Sunday, August 20, 2017

20 August 2003 - Pizarro Was Quick On His Feet

On 20 August 2003, Claudio Pizarro scored the fastest goal in the history of the Peruvian national team, coming just 18 seconds into a friendly against Mexico.

The teams met at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where Pizarro (pictured) got the game off to a quick start, unleashing a left-footed blast from just outside the penalty spot to put Peru up 1-0. It was the first goal conceded by Mexico in six matches.

They did not wait long to concede again, though, surrendering a second goal to midfielder Carlos Zegarra in the 31st minute, then a third to Nolberto Solano two minutes later.

Down 3-0 at the break, Mexico eventually got on the scoreboard in the 54th minute with a goal from Mariano Trujillo. It was the last goal of the day, but not the last bit of excitement. A 68th-minute brawl resulted in the ejection of four players, two from each side--Pizarro and John Galliquio for Peru, Omar Briceño and Jared Borgetti for Mexico.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

19 August 1995 - To Be Fair, He Never Claimed To Be A Psychic

On 19 August 1995, pundit Alan Hansen criticized Manchester United's season-opening loss to Aston Villa, stating "you can't win anything with kids." United proved him wrong, however, going on to win a league and FA Cup double.

United had ended the previous season without a trophy, the first time that had happened since 1989. And, before the start of the 1995-96 season, they sold three key players--Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, and Andrei Kanchelskis--without bringing in replacements, preferring instead to rely on rising young players like David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Gary Neville, all of whom were just 20 years old when the new season started.

Playing before a crowd of 34,655 at Villa Park, the hosts jumped to a comfortable 3-0 lead with goals from Ian Taylor (14'), Mark Draper (27'), and Dwight Yorke (36') before Beckham scored a consolation goal in the 82nd minute to end the day 3-1 to Villa.

Speaking later on Match of the Day, Hansen made his now-famous pronouncement, adding that "the trick to winning the championship is having strength and depth, and they just haven't got it." But United followed that loss with a ten-game unbeaten streak that included eight wins and pushed them up to second in the table. By March, they claimed the top spot and held it for the remainder of the season, then won the FA Cup final over Liverpool.

Friday, August 18, 2017

18 August 1985 - Many Great Things Have Humble Beginnings

On 18 August 1985, the United States women's team played their first match, losing to Italy 1-0 in the opening game of the Mundialito.

The Mundialito (Spanish for "Little World Cup") was an invitational women's international tournament held in Italy from 1984 to 1988. The 1985 edition consisted of four teams--Italy (the defending champions), England, Denmark, and the United States.

The US squad had been put together earlier that summer by head coach Mike Ryan and included goalkeeper Kim Wyant, midfielder Sharon McMurtry, forward Tucka Healy, and winger Denise Boyer. Discussing the experience years later, all four players remarked on the physical nature of the game and the competitiveness of the Italian team, who went on to win 1-0 after a missed penalty by McMurty.

Italy reached the final where they lost to England, while the US finished in fourth after a 2-2 draw with Denmark, a loss to England, and a loss to Denmark in the third-place match. They did better in the next two tournaments, however, finishing as runners-up in 1986 and claiming third place in 1988.

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.