Saturday, December 16, 2017

16 December 1990 - Guardiola Adds Pep To Barça's Step

On 16 December 1990, 19-year old midfielder Josep "Pep" Guardiola made his Barcelona debut in a 2-0 win over Cádiz.

Having joined the club's youth academy seven years earlier, Guardiola started as a right midfielder before manager Johan Cruyff saw him in a reserve match and moved him to a central position. He quickly adapted to his new responsibilities and was called up to the first team for a friendly against Banyoles in May 1989. 

Then, in December 1990, Cruyff gave Guardiola his competitive debut in a league match at home against Cádiz. A crowd of 75,000 witnessed the occasion, causing the young midfielder to suffer a small bout of nerves while waiting to take the pitch. But once there, he played well with a grit and determination not to make a mistake (he did pick up a yellow card in the 33rd minute for a foul on an opposing player).

Barcelona won the match 2-0 with goals from Txiki Begiristain and José Maria Bakero, then went on to win the league. Guardiola made only four other appearances that season, but established himself as a regular the following year and helped the team to another five league titles, two Copa del Rey trophies, and one European Cup before leaving for Brescia in 2001.

He returned to the club in 2007 as an assistant manager, then took full reins of the team from 2008 to 2012, winning another fourteen trophies including three league titles and two Champions League trophies.

Friday, December 15, 2017

15 December 2001 - Ferdinand Hits The Jackpot

On 15 December 2001, Tottenham striker Les Ferdinand scored the Premier League's 10,000th goal, helping to deliver a win for his team and £10,000 to charity.

The milestone goal came during a match against Fulham at White Hart Lane in the Premier League's tenth season. Ferdinand, who had been a prolific scorer at QPR and Newcastle, was in his fifth year with Spurs, but had failed to recapture his previous form. He scored ten goals for Tottenham across all competitions in the 2000-01 campaign, the first time he had cracked double digits for them.

Against Fulham, however, he got off to a quick start, scoring in the 20th minute to put Spurs up 1-0. Thanks to the Tottenham defense--anchored by goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, who kept a clean sheet--it was the only goal they needed, but they got a trio of insurance goals from Darren Anderton (40', from a Ferdinand assist), Simon Davies (71'), and Sergei Rebrov to set the final margin at 4-0.

To commemorate the landmark goal, the Premier League awarded Ferdinand £10,000 for donation to the charity of his choice. He selected two cancer charities, splitting the money evenly between them.



Thursday, December 14, 2017

14 December 1986 - The Debut Of Dennis Bergkamp

On 14 December 1986, Dennis Bergkamp made his professional debut, coming on as a late substitute for Ajax against Roda JC.

Born in Amsterdam in 1969, Bergkamp joined the club's youth academy in 1981. He was 17 when he made that first professional appearance at home against Roda, as manager Johan Cruff subbed him in for Rob Witschge in the 66th minute. Ajax were already up 2-0 at the time and that turned out to be the final score.

The striker remained with the club for seven seasons, scoring 122 goals in 237 appearances across all competitions. Along the way, he won one Eredivisie title (1990), two KNVB Cups (1987, 1993), one UEFA Cup (1992), and one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (1987) before moving to Inter for a transfer fee of £7.1 million.

He never settled at Inter and left after two seasons for Arsenal, where he regained his previous form. He went on to become one of the club's most highly regarded players, making 425 appearances and winning multiple league titles (1998, 2002, 2004) and FA Cups (1998, 2002, 2003, 2005) before his retirement in 2006.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

13 December 2006 - The Passing Of An American Pioneer

On 13 December 2006, American soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt passed away in Dallas. He was 74 years old.

Heir to an oil fortune, Hunt was an enthusiastic supporter of both both soccer and American football. In 1959, after being turned down for a National Football League franchise, he helped found the rival American Football League and formed his own team, the Dallas Texans. He later moved the team to Kansas City, renaming them as the Chiefs, and they eventually joined the NFL when the two leagues merged in 1970. 

His interest in soccer was sparked by a 1962 trip to Ireland, where he took in a Shamrock Rovers match. Five years later, he helped establish the North American Soccer League and founded the Dallas Tornado, who went on to win the league title in 1971.

