Monday, January 22, 2018

22 January 1973 - When He's Not Saving Them, He's Scoring Them

On 22 January 1973, Rogério Ceni, the world's highest-scoring goalkeeper, was born in Pato Branco, Brazil.

He started his professional career in 1990 with Sinop, but moved to São Paulo in 1992 and has remained there ever since, making 1,050 appearances through the 2012 season. He got off to a great start with the team, winning the Copa Libertadores, the Intercontinental Cup, the Recopa Sudamericana, and the Supercopa Sudamericana in 1993, though he himself made only fifteen total appearances that year.

In 1997, he became the team's starting goalkeeper and went on to be named the Brazilian Série A's best goalkeeper six times between 2000 and 2008, when he was also named the league's best player. Along the way, São Paulo won three league titles (2006, 2007, 2008), another Copa Libertadores (2005), and the Club World Cup (2005).

Apart from being an outstanding keeper, however, Ceni has been an excellent goalscorer, with a world-record career total of 131 goals in all competitions, always through free kicks and penalty kicks. His most prolific year was 2005 when he scored a total of 21 times, including ten league goals.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

21 January 2012 - Deuce With A Triple

On 21 January 2012, Clint Dempsey became the first American to score a hat-trick in the Premier League, lifting Fulham to a 5-2 win over Newcastle.

A striker/midfielder, Dempsey--nicknamed "Deuce"--was in his sixth year with the London club, having joined them in January 2007 in a deal worth a reported £2M. He quickly established himself as a regular in the starting eleven, making over forty appearances in each of the next five seasons.

Midway through the 2011-12 season, Fulham were struggling in the bottom half of the table while Newcastle were challenging for a European spot. Newcastle won the first meeting 2-1 at St. James' Park back in August. So the odds were stacked against Fulham in the return fixture at Craven Cottage.

The match went according to form in the first half, with the visitors going up 0-1 after a Fulham error led to a 43rd-minute goal from Newcastle midfielder Danny Guthrie. But the hosts roared back in the second half, drawing level with a penalty kick from Danny Murphy in the 52nd minute, then going ahead with a pair of Dempsey goals (59', 65'). Another Fulham penalty, scored by Bobby Zamora in the 68th minute, stretched the lead to 4-1.

Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa closed the gap to 4-2 in the 85th minute, but Dempsey completed his hat-trick four minutes later to restore the three-goal lead and end the day at 5-2.

Dempsey went on to score a career high 23 goals in all competitions that season before moving to Tottenham in August 2012 for a reported fee of around £6M.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

20 January 1974 - A Match Made In Heaven

On 20 January 1974, English teams played league football on a Sunday for the first time.

The FA, along with several clubs and players, had expressed support for Sunday matches earlier in the season, hoping that the move would help improve declining attendances, but they faced a couple of substantial obstacles. The Sunday Observances Act, for one, barred the selling of tickets on Sundays. In addition, many in the public opposed Sunday football on religious grounds.

But by January 1974, attendances continued to decline, driven in part by a ban on floodlights that stemmed from the worldwide energy crisis, prompting the FA to approve the playing of four third-round FA Cup matches on Sunday, 6 January. In order to get around the Sunday Observances Act, the clubs sold programs, which were used instead of tickets to gain access to the games.

Those FA Cup matches drew large crowds, convincing the Football League to move forward as well using the same admission-by-program scheme. While some clubs--including all First Division clubs--declined to participate, citing religious reasons, that first league Sunday hosted a total of twelve matches, three each in Divisions Two and Three and six in Division Four. Nine of those games reported their biggest crowds of the season.

The first Sunday league goal was scored by Millwall's Brian Clark in their 1-0 win over Fulham. 

Despite the success of Sunday games, opposition remained strong and it took several more years before Sunday football became a regular feature in the league.

Friday, January 19, 2018

19 January 2010 - The Margin For Error Was Apparently Very, Very Small

On 19 January 2010, Olympiacos sacked Brazilian legend Zico only four months into his two-year contract as manager.

