Monday, March 6, 2017

6 March 1979 - Tim Howard's Happy Birthday

On 6 March 1979, United States and Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

He started his career in 1997 with the North Jersey Imperials in the United States Independent Soccer Leagues, but moved to Major League Soccer in 1998 with the MetroStars. After making limited appearances in his first few seasons there, he claimed the starting job in 2001. Later that year, he became the  youngest player to receive the league's Goalkeeper of the Year award.

In 2003, Manchester United signed him for $4 million to take over from Fabien Barthez as the club's first-choice keeper. But despite a strong start, winning the Community Shield with a penalty save against Arsenal, he struggled in his next two seasons, leading to his departure to Everton on loan in 2006.

He shined at Everton, making his move permanent in a 2007 deal worth a reported £3 million. He went on to make 414 appearances for them, including a run of 212 consecutive Premier League appearances. He even got a goal, as a long clearance was pushed along by the wind into the opposing net, making him only the fourth keeper in Premier League history to score.

In 2016, he left Everton for the Colorado Rapids, his current club.

In addition to his club duties, Howard has been a regular starter for the United States since the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup and has, to date, earned 111 caps.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

4 March 2012 - Sundowns Cut The Powerlines

On 4 March 2012, Mamelodi Sundowns recorded the biggest win in South African history, beating Powerlines 24-0.

The match came in the Round of 32 in South Africa's major domestic cup competition, the Nedbank Cup, where top flight Sundowns, winner of the cup in 1998 (when it was known as the Bob Save Super Bowl) and 2008, faced off against amateur side Powerlines.

It was effectively over by halftime, with Sundowns up 10-0, but they continued to pack in the goals in the second half. Their leading scorer was Hlompho Kekana with seven (7, 15, 31, 50, 61, 78, 80), followed by Nyasha Mushekwi with six (24, 41, 43, 45+1, 45+2, 52). Richard Henyekane added five (12, 20, 56, 72, 74), while they got a brace each from Samuel Julies (54, 76), Elias Pelembe (65, 70), and Lebohang Mokoena (71, 90+1).

The scoreline crushed the previous South African record of 16-0, reached twice in the cup by AmaZulu in 1976 and 1986. But still fell far short over the world record of 149-0, set by Madagascar's AS Adema over Stade Olympique Emyrne in 2002.

Sundowns eventually reached the 2012 final, where they lost to Supersport United 2-0.

Friday, March 3, 2017

3 March 2011 - Pellegrini's Unwelcome Return

On 3 March 2011, Real Madrid welcomed their former manager back to the Bernabeu by crushing his new team 7-0.

The manager in question was Manuel Pellegrini, who had taken charge of Real Madrid in June 2009 for their second Galacticos period that saw them acquire Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, and Karim Benzema for an approximate total of £200M in transfer fees. But after only one season--in which they finished as league runners-up to Barcelona--the club sacked Pellegrini in order to hire José Mourinho.

In November 2010, Pellegrini signed a three-year deal to manage Málaga. They had already lost to Real Madrid in the league the previous month, so the game in March was his first time facing his former employers.

It was a rout. Two of Pellegrini's signings scored a total of five goals (three from Ronaldo and two from Benzema), while Ángel di María and and Marcelo added goals of their own to stretch the margin to 7-0. When the final whistle blew, Málaga were down to nine men, with one ejected and one injured after Pellegrini had made all three substitutions.

Although the loss sent them down to 19th place, things did get better for the club. They finished the season in eleventh, followed by a fourth-place finish the following season.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

2 March 1980 - A Win Of Olympic Proportions

On 2 March 1980, Paraguayan side Olimpia won the Intercontinental Cup over Malmö with an aggregate score of 3-1 over two legs.

The Swedes weren't originally supposed to be there, as the competition was designed to pit the Copa Libertadores champions against the European Cup holders. But when Nottingham Forest, winners of the 1979 European Cup, declined to participate, Malmö were called in as runners-up.

In the first leg, played in Sweden on 18 November, Olimpia escaped with narrow win, beating the hosts 0-1 with a goal from forward Evaristo Isasi in the 41st minute. Then, in Asunción for the second leg, defender Alicio Solalinde (pictured) scored in the 39th minute to extend their aggregate lead to 2-0. Malmö midfielder Ingemar Erlandsson pulled one back shortly after the break, but it was the only time they got the ball past goalkeeper Hugo Almeida. Olimpia added another of their own for good measure to set the final margin at 3-1.

