Saturday, March 17, 2018

17 March 2007 - Robinson's Long-Distance Delivery

On 17 March 2007, Tottenham beat Watford with help from a rare goal from keeper Paul Robinson, who scored from 88 yards out.

Spurs were the clear favorites, having risen to eighth in the table after three straight wins, while Watford were  one spot off the bottom by virtue of goal differential. But, playing before a crowd of over 36,000 at White Hart Lane, Spurs took longer than expected to take control of the game, eventually taking a 1-0 lead with a 41st-minute goal from midfielder Jermaine Jenas.

The game was still in the balance midway through the second half when Robinson delivered his unlikely goal. Taking a free kick about five yards outside his own box in the 63rd minute, he sent the ball over the entire Watford defense. It came down in front of keeper Ben Foster, but bounced over his head and into the goal. It was the first (and, to date, only) goal of his career.

Tottenham stretched the lead to 3-0 with a goal from Hossam Ghaly in the 85th minute, but Watford cut the final margin to 3-1 with an 89th-minute strike from Darius Henderson.

Friday, March 16, 2018

18 March 1904 - Austria The Great And Powerful

On 18 March 1904, the Austrian Football Association formed in Vienna and soon controlled one of Europe's most dominant teams.

The national side actually predated the creation of the association, playing a three-game series with Hungary between October 1902 and October 1903, but the establishment of the new governing body opened the door for them to join the newly-founded FIFA in 1905.

They chose not to participate in the first World Cup in 1930, despite being one of Europe's strongest teams. Under manager Hugo Meisl, they played an unbeaten streak of fourteen matches from 1931 to 1932, earning the nickname "Wunderteam," then finished fourth in the 1934 World Cup.

With Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938, the Austrian team ceased to exist as a separate entity until the  end of World War II. During qualification for the 1950 World Cup, they withdrew, claiming that the re-formed team was too inexperienced to compete in the tournament. But four years later, they finished third, which remains their best finish in a World Cup.

 Since then, they have failed to recapture their past glory, participating in only four of fourteen World Cups from 1962 to 2014.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

15 March 1960 - Sometimes, You Have To Spend Money To Make Money

On 15 March 1960, Manchester City paid a club record fee of £55,000 to acquire Denis Law for the first--but not last--time.

Twenty years old at the time, Law had spent the previous five years at Huddersfield Town, who were in the top flight when he signed for them in 1955, but were relegated to Division Two the following year. The drop opened up playing time for Law, who earned his first start in December 1956 and went on to score a total of  19 goals in 91 appearances for the Terriers.

That was enough to attract the interest of several clubs, including Manchester United and Liverpool (whose manager, Bill Shankly was the boss at Huddersfield Town from 1956 to 1959). But City got his signature in March 1960 for £55,000, more than doubling the club's previous record of £25,000 set in 1950 when they bought Roy Paul from Swansea City.

Law spent a little over one year at City, scoring 21 goals in the 1960-61 season. In the summer of 1961, he left for Torino, who paid a then-British record fee of £100,000.

He returned to Manchester one year later to play for United, spending eleven seasons at Old Trafford, where he was named the 1964 European Player of the Year. But he rejoined City on a free transfer in 1973 for his last season. While there, he scored his last competitive goal in an April 1974 match that helped seal United's relegation that year.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

14 March 1974 - More Braces Than An Orthodontist

On 14 March 1974, Zaire won their second Africa Cup of Nations, beating Zambia 2-0 in a replay.

Zaire won their first cup in 1968 when, playing under the name Congo-Kinshasa, they beat Ghana 1-0. A first-round exit followed in 1970, then a fourth-place finish in 1972.

In 1974, they reached the final in large part due to midfielder Ndaye Mulamba (pictured), who scored five goals in the earlier rounds, including the match-winner in their 3-2 victory over Egypt in the semifinals. He had a pair of goals in that game, making it his second brace of the tournament. He got a third in the originally-scheduled final against Zambia, played at the International Stadium in Cairo on 12 March. It ended 2-2 after extra time to force a replay.

