Sunday, January 22, 2017

22 January 1994 - A Drawful Day For Football (Sorry)

On 22 January 1994, the full slate of six Scottish top flight matches resulted in a point for everyone as all six matches ended in draws.

The day featured match-ups at both ends of the table, as league leaders Rangers were held to a scoreless draw at second-place Aberdeen, while bottom club Dundee held off second-bottom Raith Rovers, 2-2. Elsewhere, Celtic and Dundee United played to another scoreless draw, as did Partick Thistle and Motherwell, while Hearts battled Kilmarnock to a 1-1 draw at Tynecastle.

The day's most surprising result came at St. Johnstone, where the tenth-place side survived their encounter with third-place Hibernian, 2-2. It was part of a seven-match unbeaten streak for the hosts, but it proved to be a brief respite--three teams were relegated at the end of the season to clear the path for a ten-team top flight the following season, and St. Johnstone were the last to go, joining Raith Rovers and Dundee.

Rangers went on to win the league, while Dundee United lifted the Scottish Cup and Hibs took the Scottish League Cup.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

21 January 1997 - Shilton Finally Stops

On 21 January 1997, goalkeeper Peter Shilton played in his last match, setting the current League record of 1,005 appearances.

Shilton, who set the England cap record at 125 seven years earlier, started his club career in 1966 with Leicester City, where he soon ousted England's World Cup-winning keeper Gordon Banks. He went on to make 286 appearances for Leicester before leaving for Stoke City in 1974. There, he added another 110 appearances to his total, then moved on to Nottingham Forest (202), Southampton (188), and Derby County (175).

By the time he left Derby in 1992, his career was in decline, but he made another 34 appearances in three seasons for Plymouth Argyle. Between 1994 and 1996, he spent brief periods with Wimbledon, Bolton Wanderers, West Ham, and Coventry, but played in only a single League match for the lot of them.

In 1996, he joined Leyton Orient, where he made his last nine appearances. The final one was a Division Three contest at home against Wigan, but it wasn't a storybook ending for the 47-year old Shilton. The hosts took a first half lead with a goal from Scott McGleish (33'), but surrendered late strikes to Ian Kilford (62') and Graeme Jones (77') to lose 1-2.

Friday, January 20, 2017

20 January 2010 - Apparently, You Don't Need To Shoot To Score

On 20 January 2010, Monaco secured an away victory at PSG despite not having a single shot on goal.

Playing before a crowd of 36,000 at the Parc des Princes, Paris Saint-Germain were suffering through a poor run of form that dropped them down into tenth place in the table after losing two of their last three in the league. They had also just been eliminated from the Coupe de la Ligue by Ligue 2 side Guingamp. Monaco, meanwhile, had climbed to fifth after going unbeaten in their previous five league matches.

Still, PSG started as the stronger of the two teams on the day and had several early chances denied by the woodwork and a handful of fine saves from Monaco keeper Stephane Ruffier. Ruffier continued his excellent play in the second half to again deny a couple of PSG shots when disaster struck for the hosts. Monaco midfielder Eduardo Costa sent an innocuous cross into the box only to see it deflect into the goal off the leg of PSG keeper Apoula Edel. It turned out to be the only goal of he match.

By the final whistle, Monaco had managed to take 10 shots, but not a single one on goal. PSG, on the other hand, put nine of their 19 shots on frame, but all nine failed to get past Ruffier. But they got their revenge later that May, beating Monaco 1-0 in the Coupe de France Final.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

19 January 2008 - Donovan Takes The Lead

On 19 January 2008, a penalty kick against Sweden made Landon Donovan the all-time scoring leader for the US men's team.

Since making his first appearance in 2000, the forward/midfielder had already become the team's all-time leader in assists, passing Cobi Jones for that honor in 2006. By January 2008, he had scored a total of 34 goals, including key strikes in the 2002 World Cup and several Gold Cup competitions, to match the record set by Eric Wynalda from 1990 to 2000.