It was the last two-legged version of the Intercontinental Cup as the competition switched to a single-match format later that year. Olimpia returned in 1990 and again in 2002, but lost to AC Milan and Real Madrid, respectively.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

1 March 2008 - At Least Lille Got To Share In The Record

On 1 March 2008, a record crowd turned out to watch Lyon continue the march to their seventh straight Ligue 1 title with a 1-0 victory over Lille.

The result was easy to predict, as Lyon had been at the top of the table since the end of September, while Lille were twenty points back in fourteenth place despite having just completed eight straight matches unbeaten. But in order to celebrate the tenth anniversary of France's victory in the 1998 World Cup final, the match was moved from Lyon's Stade Gerland (with a capacity of 40,500) to the stadium where Les Bleus lifted the trophy, the Stade de France. The move allowed an all-time league record crowd of 77,840 to attend, dwarfing the previous league record of 57,609 set at Marseille's Stade Velodrome in 2005.

To their credit, Lille--who had held Lyon to a 1-1 draw earlier in the season--put up a fight, but eventually conceded a goal in the 32nd minute when Lyon's Brazilian striker Fred (pictured) connected with a cross and drove the ball into the back of the net. It turned out to be the only goal of the day, though Lille came close to an equalizer in the 60th minute when Pierre-Alain Frau hit the bar.

Lyon remained at the top to take their seventh straight Ligue 1 title, while Lille lost only once more to climb to seventh in the final table.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

28 February 2005 - Delia Smith Cooks Up Some Controversy

On 28 February 2005, Manchester City beat Norwich in a match best remembered for a halftime call to action by Norwich owner Delia Smith.

In their first Premier League season since 1995, Norwich were struggling and looked likely to return to the second tier. By the time they hosted Manchester City at Carrow Road in February, they had dropped down into the table's twentieth spot, having won only three of their 27 matches. So it was a bit of a shock when Norwich surged to an early 2-0 lead with goals from Dean Ashton (12') and Leon McKenzie (16'). But they could not hold the lead, conceding twice before the break, one each to Antoine Sibierski (25') and Robbie Fowler (37').

With the two teams level at half time, Norwich majority shareholder and celebrity chef Delia Smith took a microphone and tried to inspire the home supporters, saying she had "a message for the best football supporters in the world. We need a twelfth man here. Where are you? Where are you? Let's be having you! Come on!" 

Smith's outburst drew mixed criticism, with some applauding her devotion to the club and others claiming her behavior was undignified. In any event, her exhortation had little effect, as Norwich conceded another Fowler goal in the 90th minute and lost 2-3. 

They were relegated at the end of the season, but returned to the Premier League in 2011. After bouncing back and forth a couple of times, they were relegated again for the 2016-17 season and currently play in the Championship.

Monday, February 27, 2017

27 February 1977 - Maradona Goes International

On 27 February 1977, Argentina beat Hungary 5-1 in a friendly that marked the international debut of 16-year old Diego Maradona.

At the time, Hungary had been the more successful team, with two World Cup finals (1938 and 1954), three Olympic gold medals (1952, 1964, 1968) and one silver medal (1972). But they were in decline, failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, the 1976 Olympics, or the 1976 European Championship. Argentina, meanwhile, had reached the Olympic final in 1928 and the World Cup final in 1930, but had since done little on the global stage (they did have 12 Copa América trophies, however).

For the friendly, they met at the Bombanera in Buenos Aires, where approximately 60,000 people turned out to watch. By half time, the hosts were up 4-0 with a hat-trick from Daniel Bertoni (11', 18') and a goal from Leopoldo Luque (37'). Luque added another just after the break (47') to extend the lead to 5-0 before Hungary substitute Zombori Sándor pulled one back in the 61st minute.

One minute later, Argentina made a couple of substitutions of their own, taking Ricardo Villa off for Jorge Benítez and replacing Luque with young Argentinos Juniors midfielder Diego Maradona. It was Maradona's first appearance for Argentina and he would go on to become the country's greatest player, earning a total of 91 caps and leading them them to World Cup glory in 1986.