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Goals That Changed History – Costinha

6 Feb

Old Trafford 9 March 2004: It would be ludicrous to suggest Jose Mourinho owes his success to one goal.  Two Champions League wins, a UEFA Cup success and league titles in Portugal, England and Italy can be attributed to outstanding man-management skills, meticulous attention to detail and superb tactical awareness.

However, would Mourinho’s rise to the top of European club football have been so rapid had his FC Porto side not upset Manchester United at Old Trafford in their last 16 tie in Europe’s premier club competition?

After losing the first leg 2-1, the home side seemed to be in control after Paul Scholes headed home on 31 minutes.  However as the game moved into injury time, the visitors were still hanging on in there, winning a free-kick outside the United penalty area.

Tim Howard could only palm Benny McCarthy’s strike back into play and as the American keeper collided with his left-hand post, Costinha scooped the ball into the unguarded net.  Cue Mourinho’s sprint down the touchline.

Porto’s win blew the competition wide open and they went onto eliminate Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna before comfortably seeing off Monaco 3-0 in the final in Gaelsencherkin.  Porto were champions of Europe for the second time (also in 1987) and significantly, it was one of those rare occasions in the Champions League era when the winner of the competition has come from outside of the big four European leagues of England, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Mourinho left Portugal for England, and Chelsea, before the start of the following season.  His career, and his many successes along the way since then, have been well documented.

There is surely no doubting that even if Costinha hadn’t scored, and Porto had slipped out of the competition at the stage they were expected to, then Mourinho would have gone onto bigger and better things.  He already had a growing reputation following his domestic successes in Portugal and that victory over Celtic in Seville the previous year.

Mourinho’s personality hasn’t done him any harm over the past decade either.  Articulate, charismatic and treading a fine line between confidence and arrogance, the media love him and he is never out of the news for long.

However, it is equally fair to suggest that upsetting Manchester United and going on to win the competition raised Mourinho’s credibility, and his profile, to a new level.  If he was able to win the Champions League with a team from one of European football’s ‘lesser’ leagues on limited resources, what was to stop him doing the same with one of the games financial superpowers?

Roman Abramovich clearly thought the same, though Mourinho never did deliver the ultimate prize to Stamford Bridge.

Costinha’s late equaliser on that night in Manchester, was not only to have huge implications for his club, but also on the longer-term career of his then coach.

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Goals That Changed History – Ralph Milne

19 Dec

Celtic Park 20 April 1983: Celtic’s clash with Dundee United would go a long way to determining who would win the Scottish Premier Division title.  Going into the match the home side were in the driving seat and another two points would make them strong favourites to clinch a third successive league title.

This was however, by no means a two-horse race.  Also in contention were Aberdeen, who would end the season by winning the European Cup Winners Cup in Gothenburg.  What would the SPL give now to have three evenly matched sides challenging for the league title?

Given what was at stake, it’s hardly surprising that the match was such a highly charged affair with five goals, a red card and an outcome that proved crucial in deciding the ultimate destination of the league championship trophy.

There was also no shortage of quality on display, which is hardly surprising when considering some of the players in the  starting line-ups: with Paul McStay, Charlie Nicholas, Davie Provan, Richard Gough, Paul Sturrock and Eamonn Bannon involved, brains were always likely to win over brawn.

Early pressure from United paid off when Paul Hegarty scored following an error from Roy Aitken.  However, the sides went in level after Nicholas equalised from the penalty spot his 47th goal of the season.

Just 7 minutes after the restart, the visitors regained control.  After Murdo McLeod pulled back Davie Dodds, Bannon made it 2-1 from the resulting spot-kick.  However, United’s hopes of holding onto their lead suffered a massive blow when Richard Gough received a second yellow card following an alteration with Provan.

The extra man advantage looked to be working in Celtic’s favour when Tommy Burns levelled the contest with just over a quarter on an hour to go.  However, the away side were not to be denied.

With 6 minutes left Bannon hooked a cross in from the right.  It was controlled by Ralph Milne – on his chest – before the midfielder unleashed a volley from around twenty-five yards out.  Pat Bonner in the Celtic goal was powerless as the ball dropped under the crossbar and sealed a memorable win for the visitors.

The win kept United in contention for the title but Celtic were still were top of the table.  That all changed the following week as United overcame Kilmarnock 4-0, Celtic lost by a single goal at Aberdeen.

