Saturday, October 1, 2016

1 October 2000 - Henry's Super Strike

On 1 October 2000, Arsenal striker Thierry Henry raised his profile with a stellar goal against Manchester United.

Henry had already established himself as a top class scorer the previous season, his first in England, by providing 26 goals in 47 appearances. But although there were some excellent strikes, nothing compared to the one he launched against Manchester United in October 2000.

United, the defending Premier League champions, were sitting at the top of the table when they visited Highbury, while the Gunners were three points back in fourth place. After half an hour, the match was scoreless when Henry struck. Positioned about 20 yards out with his back to the goal, he received a pass from defender Gilles Grimandi. With United defender Denis Irwin closing in, Henry's first touch flicked the ball into the air. Then, in one motion, he pivoted toward the goal and shot the ball.

It followed a high arc, curling across the goal and falling into the top right corner. United goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was caught completely off-guard and was unable even to make a play for the ball. It turned out to be the match winner, though United repeated as champions with Arsenal a distant second.

Friday, September 30, 2016

30 September 1962 - Santos Liberate The Cup

On 30 September 1962, a brace from Pelé helped Santos capture their first Copa Libertadores, beating two-time defending champions Peñarol in a replay.

Peñarol were appearing in their third straight final after winning the first two editions of the tournament in 1960 and 1961. Santos, meanwhile, were in the final for the first time. The two teams had finished the first two legs with one win each, with the Brazilians taking a 1-2 victory in Montevideo and the Uruguayans returning the favor in São Paulo, 2-3.

Level with two points each, the tournament rules required a replay at a neutral venue to determine the winner. Playing before a crowd of 60,000 at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires, Peñarol were wrong-footed early when their midfielder Omar Caetano put the ball into his own net in the 11th minute. Peñarol were unable to put the ball into Santos' net, however, while 20-year old Pelé, who had scored twice in the first round, doubled his tournament tally with goals in the 48th and 89th minutes to seal the 3-0 victory.

It proved to be the start of a strong international run for Santos, who went on to repeat as Copa Libertadores champions in 1963 while following both wins with victories in the Intercontinental Cup.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

29 September 1988 - Real Madrid Complete Their Trophy Bingo Card

On 29 September 1988, Real Madrid won their first Supercopa de España, despite losing to Barcelona 2-1.

It was the last major domestic trophy that Real had yet to win (though they did win the tournament's predecessor, the Copa Eva Duarte, in 1947). When the Supercopa started in 1982, Real Madrid, as Copa del Rey winners, played La Liga champions Real Sociedad, but lost 1-4 on aggregate. When Real Madrid next qualified by winning the league in 1986 and 1987, the competition was not held in either year.

In 1988, they won the league for a third straight time, setting up a Supercopa meeting against Copa del Rey champions Barcelona. They got off to a great start, winning the first leg 2-0 at the Bernabéu with late goals from Míchel (71') and Hugo Sánchez (78'). That carried over into the second leg on 29 September, played at Camp Nou, when striker Emilio Butragueño put them up 0-1 in the 14th minute.

That proved to be the decisive goal, as Barcelona midfielder José Mari Bakero netted a brace (37', 77') to bring the aggregate score to 3-2. That's how it ended, with Madrid taking the honors.

Since then, they've gone on to win it a total of nine times, including 1989, when they won it automatically as winners of both the Copa del Rey and the league.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

28 September 1893 - Porto Open Their Doors

On 28 September 1893, inspired by a recent trip to England, a Portuguese wine merchant named António Nicolau d'Almeida founded a new club. Named FC Porto, they went on to win a number of honors, including several national titles and European trophies.

The club struggled a bit at first and even became defunct shortly after its inception, but it was revived in 1906 by club president José Monteiro da Costa. They won their first league title in 1935, finishing just two points clear of rival club Sporting. Their most successful period came in the 1980s and '90s, when they won the league eleven times, including five straight from 1995 to 1999.

During that period, they also reached European heights, winning their first European Cup trophy in 1987 with a 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the final. That same year, they also won the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. They have since added to their international honors, winning the Champions League (2004) and the UEFA Cup/Europa League (2003, 2011).

