Friday, January 19, 2018

19 January 2010 - The Margin For Error Was Apparently Very, Very Small

On 19 January 2010, Olympiacos sacked Brazilian legend Zico only four months into his two-year contract as manager.

After starring as a playmaker for Flamengo and Brazil in the 1970s and '80s, Zico moved into management with Kashima Antlers in 1999. But he established his credentials as the manager of Japan from 2002 to 2006, winning the 2004 Asian Cup and guiding them through an impressive qualification campaign for the 2006 World Cup. He stepped down after a poor showing at the tournament itself, however.

Then came a brief but successful spell at Fenerbahçe from 2006 to 2008, followed by even shorter stints at Bunyadkor (2008) and CSKA Moscow (2009) before he moved to Olymipacos in September 2009.

At the time, only two games into the season, the team was in fourth place. Under Zico, they rose to the top of the table by the end of September and mostly remained there for the rest of the year on the strength of an undefeated run that saw them win eight of Zico's first ten games. But a loss in his eleventh, away to Aris Salonika, followed by another at home to AEK Athens, proved too much for club president Socrates Kokkalis. Even though Olympiacos got a win and a draw in their next two games, he moved to terminate Zico's contract.

Olympiacos went on to finish the season in second place, while Zico took some time off before managing Iraq from 2011 to 2012.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

18 January 2012 - Xamax Crosses The Line

On 18 January 2012, the Swiss Football League expelled Neuchâtel Xamax for financial irregularities, ending the reign of Bulat Chagaev, one of football's most bizarre owners.

Founded in 1970 from the merger of FC Xamax and FC Cantonal Neuchâtel, the club won the Swiss league title in 1987 and 1988, but declined shortly afterward. In 2006, they were relegated for the first time in club history. Although they returned to the top flight in 2007, they continued to struggle.

Chagaev, a Russian businessman, took over as the club's new owner in May 2011 and promised a cash infusion to return Xamax to their former greatness. Signs soon appeared, however, to suggest that his control would not be smooth, starting when the club filed a lawsuit to stop an investigation into the source of Chagaev's wealth.

The situation grew stranger at the start of the 2011-12 Super League season, with Chagaev going through three different managers in the span of a month and firing staff and players immediately after bad losses. During the season, the SFL imposed an eight-point penalty on the club for "irregularities" in player payments.

The last straw came in January 2012. Suspecting Chagaev of forging a financial security document, they revoked the club's license and suspended them from the league. The club folded later that month. Shortly afterward, a new club--free of Chagaev's influence--formed under the name Neuchâtel Xamax 1912 and entered the Swiss league's fifth tier for the 2012-13 season. They have since been promoted to the second tier where they currently sit 10 points clear at the top of the table.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

17 January 1920 - A Good Day To Stay At Home

On 17 January 1920, the home teams went undefeated in all 20 matches in England's Football League, as well as the day's two FA Cup games.

At the time, the Football League consisted of only two divisions (though a separate Southern League existed, with two divisions of of its own). While each division consisted of 22 teams, two games were not played, so there were only 20 games total across both divisions.

The results in Division One consisted of eight wins and two draws, including 21st-place Oldham Athletic's 1-0 upset victory of second-place Newcastle. The largest margins were Manchester City's 4-1 win over Arsenal and league-leader West Brom's 5-2 win over Blackburn.

In Division Two, there were nine wins and only one draw, a 1-1 result between Bury and Nottingham Forest, while Lincoln City's 4-0 win over Wolves set the day's largest margin of victory.

There were also two first-round FA Cup matches played that day, with Bradford City beating Portsmouth 2-0 and West Stanley beating Gillingham 3-1.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

16 January 2010 - Messi's Milestone

On 16 January 2010, Lionel Messi scored his 100th goal for Barcelona, becoming the youngest person in club history to hit that milestone.

The goal came in a home league match against Sevilla. The two teams had already met twice that month in the Copa del Rey Round of 16, with Sevilla advancing on away goals after drawing 2-2 on aggregate. In the second leg, which Barcelona won 1-0, Sevilla goalkeeper Andrés Palop repeatedly frustrated Messi, denying him in several one-on-one attempts and preventing him from scoring.

