On This Day in Football History – 29 May: Busby Babes’ Redemption, Underdog Triumphs & Arsenal’s Baku Woes

Chelsea vs Arsenal – Europa League Final | OZAN KOSE/Getty Images

Following yesterday’s announcement, we can enjoy these nostalgic ‘OTD’ bits knowing full well Premier League football will be returning to our screens in the very near future,

Nevertheless, today we focus on 29 May, and the moments of supreme glee and ultimate despair this day’s brought football fans in the years gone by.

Let’s have a gander…

A decade removed from tragedy, Manchester United achieved redemption.

Ten years of rebuilding with Sir Matt Busby at the helm culminated in the 1968 European Cup final at Wembley.

Sir Bobby Charlton – one of only two survivors from the Munich air disaster – opened the scoring early in the second period against a Eusébio-inspired Benfica side, before Jaime Graça crashed home an equaliser ten minutes from time to force the game into extra time.

The Red Devils blew their Portuguese opponents away in the extended period, however, as goals from Charlton, George Best and Brian Kidd within ten minutes of the restart secured a 4-1 win and United’s maiden European crown.

(FILES) A file picture taken 29 May 1985(FILES) A file picture taken 29 May 1985
Juventus would go on to win the ’85 European Cup final 1-0 following the pre-match tragedy | -/Getty Images

On this day, we remember the 39 fans who went to watch the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus and tragically never returned.

A number of Juventini were crushed after several groups of Liverpool hooligans breached the neutral zone separating the two sets of supporters. The collapse of the concrete retaining wall saved the lives of hundreds, but many had suffocated beforehand.

The aftermath saw 14 Liverpool fans charged for manslaughter, while all English clubs were placed under an indefinite ban by UEFA from entering European competitions. This ban was eventually lifted in 1990.

“The darkest hour in the history of the UEFA competitions.”

Red Star Belgrade v Marseille – Champions League Final | AFP/Getty Images

Although a forgettable final for the masses, it’s one Red Star Belgrade fans will never forget.

Inspired by Dejan Savićević – the scorer of that lob in Milan’s ’94 victory over Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ – and a young Siniša Mihajlović, Ljupko Petrović’s gegenpressers – way before the term became universal – faced up against the ‘Galacticos’ side of that era in the 1991 European Cup final: Marseille.

However, despite boasting the likes of Jean-Pierre Papin, Chris Waddle and Abedi Pele in attack, the French outfit weren’t able to break through a resolute Red Star backline, with the game forced to penalties.

The Yugoslavian’s were perfect from the spot and after Manuel Amoros missed Marseille’s first attempt, Darko Pančev blasted Red Star’s fifth effort home to secure a magical triumph.

Nicolas PepeNicolas Pepe
Nicolas Pépé is celebrating his 25th birthday today | Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

That’s right, Arsenal’s £72m man was in introduced to the world on this day in 1995.

Born in Mantes-la-Jolie in the north of France, Pépé grew up in Paris and enjoyed much of his youth career between the sticks as a goalkeeper.

He eventually transformed into a winger and after a four-year spell with Angers, he earned a €10m move to Lille in 2017 – where, following a majestic 2018/19 campaign, he rose to prominence.

And although many have been quick to write off the innovative Ivorian’s debut season in north London, the 25-year-old has still been able to muster 14 goal contributions and is set to be a key spoke in Mikel Arteta’s wheel at the Emirates.

Reading v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Play Off FinalReading v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final
Reading v Huddersfield Town – Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final | Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Following a 19th-place finish the season prior, Huddersfield’s priority target for the 2016/17 campaign was survival, anything else was a bonus.

But as a result of some shrewd business in the transfer market which saw Aaron Mooy, Elias Kachunga and Izzy Brown brought in on loan deals alongside £1.9m man Christopher Schindler, the Terriers exceeded all expectations.

David Wagner’s side finished the Championship campaign in fifth and after overcoming Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in the play-off semi-finals, Wagner’s warriors were one game away from a simply unthinkable Premier League berth.

Reading stood in their way, however, and following a typically tight and tense final, the game was to be decided via a shootout. Back-to-back misses from Liam Moore and Jordan Obita proved detrimental for the Royals, though, as Schindler blasted Huddersfield into the top-flight from 12 yards.

Kepa ArrizabalagaKepa Arrizabalaga
Chelsea v Arsenal – UEFA Europa League Final | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Unai Emery’s Arsenal, chasing just their second piece of major European silverware and their first since 1994, headed into last year’s Europa League final confident of overturning a Chelsea side who, despite finishing third in the Premier League, had flattered to deceive in Maurizio Sarri’s one and only term at the helm.

And when the two sides headed into the break at 0-0, the Gunners would’ve been confident of securing victory. This was an Arsenal side which had often enjoyed second-half resurgences throughout Emery’s maiden campaign.

But then…Eden Hazard happened.

The Belgian dazzled after the restart as he spearheaded an emphatic 4-1 victory over the Blues’ London rivals. He set up Pedro for his side’s second after Olivier Giroud – pre-“thank you, Arsenal” mocks – had headed home the opener against his former employers, before he bagged a brace to round off the perfect farewell.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.