the New York Cosmos after a 25-year hiatus, with the former star serving as the club's honorary president.

The earlier incarnation of the Cosmos existed from 1971 to 1985, during which time they captured a global audience through the signings of such high-profile international players as Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, and Giorgio Chinaglia alongside homegrown players like Werner Roth and Shep Messing. But the five-time NASL champions went dormant in 1985 after the implosion of the league.

Former general manager Peppe Pinton acquired ownership of the Cosmos, including the rights to the name, logo, and all club records. With the introduction of MLS in 1996, several groups sought to acquire the rights from Pinton, but he refused to sell, citing a belief that the new league would not respect the club's history. But  he eventually relented and sold the rights in 2009 to a group led by former Tottenham vice-chairman Paul Kemsley.

The new owners moved quickly to link themselves with the club's legacy by appointing Pelé as the honorary president and expressed their intent to play in MLS. They soon added Chinaglia as the club's global ambassador and appointed former Manchester United star Eric Cantona as the team's director of soccer. They held their first match on 5 August 2011, playing against Manchester United in a friendly.

Despite the ambitious relaunch, the Cosmos were unable to secure an MLS spot. In July 2012, they announced that they would compete in the North American Soccer League starting in 2013.