After the demise of the NASL, Hunt continued to promote the sport in the US. He was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Major League Soccer, which debuted in 1996 with two Hunt-owned teams, the Columbus Crew and the Kansas City Wizards. In 2003, he acquired a third team, FC Dallas and owned all three until his death.

He received several honors and awards over the course of his life, including induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1992 and the placement of his statute outside the Columbus Crew Stadium. In 1999, the U.S. Soccer Federation renamed the U.S. Open Cup in his honor. Now known as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, it is the country's longest-running soccer competition.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

9 December 2009 - Using Your Head Isn't Always The Best Decision

On 9 December 2009, Queens Park Rangers suspended manager Jim Magilton for allegedly head-butting one of his own players.

The incident occurred in the tunnel after QPR's away loss to Watford two days earlier. It was their third loss in four games, dropping the team into tenth place and putting pressure on Magilton (pictured), who was in his first season as QPR boss. According to reports, the manager got into an altercation with Rangers midfielder Ákos Buzsáky, then head-butted him. (Coincidentally, he was the second manager in England to be accused of head-butting a player, with the other being Stoke's Tony Pulis).

The club announced the suspension on 9 December with immediate effect and promised an internal investigation. Magilton admitted to having a disagreement with Buzsáky, but denied head-butting him, saying that the reports were incorrect and that he looked forward to reinstatement upon the completion of the club's investigation.

One week later, on 16 December, Magilton left his post as QPR manager. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

8 December 1985 - Juventus Complete Their Collection

On 8 December 1985, Juventus won the Intercontinental Cup on penalties over Argentinos Juniors, becoming the first--and so far only--team to win all of their possible major trophies.

Playing before a crowd of 62,000 at the National Stadium in Tokyo, Argentinos forward Carlos Ereros opened the scoring by chipping Juventus goalkeeper Stefano Tacconi in the 55th minute. The sides then traded a pair of disallowed goals before Michel Platini brought Juventus level with a 63rd-minute penalty kick. Soon afterward, Platini found the back of the net with a brilliant move, lifting the ball over a defender with his right foot, then firing home with his left, but the referee disallowed it because another Juventus player was offside.

Instead, Argentinos took the lead in the 75th minute when José Antonio Castro scored from a tight angle into the far side of the net. Not to be outdone, Juventus forward Michael Laudrup scored from a equally narrow degree seven minutes later.

Locked at 2-2, the match went into a penalty shootout. After a miss from Laudrup and two from Argentinos, Platini converted the final kick to give Juventus the trophy. It marked a complete silverware collection for the team from Turin, who had already won all of the domestic and European competitions available to them.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

7 December 2011 - Lyon Beats The Odds

On 7 December 2011, Lyon advanced in the Champions League despite starting the day from what seemed to be an impossible position.

It was the last day of the group stage and Lyon were in third, behind leaders Real Madrid and second-place Ajax. Lyon were three points behind the Dutch and needed both an Ajax loss and a win of their own over Dinamo Zagreb in order to draw level on points. But the challenge did not stop there. They also needed to make up a 7-goal gap in differential, which was a tough ask given that Lyon had scored only twice in their other five group stage matches (both against Zagreb).

Playing at Dinamo's Stadion Maksimir, the hill grew even steeper after Zagreb took the lead with a 40th-minute goal from midfielder Mateo Kovačić (despite losing midfielder Jerko Leko to a 28th-minute red card). But Bafétimbi Gomis equalized for Lyon just before the break.

The second half belonged to Lyon. By the 70th minute, they were up 1-6 with a goal from Maxime Gonalons (47'), one from Lisandro López (64'), and three more from Gomis (48', 52', 70'). At the same time, Real Madrid were on top of Ajax 0-2, bringing Lyon level with the Dutch on goal differential. Then Jimmy Briand pushed Lyon ahead with a final goal against Zagreb in the 75th minute and Real Madrid added another against Ajax in stoppage time to put Ajax's differential at zero and Lyon's at +2.

Lyon's reward for the improbable result was a trip to the Round of 16, where they were eliminated on penalties by APOEL.