In the league match on 16 January, Palop got off to another good start, keeping the game scoreless through the first half. But shortly after the start of the second half, Barcelona took the lead with a 49th-minute own goal from center back Julien Escudé. A chip from Barça striker Pedro doubled their lead in the 70th minute.

Then Messi struck. In the 84th minute, he scored his record 100th club goal from just outside the six-yard box. At 22 years, six months, and 22 days old, he was the youngest player in club history to score a century. But he didn't stop there, adding another in the first minute of stoppage time to extend the final score to 4-0.

Now eight years later, he has a current total of 611 goals.

Monday, January 15, 2018

15 January 1981 - El Hadji Starts His Pilgrimage

On 15 January 1981, Senegalese striker El Hadji Diouf was born in Dakar. A talented but controversial player, he has spent time with several different clubs across France, England, and Scotland.

He began his professional career with Sochaux in 1998, followed by quick moves to Rennes (1999-2000), and Lens (2000-02). At the latter, he scored 18 goals in 54 league appearances, which--combined with a strong showing for Senegal at the 2002 World Cup in which he helped the team to a quarterfinal berth--attracted the interest of Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier, who signed him that summer for £10 million.

Diouf failed to recapture his previous form and his time at Anfield was overshadowed by a March 2003 UEFA Cup incident in which he spat at a Celtic supporter. At the end of the 2003-04 season--in which Diouf failed to score a single goal--Liverpool sent him on loan to Bolton. There, he began scoring goals again and Bolton made the move permanent in 2005.

After four seasons with Bolton, he moved again, spending time with Sunderland (2008-09) and Blackburn Rovers (2009-11). But his scoring touch deserted him again and he spent the last half of the 2010-11 season on loan in Scotland with Rangers. All along the way, he developed a reputation for being hotheaded, with frequent bookings.

He moved back to England in the summer of 2011 to play for Doncaster Rovers, then joined Leeds United in 2012 after Doncaster's season ended in relegation. He last played for Malaysian club Sabah FA before retiring in 2015.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

13 January 1907 - The Temperature Rises In Turin

On 13 January 1907, Juventus and Torino contested the first Derby della Mole, with Torino winning 2-1.

The two clubs share a history, with Torino forming in 1906 as an offshoot of Juventus. When members of the older club, founded in 1897, considered moving the club out of Turin, a group that included Alfredo Dick created a new club to guarantee a continued presence in the city. The derby's name comes from Turin's  landmark building, the Mole Antonelliana.

They met for the first time in the 1907 Italian Championship, playing a two-legged tie for the right to represent Piedmont in the final round. Torino hosted the first leg at the Velodrome Umberto I and won 2-1 with goals from Federico Ferrari Orsi and Hans Kempher (Juve's goal was scored from the penalty spot by Ernesto Borel). They then won the return leg 4-1 to advance 6-2 on aggregate, but lost the title to Milan.

To date, the teams have played a total of 237 times, with Juventus winning 102, including the most recent meeting on 3 January 2018 in the Coppa Italia. Torino have won 73 times.

Friday, January 12, 2018

12 December 1949 - A Born Leader

On 12 December 1949, two-time Club Coach of the Year Ottmar Hitzfeld was born in Lörrach, West Germany.

As a striker, he enjoyed a successful playing career, including a spell with Basel (1971-75) in which he won two league titles and was once the league's top scorer. After subsequent stints with Stuttgart (1975-78), Lugano (1978-80), and Luzern (1980-83), he moved into management, starting with SC Zug (1983-84) and Aarau (1984-88).

But he rose to prominence with Grasshopper Zürich, where, between 1988 and 1991, he guided the team to two league titles and two Swiss Cups. That earned him a move to the Bundesliga where he led Borussia Dortmund to the championship in 1995 and 1996, then lifted the Champions League trophy in 1997. The latter performance led the IFFHS to name him their Club Coach of the Year.

He then moved to Bayern Munich, where he won another four Bundesliga titles, including the 2001 title when he also claimed a second Champions League trophy. That year, IFFHS again made him their Club Coach of the Year.

Hitzfeld left Bayern in 2004, but returned for a second spell in 2007 and won yet another league title, then left in 2008 to manage Switzerland, where he stayed until his retirement in 2014.