Thursday, August 24, 2017

24 August 1975 - The Rowdies Go Bowling

On 24 August 1975, the Tampa Bay Rowdies won the inaugural Soccer Bowl, beating the Portland Timbers 2-0.

The North American Soccer League, which dated back to 1968, had used playoffs since the 1969 season, but the finals had always been played at the home field of one of the participants. By 1974, league commissioner Phil Woosnam believed that a neutral venue would generate more excitement along the lines of the NFL's Super Bowl and thus the Soccer Bowl was created for the 1975 season.

Like the Soccer Bowl, both Tampa Bay and Portland were in their first NASL season. Tampa Bay, coached by former Charlton Athletic manager Eddie Firmani, won their division, then reached to the Soccer Bowl with playoff wins over Toronto and Miami. Portland, meanwhile, led by former Aston Villa manager Vic Crowe, also won their division, then advanced with wins over Seattle and St. Louis.

They met at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, California, where a capacity crowd of 17,000 gathered for the event. The two teams were deadlocked at 0-0 until the 66th minute, when Tampa Bay substitute defender Arsène Auguste, who had come on only three minutes earlier, unleashed a blast from 35 yards out to beat Portland keeper Graham Brown. Striker Clyde Best then sealed the win with a goal in the 88th minute.

It was the only Soccer Bowl appearance for Portland. Tampa Bay returned twice more, but lost to the New York Cosmos in 1978 and to Vancouver Whitecaps in 1979.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

23 August 1995 - Like A Phoenix Rising From The Ashes

On 23 August 1995, the former Heysel Stadium hosted a football match for the first time in almost ten years, as Germany beat Belgium in a friendly.

Originally opened on 23 August 1930, the stadium was the location of one of football's greatest tragedies when it hosted the 1985 European Cup Final between Juventus and Liverpool. Approximately an hour before kick-off, a retaining wall collapsed, leaving 600 people injured and killing 39 others.

It was the last football match played at the stadium for several years, though it continued to be used for other events. By 1995, however, it had undergone a $50 million renovation and re-opened as the home of the Belgian national team.

For the first match in the new structure, renamed King Baudouin Stadium, Belgium hosted Germany in a friendly. A crowd of 33,000 watched as the Germans won 1-2 with goals from Andreas Möller (6') and Fredi Bobic (84'). Belgium's lone goal was provided by Michaël Goossens (17').

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

22 August 1998 - But The Real Victory Was That They Got To Live In Mallorca

On 22 August 1998, Mallorca won their first major honor, beating Barcelona in the Supercopa de España. And they did it only one year after promotion from the second division.

Played over two legs, that year's Supercopa was a rematch of the previous season's Copa del Rey final. Barcelona won that one over newly-promoted Mallorca on penalties--1-1 (5-4) after taking the shootout to eight kickers each--but since they also won the league that year, Mallorca qualified for the Supercopa as Copa del Rey runners-up.

The teams met in Mallorca on 18 August for the first leg, where a crowd of 12,000 watched the hosts surrender an early goal, then come back to win 2-1 on an 81st-minute strike from midfielder Jovan Stanković (Stanković had also scored the only goal for Mallorca in the Copa del Rey final).

The return leg saw a substantially larger turnout, as 55,000 passed through the turnstiles at Barcelona's Camp Nou. They were rewarded with a 29th-minute goal from Mallorca striker Dani García, who was starting his first season with Mallorca after transferring from Real Madrid.

It turned out to be the day's only goal, securing the trophy for Mallorca. They returned to the competition in 2003 after winning that year's Copa del Rey final, but finished as runners-up to Real Madrid.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

20 August 2003 - Pizarro Was Quick On His Feet

On 20 August 2003, Claudio Pizarro scored the fastest goal in the history of the Peruvian national team, coming just 18 seconds into a friendly against Mexico.

The teams met at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where Pizarro (pictured) got the game off to a quick start, unleashing a left-footed blast from just outside the penalty spot to put Peru up 1-0. It was the first goal conceded by Mexico in six matches.