After starring as a playmaker for Flamengo and Brazil in the 1970s and '80s, Zico moved into management with Kashima Antlers in 1999. But he established his credentials as the manager of Japan from 2002 to 2006, winning the 2004 Asian Cup and guiding them through an impressive qualification campaign for the 2006 World Cup. He stepped down after a poor showing at the tournament itself, however.

Then came a brief but successful spell at Fenerbahçe from 2006 to 2008, followed by even shorter stints at Bunyadkor (2008) and CSKA Moscow (2009) before he moved to Olymipacos in September 2009.

At the time, only two games into the season, the team was in fourth place. Under Zico, they rose to the top of the table by the end of September and mostly remained there for the rest of the year on the strength of an undefeated run that saw them win eight of Zico's first ten games. But a loss in his eleventh, away to Aris Salonika, followed by another at home to AEK Athens, proved too much for club president Socrates Kokkalis. Even though Olympiacos got a win and a draw in their next two games, he moved to terminate Zico's contract.

Olympiacos went on to finish the season in second place, while Zico took some time off before managing Iraq from 2011 to 2012.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

18 January 2012 - Xamax Crosses The Line

On 18 January 2012, the Swiss Football League expelled Neuchâtel Xamax for financial irregularities, ending the reign of Bulat Chagaev, one of football's most bizarre owners.

Founded in 1970 from the merger of FC Xamax and FC Cantonal Neuchâtel, the club won the Swiss league title in 1987 and 1988, but declined shortly afterward. In 2006, they were relegated for the first time in club history. Although they returned to the top flight in 2007, they continued to struggle.

Chagaev, a Russian businessman, took over as the club's new owner in May 2011 and promised a cash infusion to return Xamax to their former greatness. Signs soon appeared, however, to suggest that his control would not be smooth, starting when the club filed a lawsuit to stop an investigation into the source of Chagaev's wealth.

The situation grew stranger at the start of the 2011-12 Super League season, with Chagaev going through three different managers in the span of a month and firing staff and players immediately after bad losses. During the season, the SFL imposed an eight-point penalty on the club for "irregularities" in player payments.

The last straw came in January 2012. Suspecting Chagaev of forging a financial security document, they revoked the club's license and suspended them from the league. The club folded later that month. Shortly afterward, a new club--free of Chagaev's influence--formed under the name Neuchâtel Xamax 1912 and entered the Swiss league's fifth tier for the 2012-13 season. They have since been promoted to the second tier where they currently sit 10 points clear at the top of the table.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

17 January 1920 - A Good Day To Stay At Home

On 17 January 1920, the home teams went undefeated in all 20 matches in England's Football League, as well as the day's two FA Cup games.

At the time, the Football League consisted of only two divisions (though a separate Southern League existed, with two divisions of of its own). While each division consisted of 22 teams, two games were not played, so there were only 20 games total across both divisions.

The results in Division One consisted of eight wins and two draws, including 21st-place Oldham Athletic's 1-0 upset victory of second-place Newcastle. The largest margins were Manchester City's 4-1 win over Arsenal and league-leader West Brom's 5-2 win over Blackburn.

In Division Two, there were nine wins and only one draw, a 1-1 result between Bury and Nottingham Forest, while Lincoln City's 4-0 win over Wolves set the day's largest margin of victory.

There were also two first-round FA Cup matches played that day, with Bradford City beating Portsmouth 2-0 and West Stanley beating Gillingham 3-1.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

16 January 2010 - Messi's Milestone

On 16 January 2010, Lionel Messi scored his 100th goal for Barcelona, becoming the youngest person in club history to hit that milestone.

The goal came in a home league match against Sevilla. The two teams had already met twice that month in the Copa del Rey Round of 16, with Sevilla advancing on away goals after drawing 2-2 on aggregate. In the second leg, which Barcelona won 1-0, Sevilla goalkeeper Andrés Palop repeatedly frustrated Messi, denying him in several one-on-one attempts and preventing him from scoring.