Despite never having won the championship in their history, United did not show any sign of nerves during the run-in, rather they seemed to thrive on being the new league leaders.  Comfortable victories over Morton and Motherwell meant that another win on the final day, against local rivals Dundee, would clinch the title.

Another stunning goal from Milne, this time a chip from just outside the opposition box, helped United to a 2-1 win and they were confirmed as worthy champions, finishing a point ahead of Celtic and Aberdeen.  Prior to manager Jim McLean’s appointment, the club had never won a domestic trophy but the championship added to the two League Cups he had delivered in 1979 and 1980.

In domestic terms, United failed to build on that success with the title never having returned to Tannadice since.  However, when it came to European competition, they proved to be formidable opposition in the years that followed.

The season after winning the league, United reached the semi-final of the European Cup, only falling to Roma in circumstances which have later been shown to be dubious, to say the least.  Had they managed to reach the final, United would have been underdogs against eventual winners Liverpool, but they would have been more than capable of causing an upset.

Three years later, United’s UEFA Cup run saw them memorably defeat Barcelona home and away before eventually losing in the final to IFK Gothenburg.

As for Ralph Milne, he left Tannadice in 1987 and following spells with Charlton Athletic and Bristol City, he joined Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.  He failed to make his mark at Old Trafford and fans south of the border may not remember Milne with any great fondness.  However, anyone in Scotland who seen him play will remember a gifted midfield player who contributed to one of the most significant league title wins in the history of the Scottish game.

 

Goals That Changed History – Alessandro Calori

24 Oct

Stadio Renato Curi 14 May 2000: It shouldn’t have come to this.  With eight games left in the 1999/00 season, Juventus held a comfortable nine point lead over Lazio at the top of Serie A.  However, losses to Lazio, Milan and Verona meant that going into the last day of the campaign, Juve held only a one-point advantage – a win at Perugia was required to secure a third Scudetto in 4 years.

Lazio had to defeat Reggina at the Stadio Olimpico and hope that 85 miles away, Juventus would slip up.  The side from Rome did all they could, recording a routine 3-0 victory with goals from Simone Inzaghi, Juan Sebastian Veron and Diego Simeone.

The real drama came in the other match.  To say that the weather conditions at the Renato Curi were poor would be putting it mildly.  The torrential rain became such an issue that referee Perluigi Collina delayed the start of the second-half.  Collina then wandered around the sodden pitch – ball in one hand, umbrella in the other – trying to decide if it was at all playable.

The contest did eventually resume.  A free-kick from the left wasn’t properly cleared and the ball fell kindly for Alessandro Calori – the centre-back guiding a right-footed shot past Edwin Van Der Sar.  Juventus’ chances of regaining parity then suffered a blow when Gianluca Zambrotta was sent-off.

It just wasn’t their day.  Despite having a side containing the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Zinedine Zidane and Edgar Davids, Juve failed to reply.  The other Inzaghi – Pippo – squandered possibly their best opportunity, sending a side-footed volley over the bar from close range.

Perugia held on for the win, sparking wild celebrations in Rome amongst Lazio players and fans, their match having long since finished.  For the side from the capital, it was only the second league title in their history, matching the achievement of 1974.

Juventus bounced back from the blow of losing the championship on the last day, landing the Serie A title again in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006.  However, the last two of those titles were stripped from them as a result of the Calciopoli scandal.

Lazio were also caught up in the match-fixing saga.  An initial punishment of demotion to Serie B was later reduced to a points deduction.  By this time, the financial position of the club had altered dramatically, with huge debts having been amassed during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  The days of spending fortunes on world-class players were over.

Not surprisingly, guiding his side to a championship also boosted the career prospects of Lazio coach, Sven Goran Eriksson.  Less than a year later he was gone, as he took charge of the English national team.  Would he have been such an attractive proposition had Calori not struck that crucial last-day goal?  We’ll never know, though given his failure to land an international title, some England fans will no doubt wish that his success in Italy hadn’t brought him to the top of the FA’s list.

Goals That Changed History – Mark Robins

25 May

City Ground 7th January 1990: If ever one goal changed history, this was it.  Manchester United arrived at Nottingham Forest for an FA Cup tie as a team in crisis: without a win in eight games, United were 15th (yes, 15th) in the league table.  Injuries to the likes of Bryan Robson and Paul Ince meant that the prospect of a victory at Forest looked remote, and media speculation suggested that defeat would mean the end of Alex Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford.

