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.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

24 September 1962 - The Rise Of The Super Ranger

On 24 September 1962, two-time European Golden Boot winner Ally McCoist was born in Bellshill, Scotland.

The striker, nicknamed "Super Ally," started his professional career in 1979 with St. Johnstone. He had a breakout season in 1980-81, scoring 22 goals in 38 league appearances, which led to a move to Sunderland. But after two unsuccessful seasons there, he returned to Scotland, signing with Rangers in 1983 for a fee of £185,000.

Rangers hadn't won the league since 1978, but with McCoist contributing 34 goals, they won it in 1987 and followed that one with nine straight between 1989 and 1997. In both 1992 and 1993, McCoist matched his tally of 34 league goals, winning the European Golden Boot for both seasons. Along the way, McCoist also won nine Scottish League Cups and the 1992 Scottish Cup. While at Rangers, he made 61 appearances for Scotland, where his 19 goals rank him fifth on their list of all-time scorers.

His played the last three seasons of his career for Kilmarnock (1998-2001), then moved into management. In 2004, he served under Scotland manager Walter Smith, then moved with Smith back to Rangers in January 2007. Upon Smith's retirement in 2011, McCoist took the reins for the 2011-12 season, which ended with the club in administration and re-forming as a fourth-tier club. McCoist guided them back to the second tier before resigning in 2014.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

23 September 1919 - Better Late Than Never

On 23 September 1919, the Italian Football Association declared Genoa the champions of the top flight. For the 1914-15 season.

In the 1914-15 season, the Italian title was determined by a tournament that divided the country into a Northern bracket on one side and a Central and Southern bracket on the other. Genoa won their group in the Northern bracket qualification round, then won their semifinal group as well, to reach a final Northern group that included Torino, Inter, and Milan.

With one match left to play in the group, and Genoa leading by two points, the outbreak of World War I forced the cancellation of the competition. The Central and Southern bracket had not even reached the semifinal stage. Thus the league did not have an official winner for the 1914-15 season.

After the conclusion of the war, play resumed in 1919. Not wanting to leave the champions' seat vacant, the Italian Football Association awarded the 1915 title to Genoa based on their position before the suspension of the competition. It was the seventh overall title for the Rossoblu, who lost several players and club founder James Richardson Spensley to the conflict. They won additional titles in 1923 and 1924, but none since.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

22 September 2007 - City Sends Schmeichel Mixed Messages

On 22 September 2007, fresh off a string off seven successful appearances, 20-year old Manchester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel signed a new 4-year deal worth a reported £18,000 per week. And played for the club only three more times.

Schmeichel, the son of Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, signed his first professional contract with City in 2004, but spent the majority of the first few years of his contract on loan. But injuries to keepers Andreas Isaakson and Joe Hart before the start of the 2007-08 season pushed Schmeichel to the forefront.

He started City's first seven matches of the season, earning a record of four wins, one draw, and two away losses (both by the narrow score of 1-0) and getting his new deal as a reward. But, in the meantime, Joe Hart returned to fitness and manager Sven-Göran Eriksson chose him for City's next match, a 3-1 victory over Newcastle.

Hart became the permanent starter, relegating Schmeichel to the bench. He spent portions of the season on loan with Cardiff City, then Coventry City, before returning to Manchester for 2008-09. But he was still stuck behind Hart and made only three appearances for City that season, one as a substitute.

In August 2009, he joined Notts County, managed at the time by Eriksson, and then joined Leeds United in May 2010. In June 2011, Schmeichel rejoined Eriksson, this time at Leicester City, his current club.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

21 September 2003 - And The Gunners Kept Rolling Along

On 21 September 2003, Arsenal preserved their unbeaten streak by the narrowest of margins, drawing 0-0 after a missed Manchester United penalty.

When the Gunners arrived at Old Trafford, they were enjoying a modest seven-game unbeaten streak that stretched back to the last two matches of the previous season--a season that had ended with United beating Arsenal to the top of the final table after some heated confrontations between the two sides. In February 2003, Arsenal won a heated FA Cup contest over United in a match that saw a slew of yellow cards. Then, in April 2003, the teams played to a draw after Arsenal defender Sol Campbell received a straight red for an elbow to the face of United's Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

Campbell missed the match on 21 September, but the emotions still ran high. The day's first yellow card went to United's Roy Keane in the 21st minute, with seven more to follow. Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira was ejected in the 80th minute after receiving a second yellow for a confrontation with United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

In the 91st minute, the referee awarded United a penalty for Martin Keown's challenge on striker Diego Forlan. Van Nistelrooy stepped up to take the kick, despite missing his previous two attempts. True to form, he slammed the ball against the bar, drawing an emotional taunt from Keown.

The match ended as a scoreless draw and Arsenal proceeded to go undefeated for the remainder of the season.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

20 September 2009 - Seriously, Nobody Noticed That The Window Was Closed?

On 20 September 2009, Levski Sofia lost to their rivals CSKA Sofia 2-0 due in part to the absence of four key players. But it was the reason for the absences that made international headlines.

Earlier that month, the defending Bulgarian league champions received a fax from Russian Premier League champions Rubin Kazan offering to buy the four players--center back Youssef Rabah, right back Zhivko Milanov, midfielder Darko Tasevski, and winger Zé Soares--for a total of €7 million. The quartet traveled to Russia on 19 September to meet with Rubin and undergo medical examinations. As a result, they missed the match against CSKA.

When the players arrived in Russia, Rubin denied any interest in the players and claimed no knowledge of the purported offer. Indeed, the Russian transfer window was closed. The supposed transfer was a hoax.

Speaking about the incident, Tasevski said "I feel oppressed and I'm angry. Things could've been different if we played against CSKA." The match proved to be critical, as Levski finished one point behind CSKA in the final table (though they were both well behind champions Litex Lovech).

A subsequent investigation revealed that several large bets were placed on CSKA to win the derby, leading to speculation that the transfer hoax was intended to tip the scale in favor of a CSKA victory. To date, the culprits remain unidentified.

Monday, September 19, 2016

19 September 1961 - There's No Place Like Home In The Intercontinental Cup

On 19 September 1961, Peñarol won their first Intercontinental Cup, beating Benfica in a replay at the Estadio Centenario. They went on to win the competition twice more to become its most successful team.

The Uruguayans had participated in the inaugural Intercontinental Cup the year before, but lost to Real Madrid over two legs. In 1961, they returned to the cup to face Benfica, but lost the first leg 1-0 in Lisbon on 4 September. Thirteen days later, they hosted the Portuguese side at Montevideo and won convincingly by the score of 5-0. Under the rules at the time, the cup was decided on points and not goal differential, so they went to a replay to determine the winner.

Meeting again the Estadio Centenario, Peñarol took a quick lead with a 5th-minute goal from inside forward José Sasía. Half an hour later, Benfica forward Eusébio, who was then in his second season with the club and had not played in the first two matches, found a 35th-minute equalizer. But just five minutes after that, Sasía converted a penalty to restore the lead for Peñarol and they held on to claim the 2-1 victory.

They went on to win it again in 1966 and 1982 to become the first team to win the Intercontinental Cup three times. Their tally has since been matched by four other clubs--Nacional, AC Milan, Real Madrid, and Boca Juniors--but has never been exceeded.