In the league match on 16 January, Palop got off to another good start, keeping the game scoreless through the first half. But shortly after the start of the second half, Barcelona took the lead with a 49th-minute own goal from center back Julien Escudé. A chip from Barça striker Pedro doubled their lead in the 70th minute.

Then Messi struck. In the 84th minute, he scored his record 100th club goal from just outside the six-yard box. At 22 years, six months, and 22 days old, he was the youngest player in club history to score a century. But he didn't stop there, adding another in the first minute of stoppage time to extend the final score to 4-0.

Now eight years later, he has a current total of 611 goals.

Monday, January 15, 2018

15 January 1981 - El Hadji Starts His Pilgrimage

On 15 January 1981, Senegalese striker El Hadji Diouf was born in Dakar. A talented but controversial player, he has spent time with several different clubs across France, England, and Scotland.

He began his professional career with Sochaux in 1998, followed by quick moves to Rennes (1999-2000), and Lens (2000-02). At the latter, he scored 18 goals in 54 league appearances, which--combined with a strong showing for Senegal at the 2002 World Cup in which he helped the team to a quarterfinal berth--attracted the interest of Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier, who signed him that summer for £10 million.

Diouf failed to recapture his previous form and his time at Anfield was overshadowed by a March 2003 UEFA Cup incident in which he spat at a Celtic supporter. At the end of the 2003-04 season--in which Diouf failed to score a single goal--Liverpool sent him on loan to Bolton. There, he began scoring goals again and Bolton made the move permanent in 2005.

After four seasons with Bolton, he moved again, spending time with Sunderland (2008-09) and Blackburn Rovers (2009-11). But his scoring touch deserted him again and he spent the last half of the 2010-11 season on loan in Scotland with Rangers. All along the way, he developed a reputation for being hotheaded, with frequent bookings.

He moved back to England in the summer of 2011 to play for Doncaster Rovers, then joined Leeds United in 2012 after Doncaster's season ended in relegation. He last played for Malaysian club Sabah FA before retiring in 2015.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

13 January 1907 - The Temperature Rises In Turin

On 13 January 1907, Juventus and Torino contested the first Derby della Mole, with Torino winning 2-1.

The two clubs share a history, with Torino forming in 1906 as an offshoot of Juventus. When members of the older club, founded in 1897, considered moving the club out of Turin, a group that included Alfredo Dick created a new club to guarantee a continued presence in the city. The derby's name comes from Turin's  landmark building, the Mole Antonelliana.

They met for the first time in the 1907 Italian Championship, playing a two-legged tie for the right to represent Piedmont in the final round. Torino hosted the first leg at the Velodrome Umberto I and won 2-1 with goals from Federico Ferrari Orsi and Hans Kempher (Juve's goal was scored from the penalty spot by Ernesto Borel). They then won the return leg 4-1 to advance 6-2 on aggregate, but lost the title to Milan.

To date, the teams have played a total of 237 times, with Juventus winning 102, including the most recent meeting on 3 January 2018 in the Coppa Italia. Torino have won 73 times.

Friday, January 12, 2018

12 December 1949 - A Born Leader

On 12 December 1949, two-time Club Coach of the Year Ottmar Hitzfeld was born in Lörrach, West Germany.

As a striker, he enjoyed a successful playing career, including a spell with Basel (1971-75) in which he won two league titles and was once the league's top scorer. After subsequent stints with Stuttgart (1975-78), Lugano (1978-80), and Luzern (1980-83), he moved into management, starting with SC Zug (1983-84) and Aarau (1984-88).

But he rose to prominence with Grasshopper Zürich, where, between 1988 and 1991, he guided the team to two league titles and two Swiss Cups. That earned him a move to the Bundesliga where he led Borussia Dortmund to the championship in 1995 and 1996, then lifted the Champions League trophy in 1997. The latter performance led the IFFHS to name him their Club Coach of the Year.