That last Europa League win was part of a quadruple that included the league title, the Taça de Portugal, and the Portuguese Supercup. They added additional two more league titles and two more Supercups in 2012 and 2013, raising their tallies to 27 and 20 for those competitions, respectively.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

27 September 1879 - The Birth Of The Birmingham Derby

On 27 September 1879, Birmingham City hosted the first Birmingham derby, beating Aston Villa by the score of 1-0. Since then, Villa has gotten the better of their crosstown rivals, winning the greater share of the teams' 120 meetings.

For that first match, Birmingham were still going by their original name, Small Heath Alliance (pictured). The contest was played at their Muntz Street ground, which drew heavy criticism for Villa players as being "only suitable for pot-holing."

The first competitive match in the derby came in the FA Cup in 1887, with Villa taking a 2-1 victory. Out of their 120 total matches, 52 have gone to Villa and 38 to Birmingham City, with 31 draws. The derby's top scorer is Villa's Billy Walker, who found the net 11 times between 1919 and 1934. City's top scorer is Joe Bradford, with 8 goals from 1920 to 1935.

Several players have switched teams over the years, including a few who moved directly from one team to the other. The highest profile switch came in 1986, when Villa great Dennis Mortimer (who won the European Cup with Villa in 1982) joined Birmingham after a season at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Managers have also made the crosstown move, starting in 1982 when Villa manager Ron Saunders joined Birmingham. In 2011, manager Alex McLeish left Birmingham for Aston Villa after Birmingham were relegated from the Premier League. Villa were relegated in 2016 and the next-scheduled meeting is October 30 in the Championship.

Monday, September 26, 2016

26 September 1970 - The Number Of This Beast Was 10

On 26 September 1970, DC United playmaker Marco Etcheverry was born in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Widely regard as one of Bolivia's greatest players, he was named in 2005 as one of the MLS All-Time Best XI.

Nicknamed "El Diablo," he started his professional career in 1986 and played for a handful of teams in South America and Spain before moving to DC United in 1996 for the inaugural MLS season. By that time, he was an established Bolivian international, with over 30 caps, including a single appearance in the 1994 World Cup in which he was sent off for a foul on Germany's Lothar Matthäus only three minutes after coming on as a substitute.

In that first season in DC, he was instrumental in leading United to the MLS Cup, including scoring the only goal in DC's victory over the NY/NJ MetroStars in the Eastern Conference semifinals en route to being named the tournament MVP. In eight seasons with DC, he won two more MLS Cups (1997, 1999), the US Open Cup (1996), and two Supporters Shields for having the league's best record (1997, 1999).

Individually, he was named the league MVP in 1998 and was included in the MLS All-Star team in each of his first four seasons. By the time he left DC in 2003, he was the club's leader in several statistical categories including assists (101) and appearances (191).

After leaving DC in 2003, he played briefly for Bolívar (where he had played in 1990-91), then retired in 2004.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

25 September 1963 - Finney Finally Makes A Move

On 25 September 1963, English center forward Tom Finney, who had spent all 14 seasons of his professional career at Preston North End, came out of retirement for one match. For another club.

One of the most dominant players of the era, Finney signed with Preston, his hometown club, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. But the suspension of football during the conflict meant that he did not make his debut for them until 1946. He was a standout for an otherwise largely unimpressive side, winning the Footballer of the Year award in 1953-54 and again in 1956-57. He stayed with them through the 1959-60 season, scoring a total of 210 goals in 473 appearances before injuries forced his retirement in 1960.

In 1963, George Eastham, the manager of defending Irish League champions Distillery FC, asked the then-41 year old Finney to play for them in a European Cup tie against Benfica, who had won the competition in 1961 and 1962. After convincing Finney that the offer was legitimate, the forward agreed to suit up for the Northern Irish club, but only for the first home leg. It was the only time in his professional career that he played an official match for a club other than Preston.

A crowd of over 19,000 turned out at Windsor Park in Belfast to watch the contest, as Distillery took the lead three times, only to see Benfica equalize each time. An 80th-minute goal from Eusébio in the 80th minute ended the match at 3-3. In the second leg, playing without Finney, Distillery lost 5-0.