They did not wait long to concede again, though, surrendering a second goal to midfielder Carlos Zegarra in the 31st minute, then a third to Nolberto Solano two minutes later.

Down 3-0 at the break, Mexico eventually got on the scoreboard in the 54th minute with a goal from Mariano Trujillo. It was the last goal of the day, but not the last bit of excitement. A 68th-minute brawl resulted in the ejection of four players, two from each side--Pizarro and John Galliquio for Peru, Omar Briceño and Jared Borgetti for Mexico.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

19 August 1995 - To Be Fair, He Never Claimed To Be A Psychic

On 19 August 1995, pundit Alan Hansen criticized Manchester United's season-opening loss to Aston Villa, stating "you can't win anything with kids." United proved him wrong, however, going on to win a league and FA Cup double.

United had ended the previous season without a trophy, the first time that had happened since 1989. And, before the start of the 1995-96 season, they sold three key players--Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, and Andrei Kanchelskis--without bringing in replacements, preferring instead to rely on rising young players like David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Gary Neville, all of whom were just 20 years old when the new season started.

Playing before a crowd of 34,655 at Villa Park, the hosts jumped to a comfortable 3-0 lead with goals from Ian Taylor (14'), Mark Draper (27'), and Dwight Yorke (36') before Beckham scored a consolation goal in the 82nd minute to end the day 3-1 to Villa.

Speaking later on Match of the Day, Hansen made his now-famous pronouncement, adding that "the trick to winning the championship is having strength and depth, and they just haven't got it." But United followed that loss with a ten-game unbeaten streak that included eight wins and pushed them up to second in the table. By March, they claimed the top spot and held it for the remainder of the season, then won the FA Cup final over Liverpool.

Friday, August 18, 2017

18 August 1985 - Many Great Things Have Humble Beginnings

On 18 August 1985, the United States women's team played their first match, losing to Italy 1-0 in the opening game of the Mundialito.

The Mundialito (Spanish for "Little World Cup") was an invitational women's international tournament held in Italy from 1984 to 1988. The 1985 edition consisted of four teams--Italy (the defending champions), England, Denmark, and the United States.

The US squad had been put together earlier that summer by head coach Mike Ryan and included goalkeeper Kim Wyant, midfielder Sharon McMurtry, forward Tucka Healy, and winger Denise Boyer. Discussing the experience years later, all four players remarked on the physical nature of the game and the competitiveness of the Italian team, who went on to win 1-0 after a missed penalty by McMurty.

Italy reached the final where they lost to England, while the US finished in fourth after a 2-2 draw with Denmark, a loss to England, and a loss to Denmark in the third-place match. They did better in the next two tournaments, however, finishing as runners-up in 1986 and claiming third place in 1988.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

17 August 2011 - Barça Gets Off To A Super Start

On 17 August 2011, Barcelona beat Real Madrid 3-2 to take their 10th Supercopa de España (and the first one over their Clásico rivals).

The competition, which kicks off the Spanish season, pits the reigning La Liga champions against the Copa del Rey holders in a two-legged series, home and away. Real Madrid and Barcelona had met there four teams previously, in 1988, 1990, 1993, and 1997, with Real Madrid claiming the honors each time. But Barça had the recent edge, carrying a six-match unbeaten streak against Madrid in the league (with five wins), as well as eliminating them in the previous season's Champions League. (Madrid, however, had beaten Barcelona in the 2011 Copa del Rey Final).

The two teams met at the Bernabéu on 14 August for the first leg, where they drew 2-2, then reconvened at Camp Nou three days later. There, Andres Iniésta opened the scoring in the 15th minute after an incisive through pass by Lionel Messi left him one-on-one with keeper Iker Casillas, who fell victim to a chip. Cristiano Ronaldo equalized from short range five minutes later, but Messi restored the lead just before the break.

Real Madrid drew level again in the second half through an 82nd-minute goal from striker Karim Benzema, but Messi had the last word with the match-winner in the 88th minute.

That season, Real Madrid went on to win the league, while Barcelona won the Copa del Rey, setting up another Supercopa meeting in 2012.