Wednesday, February 21, 2018

21 February 1974 - Best Arrested

On 21 February 1974, George Best, recently retired from Manchester United, was arrested on charges of burglary and theft.

The superstar winger had last played for United the previous month after a falling out with manager Tommy Docherty and spent the intervening days in a series of flings, including a high-profile outing in London with the newly-crowned Miss World, Marjorie Wallace (pictured, with Best), a few days earlier.

But his relationship with Miss Wallace apparently soured quickly. When a collection of items disappeared from her apartment, including a fur coat, some jewelry, and about £20 worth of alcohol, she called the police, who arrested Best at his Manchester nightclub, Slack Alice, in the early hours of the morning on 21 February. They interviewed him for about five hours, then drove him down to London for formal charges.

He denied any wrongdoing and the case was dropped in April when Miss Wallace failed to appear for the trial. In dismissing the charges, the judge noted that, under the circumstances, they left no stain on Best's character.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

20 February 2011 - Deportivo Cuts It Close

On 20 February 2011, Deportivo de La Coruña earned a draw with Almería thanks to the first La Liga goal scored by a goalkeeper in open play.

Deportivo had been struggling all season in the bottom half of the table and had just climbed into thirteenth with a shock win over Villareal. Almería, meanwhile, were sitting one spot off the bottom in nineteenth with only four wins in their first twenty-three games (though one of those was a 2-0 away win over Deportivo).

Playing at Almería's Juegos Mediterráneos, the hosts went up 1-0 with a 48th-minute goal from winger Pablo Piatti and looked likely to get the season sweep when they kept the lead deep into the second half. But the referee awarded four minutes of extra time, which proved to be almost enough time for Deportivo to get the equalizer.

The clock actually read 94:02 when Deportivo won a corner kick that the referee allowed them to take. Goalkeeper Dani Aranzubia raced the length of the pitch to be there when the kick came in, delivered by Pablo Álvarez, and headed it past his opposing number. The final whistle sounded immediately afterward.

It was the first goal by a keeper in La Liga since 2002 and the first ever that was not a penalty.

Unfortunately, despite the draw, both Deportivo and Almería ended the season in relegation, though Deportivo returned to La Liga for the 2012-13 season.

Monday, February 19, 2018

19 February 1910 - Back When It Was Just "Trafford"

On 19 February 1910, Liverpool spoiled the debut of Manchester United's new stadium, winning there 3-4.

Originally named United Football Ground, the stadium was designed by architect Archibald Leitch and cost approximately £60,000 to complete. It opened with a capacity of 80,000--substantially higher than the 50,000 of their previous Bank Street ground--but only 45,000 people turned out for that opening match.

United's opponents were Liverpool, who had already beaten them at Anfield earlier in the season. They completed their sweep of the Red Devils with a 3-4 win thanks to a brace each from Arthur Goddard and James Stewart (United's scorers were Tom Homer, Sandy Turnbull, and George Wall).

Renamed Old Trafford in 1936, it has remained United's home ever since, except for a brief spell after World War II when bombing damage rendered it temporarily unusable. Its highest attendance, however, did not involve United; that was set at 76,962 for a 1939 FA Cup match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town when Old Trafford was still a terraced stadium. The record after conversion to an all-seater is 76,098, set during a league game between United and Blackburn Rovers in 2007.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

18 February 1973 - The Role Came A Little Bit Later

On 18 February 1973, Claude Makélélé, who redefined the modern defensive midfielder position, was born in Kinshasa, Zaire.

He moved to France when he was four and spent the first several years of his career there, first with Stade Brestois (1990-91), then with Nantes (1991-97) and later Marseille (1997-98). In 1998, he left for Spain, playing two seasons for Celta de Vigo and three for Real Madrid.

At Madrid, he was an integral member of the Galacticos side assembled by club president Florentino Pérez, including Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos. Although not regarded as highly (or paid as much) as some of the others, Makélélé drove the side by operating less like a traditional defensive midfielder and more like a deep-lying playmaker.

When he left for Chelsea in 2003, a bitter Pérez tried to minimize the loss, downplaying Makélélé's contribution to the team. But after winning two league titles (and the Champions League) with him, Real Madrid did not win La Liga again until 2007.

Makélélé, meanwhile, flourished at Chelsea, winning two league titles and one FA Cup before moving back to France in 2008, joining Paris Saint-Germain. He ended his career there, retiring in 2011. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

17 February 1957 - Real Madrid Gets Into The Home Security Business

On 17 February 1957, Real Madrid beat Deportivo de La Coruña to launch a record 121-game home unbeaten streak in the league.

It was Madrid's first home league match since a loss to Atlético Madrid two weeks earlier and they responded by beating Deportivo 1-0 with a goal from forward Enrico Mateos in the 25th minute. They then won their last three remaining home games and claimed the league title.

Amazingly, they continued to defend their home ground in the league for another eight years, going unbeaten over a span of 121 matches that carried them to another six La Liga titles. Of those 121 matches, only eight were draws; they won the remaining 113.

The streak's last game came on 21 February 1965 with a 6-1 win over Real Betis and it ended on 7 March with a loss to Atlético, 0-1.

Friday, February 16, 2018

16 February 1964 - The Celebration Would Have Been Appropriate Here, Too

On 16 February 1964, Bebeto, star of the 1994 World Cup and creator of a famous goal celebration, was born in the Brazilian city of Salvador.

A forward, whose real name is José Roberto Gama de Oliveira, he spent the majority of his career alternating between the Brazilian and Spanish top flights, including lengthy spells with Flamengo (1983-88, 1996), Vasco da Gama (1989-92, 2001-02), and Deportiva la Coruña (1992-96). Along the way, he won league titles in 1983 and 1989, as well as the 1995 Copa del Rey.

He earned his first cap for Brazil in 1985 and made 75 appearances through 1998, scoring a total of 39 goals. During Brazil's winning campaign in the 1994 World Cup, he played every minute and scored three goals. After his third, which put his team up 2-1 against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals (Brazil went on to win 3-2), he honored his newborn son by making a rocking motion with his arms. It eventually became a staple goal celebration.

After his retirement in 2002, he briefly managed America FC in Rio de Janeiro from 2009 to 2010, then switched to politics with his 2010 election to Brazil's legislative assembly.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

15 February 1995 - The Lansdowne Road Riot

On 15 February 1995, a riot erupted at a friendly between Ireland and England in Dublin. A subsequent report laid the blame on English supporters and Irish authorities.

The supporters in question were members of Combat 18, an English neo-Nazi white supremacist group with a history of violence including football hooliganism.  They wasted little time in turning the friendly ugly, chanting "sieg heil" and giving Nazi salutes during the playing of the national anthems.

After a disallowed English goal, the away supporters in the higher stands ripped up benches and threw them down onto the home fans in the lower stands, prompting the referee to halt the game and send the teams off the pitch. Ireland manager Jack Charlton, a former English international, left to chants of "Judas."

The violence escalated, with rioting in the stands as the referee decided to cancel the remainder of the match. Most fans were evacuated, but those that remained clashed with police. A total of twenty people were injured.

Afterward, an inquiry found the English supporters, and Combat 18 in particular, responsible for the outbreak of violence. But the Irish authorities also shared some of the blame. They had been alerted before the match to the presence of Combat 18, but failed to take action (and even declined assistance offered by their English counterparts).