Sportstar's all-time sports classics: Hand of God to magic of Gerrard

As the coronavirus continues to affect sporting events across the globe, we take a look at five classic matches from the past that are worth revisiting.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard kisses the European Cup after beating AC Milan in the final.   -  FILE PHOTO/ GETTY IMAGES

 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced cancellations and postponements of most big-ticket sports tournaments. If the lack of sporting action has left a void in your day, here's something to satiate that hunger — our pick of classic matches from the years gone by that you should revisit.

Argentina vs England, June 22, 1986, World Cup quarterfinal in Mexico City: Diego Maradona’s sublime artistry on the football field saw its best exposition against England in the quarterfinal  at the giant Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. After this tournament, Maradona emerged as the new demi-god of football to challenge the Brazilian great, Pele, who so long had been the reigning deity in the sport’s pantheon. This match, witnessed by more than 100 thousand football enthusiasts, was all about Maradona’s ascendance to football’s hall of fame.

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The match remains as one of the best footballing spectacles especially for the two goals Maradona scored. The first one was an act of brilliant camouflage as Maradona craftily used his hand to score while deceiving the Tunisian referee (Ali Bin Nasser) into believing that he had headed in. Later, his admission, “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God,” added more luster to that brilliant commission of error. The second goal was an example of pure creative genius as Maradona weaved through more than half of the England team to score, which now is celebrated as the ‘Goal of the Century’. Argentina won the match 2-1 and went on to lift the Cup as Maradona continued to inspire.

France vs Brazil, July 12, 1998, World Cup final in Paris: Zinedine Zidane virtually shaped the second renaissance in France with an inspirational performance that saw the Les Blues becoming the football World Champion by beating the mighty Brazil. Stade de France was packed with 80,000 fans, eager to see their country lift the maiden World Cup. Zidane, the Frenchman of Algerian descent, realised this long-held dream of his countrymen with two magnificent jumping headers. This was definitely was the biggest sporting laurel for the country, till then known as the cultural capital of the world. Emanuel Petit completed the scoreline as France downed Brazil 3-0 to lift the Cup and Zidane became the new craze in world football.

France footballer Zinedine Zidane celebrates the World Cup win with team-mates.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Germany vs Brazil, July 8, 2014, World Cup semifinal in Belo Horizonte: The unrelenting German blitzkrieg came true against the five-time world champion Brazil, which was decimated 7-1 in front of the home crowd in an unbelievable semifinal, played at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte. This is the biggest margin of win in the semifinal stage of a World Cup as the Germans pounded the pride of a nation that had won the Cup five times, more than any other country in the globe. The Germans made it 5-0 within the first 30 minutes leaving the host stunned in disbelief.

Brazil's David Luiz is on his kneels after the World Cup semifinal against Germany.   -  FILE PHOTO/AP

 

The German attack was surprisingly efficient on that day as it struck the target on almost every inroad it made into the Brazilian territory. It was natural that Germany became the World Champion, which it did by beating Argentina in the final. The German win also ended a 62-match unbeaten streak at home in competitive matches for Brazil, which had last lost to Peru in a Copa America match in 1975.

Liverpool FC vs AC Milan, May 25, 2005, UEFA Champions League in Istanbul: This arguably is the most competitive final in the Champions League history. Liverpool erased a big deficit of three goals with a spectacular turnaround in the second half. Milan sat on a comfortable lead of 3-0 at half time, little realising the incredible comeback Liverpool will be making after the break.

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Played at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul, the Italian giant found the lead in the opening minute through its captain Paolo Maldini. Argentine great Hernan Crespo struck twice in a span of five minutes to make it a comfortable 3-0 for Milan at half-time. Liverpool made the second half its own with captain Steven Gerrard pulling one back within five minutes following resumption. Vladimir Smicer scored the second for Liverpool soon after and The Reds drew level at the hour mark when Gerrard earned a penalty. Xabi Alonso scored on the rebound after his first attempt from the spot was saved to see the match decided in the tie-breaker; Liverpool won 3-2.

East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan, July 13, 1997, Federation Cup semifinal in Kolkata: The second semifinal of the Federation Cup was arguably the best Kolkata Derby encounter in recent times. More than the action on field, the match drew a massive hype thanks to the war of words engineered by two legendary coaches P.K. Banerjee and Amal Dutta. It was the time when football in the country was pushed to the back-burner as cricket came to overshadow everything. With the cricket World Cup of 1996 still dominating the imagination of the sports lovers in the country, Indian football looked for something extraordinary to regain its space.

Bhaichung Bhutia.   -  FILE PHOTO/SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH

 

The spark was provided by the Mohun Bagan coach Dutta, who spoke of introducing the “Diamond System” to counter East Bengal’s attacking plans. Known for his technical acumen, Dutta seemed to have derived his new strategy from the famous Catenaccio style and started promoting it in the media as an antidote against P.K’s vocal tonic. Not to be left behind, P.K. threw his hat in the ring and came up with a punch line every other day disapproving the opposition coach’s new plan. As an antidote, P.K. prepared Bhaichung Bhutia, who had already announced his arrival as the country leading-striker earning the golden boot for JCT Mills in the inaugural National Football League (1996-97).

This saw a record turnout at the Salt Lake Stadium, which overflew with an attendance of around 30,000. The spectators were not disappointed as Bhutia scored the first hat-trick of Kolkata Derby and P.K. had the last laugh demolishing Dutta’s Bagan 4-1.

(This is a part of a daily series where Sportstar's correspondents will pick their five favourite sporting moments worth revisiting. Reader contributions are welcome. Send in your picks to sportstar@thehindu.co.in)

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