When the teams reconvened in Cairo two days later, Mulamba got his fourth brace, scoring in the 30th and 76th minutes to lead Zaire to a 2-0 win. His 9-goal total was the best of the tournament.

Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have never returned to the final, though they did finish in third place in 1998.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

13 March 2011 - A Good Reason To Get There Early

On 13 March 2011, attendees at Milan's match against Bari witnessed a warm-up routine that seemed unreal--because it was.

Milan, who were sitting at the top of the Serie A table while riding an eleven-game unbeaten streak, hosted Bari, the league's bottom team, at the San Siro. While the crowd filtered in, players from both teams took the pitch to warm up. And that's when things got weird.

Instead of the usual warm-up routine, the players engaged in some eccentric activities. Several of them started dancing, with Gennaro Gattuso pairing up with the referee for a bit of ballet. Clarence Seedorf started boxing and Zlatan Ibrahimović tossed a frisbee around. One player donned a swim cap and pretended to swim, while another lay down on the pitch with a newspaper.

As it turned out, all of the players were look-alikes provided by Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sportas a publicity stunt.

The match itself was no less interesting, as Bari managed a 1-1 draw thanks in part to Ibrahimović's ejection for punching Bari's Cartellino Rosso. It wasn't much help for Bari, though, who ended the season at the bottom of the table while Milan won the title.

Monday, March 12, 2018

12 March 1900 - Revenge, Arsenal Style

On 12 March 1900, Arsenal recorded their record league victory, a 12-0 win over Loughborough Town.

The match was a Second Division contest played at Arsenal's Manor Ground in Plumstead, southeast London. Arsenal, who were known at the time as Woolwich Arsenal, had beaten Loughborough 2-3 away nine days earlier, but the teams had some history--Loughborough had handed them their record league defeat, an 8-0 away loss, in December 1896.

Since then, Arsenal hired manager manager Harry Bradshaw, who took over in August 1899 and began to improve the club's fortunes. Bradshaw was on the sideline at the Manor Ground on 12 March when Arsenal got their revenge by pounding Loughborough 12-0. As it turned out, that was Loughborough's last season in the league. They finished dead last in the table and were not re-elected in the spring, then financial woes forced their dissolution later that year.

The win matched Arsenal's overall record, set in an FA Cup match against Ashford United in 1893, but was beaten by a friendly against a Paris XI in 1904, which Arsenal won 26-1. But the 12-0 victory over Loughborough remains their largest league win.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

11 March 1978 - Drogba Rising

On 11 March 1978, Didier Drogba was born in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. He went on to become one of the world's dominant strikers.

Growing up, he spent many years living in France and it was there he started his professional career, joining the youth program at Levallois in 1996, then moving to Le Mans in 1997. In 1998, he signed a professional contract with Le Mans and played there for three and a half years, scoring a total of only 15 goals in 75 appearances before moving to Guingamp for £80,000 in the winter transfer window.

The move sparked his career. In his first full season there, he scored 21 goals, attracting the interest of Marseille who signed him for £3.3M in the summer 2003. After only one remarkable season at Marseille, in which he scored 32 goals across all competitions and was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year, he moved again, this time to Chelsea who paid £24M.

In eight seasons with Chelsea, he scored 157 goals in 341 appearances, making him the fourth-highest goalscorer in club history. He also collected a massive haul of silverware, including three league titles, four FA Cups, and one Champions League trophy.

Along the way, he also captained the Côte d'Ivoire national team and is their all-time leading scorer with 65 goals in 104 appearances.

After leaving Chelsea at the end of his contract in 2012, he spent time with Shanghai Shenhua (2012-13) and Galatasaray (2013-14) before returning to Chelsea for the 2014-15 season. He then played for the Montreal Impact (2015-16) before joining his current club, Phoenix Rising, as player-owner in 2017.