Sunday, April 30, 2017

30 April 1974 - That's The Penalty For Setting High Expectations

On 30 April 1974, the FA sacked England manager Alf Ramsey, who led the team to World Cup glory in 1966.

Ramsey took charge of England in May 1963 after a successful time at Ipswich Town. He began his new job in bold style, claiming that they would win the upcoming 1966 World Cup as hosts. And he made good on his promise. After opening the tournament with a scoreless draw against Uruguay, England reeled off five straight victories, including a 4-2 win over West Germany in the final to lift the cup.

But the decline started soon after. In 1968, England finished third out of four teams in the European Championships and, two years later, they were eliminated by West Germany in the first knockout round of the 1970 World Cup. West Germany again proved to be their nemesis in 1972, ending England's qualification campaign for the 1972 European Championships. 

The final straw for Ramsey came in October 1973, when a draw with Poland prevented England from qualifying for the next year's World Cup. Although he remained in charge for another six months, the failure to reach the World Cup effectively sealed his fate. The FA finally dropped the curtain on his tenure at the end of April despite his overall record of 69 wins, 27 draws, and only 17 losses in 119 matches played.

He later had a brief spell in charge of Birmingham City (1977-78) and another as technical director of Panathinaikos (1979-80) but could not recapture the success he had with Ipswich and England. He died of a heart attack in 1999 and, in 2002, was an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

29 April 1978 - It Was A Hell Of An Effort, Though

On 29 April 1978, Borussia Mönchengladbach beat Borussia Dortmund by the Bundesliga record margin of 12-0. And it still wasn't enough.

Gladbach had dominated the league over the previous few years, winning the title in 1970, 1971, 1975, 1976, and 1977. But going into the final day of the 1977-78 season, they were sitting in second place behind Köln. The two teams were level on points, but Köln had a ten-goal advantage in differential and were playing their final match of the season away at the league's last-place team, St. Pauli.

A crowd of 38,000 people showed up at Gladbach's Rheinstadion and watched as the hosts gave their best effort to retain the title. Going up against Dortmund's second-choice keeper, Peter Endrulat--who had reportedly been told earlier in the day that the club was not going to renew his contract--Gladbach built a 6-0 lead by the break with goals from Jupp Heynckes (1', 12', 32'), Carsten Nielsen (13'), Karl Del'Haye (22'), and Herbert Wimmer (38').

At the break, Dortmund manager Otto Rehhagel asked Endrulat if he wanted to come out of the game, but the keeper gamely chose to play on. He later said he wished he hadn't, as Heynckes (59', 77'), Nielsen (61'), Del'Haye (66'), Ewald Lienen (87'), and Christian Kulik (90') proceeded to add another six goals to Gladbach's tally. The 12-0 scoreline remains the highest margin of victory in Bundesliga history, beating the previous record set by Gladbach in their 11-0 win over Schalke in 1967.

Unfortunately for Gladbach, twelve goals weren't enough, as Köln beat St. Pauli 5-0 to preserve a three-goal differential over Gladbach and take the title.

Friday, April 28, 2017

28 April 2004 - You Know Clash Of The Titans? This Was Nothing Like That

On 28 April 2004, San Marino recorded their first win in 65 attempts, beating Liechtenstein 1-0 in a friendly.

Although founded in 1931, the football federation of San Marino--situated on the northeastern part of the Italian peninsula--did not enter a team into an official FIFA competition until 1990. Their early years were ones of frustration, as the small nation went up to their fourteenth match before avoiding defeat, finally earning a draw  with Turkey in a qualifier for the 1994 World Cup.

By 2004, San Marino had suffered defeat in 61 of their 64 matches, earning additional draws at Latvia in 2001 and at Liechtenstein in 2002. When they hosted Liechtenstein in 2004 for the pair's second meeting, San Marino was ranked 164 by FIFA, twenty-two spots behind the visitors.

A meager crowd of only 700 people turned out at the Stadio Olimpico for the match. But they were rewarded with a goal from San Marino striker Andy Selva (pictured) in the fifth minute. It was his fourth international goal and only the eleventh in the history of the national team. San Marino managed to hold the slender lead until the end, finishing the day as 1-0 winners to taste victory for the first time.

Unfortunately for San Marino, it remains their only win, giving them an overall record of 1 win, 4 draws, and 136 losses.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

27 April 1913 - The Change Of Scenery Made The Difference

On 27 April 1913, the Paterson True Blues won their third American Cup after beating Tacony FC 2-1 in a second replay.