He then moved to Bayern Munich, where he won another four Bundesliga titles, including the 2001 title when he also claimed a second Champions League trophy. That year, IFFHS again made him their Club Coach of the Year.

Hitzfeld left Bayern in 2004, but returned for a second spell in 2007 and won yet another league title, then left in 2008 to manage Switzerland, where he stayed until his retirement in 2014.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

11 January 2008 - Yeah, It's All Smiles Now, But Just Wait

On 11 January 2008, Bayern Munich announced that Jürgen Klinsmann would replace outgoing manager Ottmar Hitzfeld at the end of the season, but it was a match that didn't last.

Klinsmann, who played briefly for Bayern during a career that also included stops at Stuttgart, Inter, Monaco, and Tottenham, had held only one prior managerial post, but it was an impressive one. Guiding the German national team from 2004 to 2006, he retooled the administration of the entire organization, from the youth team up. But after taking the senior side to the World Cup semifinals in 2006, he stepped down, citing his intention to rest and spend more time with his family.

But in 2008, Bayern lured him from retirement, announcing in January that he was going to take the team over in July, replacing Hitzfeld (who went on to win the league title--his fifth with Bayern--that year, as well as his third German Cup).

Klinsmann proceeded to restructure the club as he had done with Germany, starting with a new player development center. But toward the end of his first season, his relationship with the board of directors had soured. Even though Bayern had reached the semifinals of the Champions League and were sitting three points out of first in the Bundesliga with five games still to play, the board sacked Klinsmann.

After another two-year break, Klinsmann returned to football as manager of the United States from 2011 to 2016.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

10 January 2010 - Marta Takes Five

On 10 January 2010, Marta won her fifth consecutive FIFA World Player of the Year award.

After finishing third in voting for 2004 and second in 2005, the Brazilian forward finally won her first World Player of the Year award in 2006 while playing for Umeå in Sweden, then repeated as winner in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, she moved to the US to play for the Los Angeles Sol and finished the season as the league's top scorer, leading to her record fourth World Player of the Year award (Lionel Messi matched that record with a fourth award of his own in 2012).

When Los Angeles folded in January 2010, she joined FC Gold Pride, who selected her with the first pick in  the WPS supplemental draft. She repeated as the league's top scorer that season and helped Gold Pride win the WPS Championship with a 4-0 win over Philadelphia on 26 September. Just over two months later, she was named World Player of the Year for a fifth time, setting a new record.

She came close to extending the record in 2011 and 2012, but finished second in the voting for both years, first to Japan's Homare Sawa and then to the USA's Abby Wambach.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

9 January 1930 - Putting The Sportsmanship In Sports

On 9 January 1930, Igor Netto, renowned for one of the most memorable displays of sportsmanship in football, was born in Moscow.

One of the Soviet Union's greatest players, Netto, who played at left back and in central midfield, spent his entire club career at Spartak Moscow, where he made 368 appearances from 1949 to 1966. Along the way, he won five league titles (1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1962) and three Soviet Cups (1950, 1958, 1963).

In 1952, he earned his first cap for the Soviet national team and eventually claimed the captain's armband. During his time with the team, they won the gold medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics, then lifted the trophy at the 1960 European Championship.

But his most famous moment came during the 1962 World Cup in Chile. On 6 June, the Soviets were playing against Uruguay in the group stage with both teams needing a win to guarantee a spot in the knockout rounds. In the 75th minute, with the score level at 1-1, the referee awarded a go-ahead goal to Soviet striker Igor Chislenko, but Netto explained that the ball had entered the goal through a hole in the side netting and convinced the referee to reverse his opinion and disallow the goal (the USSR went on to win anyway with an 89th-minute goal from Valentin Ivanov and advanced, but lost to hosts Chile in the quarterfinals).

