Saturday, December 9, 2017

9 December 2009 - Using Your Head Isn't Always The Best Decision

On 9 December 2009, Queens Park Rangers suspended manager Jim Magilton for allegedly head-butting one of his own players.

The incident occurred in the tunnel after QPR's away loss to Watford two days earlier. It was their third loss in four games, dropping the team into tenth place and putting pressure on Magilton (pictured), who was in his first season as QPR boss. According to reports, the manager got into an altercation with Rangers midfielder Ákos Buzsáky, then head-butted him. (Coincidentally, he was the second manager in England to be accused of head-butting a player, with the other being Stoke's Tony Pulis).

The club announced the suspension on 9 December with immediate effect and promised an internal investigation. Magilton admitted to having a disagreement with Buzsáky, but denied head-butting him, saying that the reports were incorrect and that he looked forward to reinstatement upon the completion of the club's investigation.

One week later, on 16 December, Magilton left his post as QPR manager. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

8 December 1985 - Juventus Complete Their Collection

On 8 December 1985, Juventus won the Intercontinental Cup on penalties over Argentinos Juniors, becoming the first--and so far only--team to win all of their possible major trophies.

Playing before a crowd of 62,000 at the National Stadium in Tokyo, Argentinos forward Carlos Ereros opened the scoring by chipping Juventus goalkeeper Stefano Tacconi in the 55th minute. The sides then traded a pair of disallowed goals before Michel Platini brought Juventus level with a 63rd-minute penalty kick. Soon afterward, Platini found the back of the net with a brilliant move, lifting the ball over a defender with his right foot, then firing home with his left, but the referee disallowed it because another Juventus player was offside.

Instead, Argentinos took the lead in the 75th minute when José Antonio Castro scored from a tight angle into the far side of the net. Not to be outdone, Juventus forward Michael Laudrup scored from a equally narrow degree seven minutes later.

Locked at 2-2, the match went into a penalty shootout. After a miss from Laudrup and two from Argentinos, Platini converted the final kick to give Juventus the trophy. It marked a complete silverware collection for the team from Turin, who had already won all of the domestic and European competitions available to them.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

7 December 2011 - Lyon Beats The Odds

On 7 December 2011, Lyon advanced in the Champions League despite starting the day from what seemed to be an impossible position.

It was the last day of the group stage and Lyon were in third, behind leaders Real Madrid and second-place Ajax. Lyon were three points behind the Dutch and needed both an Ajax loss and a win of their own over Dinamo Zagreb in order to draw level on points. But the challenge did not stop there. They also needed to make up a 7-goal gap in differential, which was a tough ask given that Lyon had scored only twice in their other five group stage matches (both against Zagreb).

Playing at Dinamo's Stadion Maksimir, the hill grew even steeper after Zagreb took the lead with a 40th-minute goal from midfielder Mateo Kovačić (despite losing midfielder Jerko Leko to a 28th-minute red card). But Bafétimbi Gomis equalized for Lyon just before the break.

The second half belonged to Lyon. By the 70th minute, they were up 1-6 with a goal from Maxime Gonalons (47'), one from Lisandro López (64'), and three more from Gomis (48', 52', 70'). At the same time, Real Madrid were on top of Ajax 0-2, bringing Lyon level with the Dutch on goal differential. Then Jimmy Briand pushed Lyon ahead with a final goal against Zagreb in the 75th minute and Real Madrid added another against Ajax in stoppage time to put Ajax's differential at zero and Lyon's at +2.

Lyon's reward for the improbable result was a trip to the Round of 16, where they were eliminated on penalties by APOEL.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

6 December 1993 - Sawa Starts To Soar

On 6 December 1993, Homare Sawa earned her first cap for Japan. 

She was only 15 years old at the time, but had been playing professionally for three years with L. League team Yomiura Beleza, where her performances led to her being named to the league's Best XI for 1993 and a national team call-up the same year.

That first match was against the Philippines in the 1993 AFC Women's Championship. After missing Japan's opener, a 6-1 win over Chinese Taipei, Sawa delivered against the Philippines, scoring four goals in the 15-0 victory. They then went on to win their next match over Hong Kong, but were eliminated by China in the semifinals.

In 2011, she captained the team to the World Cup title, then followed that by winning that year's Ballon d'Or. By the time she retired in 2015, she set the team records for appearances (205) and goals (83). 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

5 December 1905 - The Gunners Unload


On 5 December 1905, Arsenal beat a Paris XI in a  friendly by the record score of 26-1.

The Gunners, still known at the time as Woolwich Arsenal, were in their second season under manager Phil Kelso, who had guided them to a tenth-place league finish the previous spring. Although he was looking to improve that finish in the new season, his team had gotten off to a poor start, losing eight of their first fifteen matches. They were sitting in sixteenth place when they hosted the friendly at the Manor Ground in Plumstead.

Their opponents were a collection of players based in Paris. Though no official records of the match remain, it is widely believed that the side included many members of the French national team, with one notable exception--the side was short a man, so borrowed the services of an Arsenal reserve believed to be W.J. "Chips" Hodge.

It is known for certain that Arsenal won 26-1, a scoreline that remains a club record. The top scorer of the day was inside forward Bob Watson, who provided seven goals. He never displayed that kind of form in the league, however, scoring only once in ten competitive appearances for the club.

Monday, December 4, 2017

4 December 2011 - Socrates Passes Away

On 4 December 2011, former Brazil captain Socrates passed away from complications related to food poisoning. He was 57.

One of the most inventive and dynamic players of his generation, the towering midfielder started his career with Botafogo in 1974. But spent the majority of it with Corinthians, for whom he made 297 league appearances and scored 172 goals between 1978 and 1984 and won three league titles (1979, 1982, 1984).

He earned his first cap from Brazil in 1979 and went on to make a total of 60 appearances, including a spell as captain for the 1982 World Cup. Unfortunately for him, Brazil were eliminated in the second group stage of that tournament and never won a major title during Socrates' tenure, with their best finish being runners-up in the 1982 Copa America.

Socrates won individual awards, though, and was named the 1983 South American Footballer of the Year over Argentina's Ubaldo Fillol and Brazil's Éder.

After leaving Corinthians in 1984, he spent a season in Italy with Fiorentina, then returned to Brazil to play for Flamengo, Santos, and Botafogo before retiring in 1989. Having earned a medical degree during his playing days, he became a practicing physician upon retiring from football and also wrote prolific columns on sports and politics.

At the beginning of December 2011, he went into the hospital for food poisoning and died from related complications.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

3 December 1972 - Last One In Before The Doors Close

On 3 December 1972, Juventus beat Fiorentina 2-1, conceding for the last time before a club-record run of 903 scoreless minutes.

Defending league champions Juventus hosted the Serie A match, starting the day in fourth place, with Fiorentina a single point behind them. Anchored by goalkeeper Dino Zoff, the Juventus defense had given up only eight goals on the season, but had kept only two clean sheets. So it was not particularly surprising when Fiorentina striker Nello Saltutti  found the back of the net in the 41st minute. Nor was a shock that Saltutti's goal was the visitors' only one of the day, as Juventus went on to win 2-1 with strikes from Helmut Haller (60') and José Altafini (70').

Nobody expected what came later, however, as Juventus went on to keep the opposition scoreless for a club-record 903 minutes covering a span of nine games with seven wins and two draws. The scoreless run ended on 18 February with a 2-2 draw with AC Milan.

For the remainder of the season, those two teams battled for the Scudetto, with Juventus eventually finishing one point clear of Milan to claim their 15th national title.

In March 2016, the club set the current scoreless record of 974 minutes.