Organized by the American Football Association, the American Cup was an annual tournament played from 1885 to 1924. The True Blues out of Paterson, New Jersey, one of the dominant American teams of the era, reached the tournament final seven times previously, winning it in 1896 and 1909. Philadelphia-based Tacony, meanwhile, had been there once before, winning it in 1910.

For the 1913 final, Tacony hosted the first meeting on 12 April, but it ended as a 2-2 draw after Paterson's Neil Clarke equalized in the dying seconds. They returned to Philadelphia a week later for a replay, with Clarke again scoring the tying goal in a 1-1 draw to force a third game.

They met again on 27 April, with the location moved to Morris Park, New Jersey. There, Tacony again took a 1-0 lead, but Paterson's Alec Lowe brought them level. Then a late Tacony handball led to a Paterson penalty converted by Jack Nielson that proved to be the deciding score.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

26 April 1903 - Madrid Gets Athletic

On 26 April 1903, a group of students founded Atlético Madrid. They have since become one of Spain's most successful clubs, winning the league and the Copa del Rey ten times each.

The initial group of students consisted of Basques who were Athletic Bilbao and who considered the new club to be a Bilbao youth affiliate. They called the new club Athletic Club de Madrid and even adopted Bilbao's blue and white stripes, though they changed to their current red and white stripes by 1911 (reportedly attributable to their purchase that year of shirts from Southampton FC).

They joined La Liga in 1928, but were relegated to the Segunda División two years later. A few ups and downs later, and a merger with Zaragoza's Aviación Nacional, they returned to the top flight for the 1939-40 season and proceeded to win two straight titles. They won two more in 1950 and 1951 under manager Helenio Herrera. They have since added five more, including their most recent one in 2014. They won their tenth Copa del Rey in 2013.

Atlético have also enjoyed success in Europe. They won the Cup Winners' Cup over Fiorentina in 1962 and reached the European Cup final in 1974 (where they lost to Bayern Munich). They were the Champions League runners up in 2014 and 2016, losing both times to Real Madrid. In 2010, they won the Europa League final over Fulham, then claimed the UEFA Supercup by beating Inter 2-0.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

25 April 1985 - The Toffees Taste Sweet Victory In Europe

On 25 April 1985, Everton claimed one of their greatest wins, beating Bayern Munich 3-1 at Goodison Park.

Both Everton and Bayern Munich were enjoying strong seasons that would end with both of them winning their leagues. Their match-up came in the European Cup Winners' Cup semifinals, with the two teams playing to a scoreless draw in Munich on 10 April in the first leg. 

At Goodison for the return leg, Bayern took the advantage with a 37th-minute goal from striker Dieter Hoeness. Down 0-1 at the break, Everton manager Howard Kendall reportedly pointed out that, in the second half, they were going to be shooting toward the Gwladys Street end, location of the most rabid home supporters, and told his players "Just kick toward Gwladys Street, the fans will suck it into the goal."

It didn't take long. The Toffees equalized in just the 47th minute with a strike from forward Graeme Sharp. Striker Andy Gray then put them ahead in the 73rd minute before winger Trevor Steven completed the comeback and sealed the win with a goal in the 87th minute.

The win sent Everton to the final where they proceeded to beat Rapid Wien 3-1 for their first and only piece of European silverware.

Monday, April 24, 2017

24 April 1954 - Liverpool Sinks

On 24 April 1954, Liverpool ended 50 consecutive seasons in the top flight with a 3-0 loss to Blackpool. They would not return for eight years.

Founded in 1892, Liverpool joined the Football League in 1893 and had been in the First Division since the 1905-06 season. In 1947, they won their fifth league title, but they had finished no higher than eighth in the intervening years and dropped all the way to 17th in 1953.

The 1953-54 season started poorly, with five losses in their first eight matches. They hit bottom on 19 December after a 5-1 loss to Manchester United and remained there for the remaining 19 weeks. At one point, they set a current club record by going 14 matches without a win.

They rallied in early April, rattling off four wins in six matches, but it was not enough to lift them up from last place. A loss at home to Cardiff City on 17 April guaranteed their relegation. A win against Blackpool in their last match would have put them above Middlesbrough on goal average, but Blackpool won 3-0, firmly sticking Liverpool on the bottom.

They remained in Division 2 until 1962 when Bill Shankly, in only his second full season in charge, guided them back to the top flight, where they have remained ever since.