Playing a friendly against Sweden at the Home Depot Center in California, the US went up 1-0 with a 15th-minute goal from debutant Eddie Robinson. Then, just after the break, Swedish center back Mattias Bjärsmyr committed a foul in the box against US forward Jozy Altidore. Donovan stepped up and converted the ensuing penalty kick to claim sole possession of the goalscoring record. The US went on to win the match 2-0.

Before his retirement in 2014, Donovan extended the record to 57. It remains well behind the record for the women's team, however, set at 184 by Abby Wambach (2001-2015).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

18 January 1971 - He Truly Does Have Barcelona DNA

On 18 January 1971, former Barcelona player and manager Pep Guardiola was born in the Catalonian town of Santpedor.

Guardiola first joined Barcelona in 1983 as a 12-year old member of their famed La Masia youth academy. He signed a professional contract with the club in 1990 and, later that year, then-manager Johan Cruyff called him up to the first team. Playing a central role as a defensive midfielder, Guardiola proceeded to collect a number of honors, including six league titles between 1991 and 1999 and the 1992 European Cup.

In 2001, the 30-year old left Spain and spent time playing for Brescia (2001-02, 2003), Roma (2002-03), Al-Ahli (2003-05), and Dorados (2005-06). Upon his retirement in 2006, he took a year off, then returned to Barcelona in 2007 as manager of the club's B team. After only one season, the club promoted him to manager of the first team, replacing the departing Frank Rijkaard.

As manager, Guardiola emphasized the possession-based total football concept promoted by his own former manager, Cruyff. It paid immediate dividends, as Barcelona won the league in Guardiola's first season back, then proceeded to win the next two, as well as two Champions League titles and two Club World Cups. 

In 2013, he moved to Bayern Munich, where he won the Bundesliga for three straight years before joining his current club, Manchester City, in 2016. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

17 January 2009 - Behind Any Title-Winning Team, There's A Great Goalkeeper

On 17 January 2009, Oman won their first Gulf Cup of Nations, beating Saudi Arabia on penalties.

It was the third consecutive appearance in the final for Oman, who lost to Qatar on penalties in 2004 and to the United Arab Emirates in 2007. Omani keeper Ali Al Habsi starred in both of those tournaments, however, and received two Best Goalkeeper awards to go along with the one he won in 2003 when Oman finished fourth.

Al Habsi continued to shine in 2009 as Oman kept a clean sheet all the way up to the final. There, they met Saudi Arabia, who--playing in front of keeper Waleed Abdullah--had similarly not given up a goal for the entire tournament. Although Oman controlled the run of play for most of the final, the defenses proved too resolute as the teams completed 120 minutes with a scoreless draw to set up the decisive shootout.

After five kicks each, the teams were level at 5-5. Then Saudi Arabian midfielder Taisir Al Jassim sent his shot wide. The miss opened the door for Oman's Mohamad Rabih, who calmly beat Abdullah to claim the cup. For his part in the victorious campaign, Al Habsi won his fourth straight Best Goalkeeper award.

Monday, January 16, 2017

16 January 2002 - Zola's Magical Mystery Goal

On 16 January 2002, Gianfranco Zola scored a remarkable back-heeled goal as Chelsea rolled over Norwich City in the FA Cup, 4-0.

The Third Round match was a replay, with the two sides having drawn 0-0 at Norwich's Carrow Road ground 11 days earlier. Back at Stamford Bridge, the hosts wasted little time, taking the lead in the 11th minute with a header from Mario Stanić. Norwich tried to rally with a strong push around both sides of halftime, but Chelsea weathered the challenge, then extended their lead with a goal from Frank Lampard (56').

Zola's moment of brilliance arrived in the 63rd minute, as he met a corner from teammate Graeme Le Saux. As the ball dropped outside the near post, the 35-year old striker met it in midair with his right foot and back-heeled it behind his body. It skimmed just inside the post past the outstretched arms of Norwich keeper Rob Green. Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri later described the goal as "fantasy" and "magic," while referring to Zola as a "wizard." Zola himself said "Don't ask me how I did it, because I don't know."

Chelsea proceeded to win the match 4-0 with the last goal coming from Mikael Forssell (89') and eventually reached the FA Cup Final where they lost to Arsenal.