After his retirement as a player, Netto managed several teams, including brief spells in charge of Spartak Moscow and the Iranian national team. He passed away in 1999 at the age of 69.

Monday, January 8, 2018

8 January 1978 - A Revolution In Paris

On 8 January 1978, Paris Saint-Germain turned the tide in their budding rivalry with Marseille. And they did it by a record margin.

While the contest, known as Le Classique or the Derby de France, has become one of the country's most heated rivalries, it started as a very one-sided affair. First played in 1971, Marseille won the first three in a row and seven of the first eleven while losing only once (a 2-0 loss in the Coupe de France in March 1975). By the time Marseille arrived at the Parc des Princes in January for the twelfth match of the series, they had taken three of the last four.

Playing in front of a crowd of 33,386, the visitors looked to continue their run of success, going ahead with a 12th-minute penalty from striker Sarr Boubacar. But PSG rallied to take a 2-1 lead into the break with goals from François Brisson (29') and Mustapha Dahleb (44').

In the second half, an own-goal from Marseille defender Marius Trésor (46') extended PSG's lead to 3-1, then a brace from striker François M'Pelé (pictured) (49', 82') took it to 5-1. The four-goal margin was the largest win of the derby and remains the record, though it was later matched by Marseille's 4-0 win in November 1986 and PSG's 1-5 win in February 2017.

Since then, the rivalry has been relatively balanced across all competitions, with a total of 38 PSG wins to 32 for Marseille.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

6 January 2012 - Apparently, You Can Go Home Again

On 6 January 2012, Arsenal confirmed the return of striker Thierry Henry, the club's all-time leading goalscorer, on loan.

Henry played for the Gunners from 1999 to 2007, making 369 appearances and scoring 226 goals. While there, he won two league titles (including the undefeated "Invincibles" run in the 2003-04 season) and three FA Cups before leaving for Barcelona in a deal worth €24M. He continued to collect silverware in Spain, with a record six-trophy haul in 2009 that included the La Liga title, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal, however, had failed to win any trophies after Henry's departure. Halfway through the 2011-12 season, as a rocky start left them struggling to capture a Champions League qualification spot, they looked to Henry, who had by then moved to the New York Red Bulls.

He joined them in January for a two-month loan. On 9 January, he made his first appearance, coming on as a substitute to score the only goal in a FA Cup win over Leeds United. He went on to make another six appearances and scored again in his final match, a 1-2 away win over Sunderland, before returning to New York.

Friday, January 5, 2018

5 January 2010 - Benny's Back In Black (And Red)

On 5 January 2010, DC United hired their former captain, Ben Olsen, as an assistant manager. Seven months later, he took full charge of the club.

A tenacious midfielder, Olsen joined DC United for the 1998 season after three years at the University of Virginia (where his first coach was then-DC manager Bruce Arena). He was named the league's Rookie of the Year as DC finished as runners-up to Chicago in the MLS Cup and won both the CONCACAF Champions League and the Copa Interamericana.

The following year he won the first of two MLS Cups and was the tournament's most valuable player. He won his second MLS Cup in 2004 and a US Open Cup in 2008. Injuries dogged his career, however, forcing his retirement in 2009 after 221 league appearances.

His retirement was short-lived as he returned to DC United in 2010 as an assistant to new manager Curt Onalfo. But a poor start to the season led the club to sack Onalfo in August 2010 and appoint Olsen as the interim manager, then confirmed his permanent status that November, making the then-33-year old the league's youngest manager.

After a difficult finish in 2010 and another rough season in 2011, Olsen guided the team to an improved record in 2012, reaching the MLS playoffs for the first time in five seasons and making it all the way to the conference finals before falling to Houston. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

4 January 1866 - The Man Who Managed Manchester

On 4 January 1866, Ernest Mangnall, who managed Manchester United to their first two titles, was born in Bolton. He also later managed Manchester City.