However, a Mark Robins header ten minutes into the second-half secured an unexpected win for the visitors and kept the manager in a job.  This wasn’t Robins’ only contribution during the cup run, as he also scored the winner in the semi-final replay against Oldham Athletic.  United went on to lift the trophy after beating Crystal Palace in the final, courtesy of another replay and the rest, as they say, is history.

How different would English football look had Forest, and not United, triumphed in that cup tie more than 21 years ago?  Had Ferguson gone, it’s fair to say that United may not have enjoyed the success that they did in the 1990’s and beyond.  The title finally returned to Old Trafford in 1993 after a 26-year wait, but that drought could have been much longer if Ferguson had been replaced, and his successor hadn’t made his mark.

Would this in turn have led to Arsenal or Jack Walker-funded Blackburn Rovers becoming the dominant force in the English game? Would Liverpool and Everton have had the chance to regroup and repeat the glories of the 1980’s? Maybe, but we’ll never know.

As for Ferguson himself, it would have been interesting to see how he tried to resurrect his career, had he failed in Manchester.  Five months after the cup-tie at Forest, Scotland made their customary first-round exit from the World Cup, a campaign which included a loss to Costa Rica.  Had Ferguson been available at this point in time he would undoubtedly have been the frontrunner to replace Andy Roxburgh.

It’s more likely though that Ferguson would have remained in club management.  He had outgrown Scottish football and he may have struggled to land another top job in England, so a move abroad may have appealed.

The English football landscape would look very different today, had Robins not stooped to head home a cross from Mark Hughes that night in Nottingham.  Manchester United fans must be glad he did.

Goals That Changed History – Emil Kostadinov

14 Apr

Parc De Princes 17 November 1993: After looking like absolute certainties to qualify for the following year’s World Cup in the USA, France’s hopes hang in the balance.  A shock defeat to Israel has left the French with a winner-takes-all clash against Bulgaria in their final group game.  In the dying minutes, the match is tied at 1-1, Eric Cantona’s first-half goal for the home side being quickly cancelled out by Emil Kostadinov.

The French look like they’ve done enough when David Ginola receives the ball in the Bulgarian half from a short free-kick taken by Vincent Guerin.  All he has to do is head for the corner-flag with the ball and run down the clock.

Unfortunately for Ginola, he decides on another course of action – his cross into the opposing box is wildly overhit and allows Bulgaria to break.  A ball over the top finds Emil Kostadinov and as he heads in on goal from the inside-right channel, he slams it home from a difficult angle.

That was it for the French.  There was no way back after such a hammer blow, so late in the contest.  Instead it was Bulgaria who went to USA 94’ and acquitted themselves in some style – the side containing Stoichkov, Letchov and that man Kostadinov made it all the way to the semi-finals, before falling to a Roberto Baggio inspired Italy.

Immediately after the defeat, much of the attention focused on Ginola, and his inexplicable decision to voluntarily concede possession so late in the game.  The winger claimed that manager Gerard Houllier called him “the murderer of the French team”.  Houllier not surprisingly, has a different version of events.  He has admitted that he was indeed unhappy with Ginola, but states this was down to the player telling the French media that he should be selected ahead of Jean-Pierre Papin.   Cantona was also rumoured to have clashed with Ginola over the same issue.

However, regardless of any in-fighting, the fact remains that France missed out on the World Cup for the second successive finals, despite the fact they should already have booked their place long before Bulgaria came calling.

In hindsight, this result was the best thing that could have happened to French football.  Reaching the USA may have merely papered over the cracks, defeat however left them exposed for the world to see.  Houllier left his post and was replaced by Aime Jacquet, while Ginola, Cantona and Papin amongst others, reached the end of their international careers.  This allowed for the introduction of a new generation of players including Christophe Dugarry, Lillian Thuram, and of course, Zinedine Zidane.  The rest is history: a semi-final place at Euro 96 was followed by World Cup victory as hosts in 1998 and glory at Euro 2000 when arguably, Les Blues were at the peak of their powers.

Few French fans will have fond memories of that infamous night in Paris more than 17 years ago.  However, given the resulting upturn in the fortunes of their national side, perhaps Emil Kostadinov is due a thank you, or a merci.