After an amateur career as a goalkeeper for Bolton, Mangnall moved into management with Burnley, starting in 1900. The club had been relegated into the Second Division at the end of the previous season and Mangnall narrowly missed out on getting them back into the top flight, delivering a third-place finish in his first season, four points away from the last promotion spot. But two seasons later, they ended dead last in the division and had to be re-elected to the league.

In October 1903, Mangnall left Burnley for Manchester United. They were in the Second Division at the time, but he guided them to a second-place finish in 1906 and promotion to the First Division. He led them to their first league title in 1908, the FA Cup in 1909, then to a second league title in 1911.

He moved to Manchester City in September 1912, after losing to them in his last match in charge of United, and remained there until his retirement in 1924.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

3 January 2004 - Goodnight, Sweet Prince

On 3 January 2004, Everton star defender Thomas "T.G." Jones, known as "the prince of centre-halves," passed away at the age of 86.

Regarded as a calm and composed player with excellent footwork and vision, Jones spent the first two years of his professional career with Wrexham before signing with Everton in 1936 for a fee of £3,000. He became a regular starter in his second season and, in his third, helped the Toffees win the league title--the last one before the league went on hiatus for the duration of World War.

Having established himself as a Welsh international in 1938, he continued to make wartime appearances for Wales during the break. When league play resumed in 1946, he rejoined Everton and remained there until 1950, making a total of 178 appearances and serving as team captain in his last season.

After leaving Everton, he joined non-league Welsh side Pwllheli as player-manager from 1950 to 1956. Additional managerial stops at Bangor City and Rhyl followed before his retirement in 1968.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2 January 2011 - Xavi Shares The Record

On 2 January 2011, Xavi made his 549th appearance for Barcelona, tying the club record set by Migueli in 1988. 

The midfielder joined the club as a youth player in 1991 at the age of 11, then started his professional career there in 1997. One year later, he cracked the first team, making a total of 27 appearances in the 1998-99 season.

His record-tying match was at home against Levante. The visitors were coming off an 8-0 mauling by Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey, so few people expected them to trouble the hosts, who had camped out at the top of table since late November.

But it turned out to be a scrappy match, with a scoreless first half. Barça eventually took the lead with a 47th-minute goal from forward Pedro, who then extended it with a second strike in the 59th. Ten minutes after that, Levante striker Christian Stuani scored to halve the deficit, but they could not find another and the match ended as a 2-1 Barcelona win. After the final whistle, the club surprised Xavi with a ceremony to recognize his accomplishment.

He later took sole possession of the appearances record, extending his tally to 767 across all competitions before leaving the club in 2015.


Monday, January 1, 2018

1 January 2005 - In Fairness, They All Were Probably Still Hungover

On 1 January 2005, Newcastle bought defender Jean-Alain Boumsong from Rangers in a deal widely regarded as one of the worst January transfers in history.

A French international, Boumsoung had played for Le Havre (1997-2000) and Auxerre (2000-04) before moving to Rangers on a free transfer in the summer of 2004. Although he signed a 5-year deal with the Glasgow club, his strong performances there attracted the interest of Newcastle manager Graeme Souness, who lodged an £8M bid that December, with the clubs finalizing the deal on the first day of 2005.

Although his time at St. James' Park started well, he struggled in the 2005-06 season, often shouldering the blame for defensive lapses that led Newcastle to concede 42 goals en route to a seventh-place finish. By the end of that season, new manager Glenn Roeder, who had replaced Souness in February 2006, sold the center back to Juventus for just £3.3M, taking a loss of almost £5M on the deal (though the agreement included performance-incentives).

Boumsong stayed with Juventus for one season, then played three seasons for Lyon before joining Panathinaikos in July 2010. For his time on Tyneside, a 2008 Times poll rated him the Premier League's worst January transfer. Since then, however, polls have dropped him down behind more recent transfers, including Andy Carroll's £35M move from Newcastle to Liverpool in 2011 and Chelsea's £50M purchase of Fernando Torres from Liverpool.