Thriller Nights and Horror Shows: Halloween Football

27/10/16

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With Halloween on the horizon, the Kitbag.com blog is pleased to present our pick of the fixtures from seasons past, as the Premier League’s finest took to the field on October 31st.

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1992     Manchester United 0 Wimbledon 1

Four years on from his FA Cup Final magic against Liverpool, big club bogeyman Lawrie Sanchez netted another famous winner on 31 October 1992, getting on the end of a free-kick at the near-post to help Wimbledon snag a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. Darkness would descend on Manchester that night with United rooted in seventh; and their nightmare would continue the following weekend, as Alex Ferguson’s team were beaten by the same scoreline at Aston Villa, plummeting perilously to tenth. However, it was a nightmare they would quickly wake up from, avoiding defeat in all but two of their remaining 27 fixtures. By the time United visited the Crazy Gang in May, they would be the inaugural Premier League champions.

1994     Queen’s Park Rangers 2 Liverpool 1

Liverpool were spooked by the glare of the Sky Sports cameras in 1994; the bloodcurdling screams of their travelling support relayed to the nation, live on Monday Night Football. Opponents Queen’s Park Rangers seized the advantage when Trevor Sinclair ghosted in front of John Scales, heading past ghoulkeeper David James in the 28th minute. Liverpool though bit back, when John Barnes finished a smart one-two exchange with prolific teammate Ian Rush. Then, in the game’s key moment, an eye-wincing clash between Steves Hodge and McManaman freed Clive Wilson to feed Les Ferdinand; the QPR forward bamboozling the outrushing James with a decisive two-touch finish. The nightmare on Loftus Road saw the Reds miss the chance to move third, as Rangers scuttled away from the relegation pack.

1995     European Nightmares

Coming a matter of days after the release of Smashing Pumpkins’ defining double-album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Halloween evening in 1995 proved a night full of sorrow for British clubs in Europe. After losing an exciting first leg 5-3 at Elland Road, Leeds United needed a big performance to eliminate PSV Eindhoven, only to be swept aside by their Dutch opponents in the UEFA Cup. Meanwhile at Anfield, a dramatic Dan Eggen effort inside the final 15 minutes helped Brondy upset Liverpool and eliminate the two-time winners. Elsewhere, Scotland’s Raith Rovers’ European dreams were dashed by Bayern Munich, while the only bright spot of the evening came at the City Ground, as Forest drew blanks against Auxerre, yet did enough to squeak through 1-0 on aggregate, following their win in France.

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1996     Liverpool 6 Sion 3

Halloween was a true thriller night at Anfield in 1996, as Roy Evans’ Reds revived themselves in zombie fashion to metaphorically munch on the footballing brains of Swiss opponents Sion. Liverpool had edged the first leg in Switzerland, but fell two goals adrift in the return, to leave their European Cup Winners’ Cup hopes hanging on the edge of a cliff face. Then, after goals from Steve McManaman and Stig Inge Bjørnebye had hauled them level, Liverpool leaked a third goal; only for John Barnes, Robbie Fowler and Patrick Berger to race to the Merseysiders’ rescue. Fowler’s brace put the tie beyond the Swiss, after a rollercoaster ride of two-legged twists and turns. They would eventually progress as far as the semi-finals.

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2000     Tranmere Rovers 3 Leeds United 2 (AET)

Tranmere were carving headstones for Premier League opponents left and right around the turn of the millennium, with Sunderland, Everton and Southampton all laid to waste in the FA Cup. On Halloween night in 2000, it would be high-flying Leeds United’s turn, as David O’ Leary’s skeleton side surrendered a 2-0 lead at Prenton Park to dramatically depart the League Cup. Having already tendered his resignation twice that season, manager John Aldridge saw his Tranmere team come back from the brink that evening; Rovers taking their visitors to extra-time, before Andy Parkinson’s last-gasp effort handed Leeds’ League Cup challenge a death knell blow in the 120th minute. A true Y2K disaster for the 1996 finalists.

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2007     Chelsea 4 Leicester City 3

Chelsea suffered an almighty scare in the last 16 of the 2007-08 League Cup; the then-holders taken to extra-time, by a Leicester City team who would be relegated to English football’s third tier at the end of the season. Though Northern Ireland international Gareth McAuley had broken the deadlock in the Foxes’ favour, a Frank Lampard brace before the interval seemed to suggest that normal service had been resumed. However, Leicester fought back following the restart and, after DJ Campbell equalised, a tap-in from Carl Cort looked to put Chelsea out for the count. Nevertheless, the greatest drama was reserved for the final three minutes of play, as Andriy Shevchenko dragged Chelsea kicking and screaming level, before Lampard completed his hat-trick at the death. Leicester City were out… and were soon to be down.

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2010     Newcastle United 5 Sunderland 1

Halloween in 2010 left the Black Cats cursing their luck, as Newcastle United conjured up a terrifying scenario for northeast rivals Sunderland in the veritable cauldron of St. James’ Park. The afternoon began in ominous fashion, as Kevin Nolan’s deadly double helped the Magpies into a commanding two-goal lead, before Shola Ameobi made matters worse with a penalty before the break. Sunderland’s horror show continued in the second half, as Titus Bramble was sent off for upending Toon forward Andy Carroll. Teammates Ameobi and Nolan then went on to grab another goal apiece, the latter completing his hair-raising hat-trick, before Darren Bent’s last-minute volley offered a scarred side Sunderland scant consolation.

2012     Chelsea 5 Manchester United 4 (AET)

Finally, the Halloween tricks and treats were in no short supply in 2012, as Chelsea and Manchester United served up a spook-tacular scoreline at Stamford Bridge, befitting of the late-October occasion. Ringing the changes for the League Cup tie, United boss Alex Ferguson gave the stage to a slew of fresh blood, yet it was veteran star Ryan Giggs who broke the deadlock, firing into the bottom corner to claim his final League Cup goal from open play. Chelsea rose from the dead three different times that night, with David Luiz, Gary Cahill and finally Eden Hazard cancelling out further efforts from Javier Hernandez and Nani. The thrills then continued in extra-time, with Daniel Sturridge and Brazilian Ramires putting Chelsea in front, before Giggs tucked away a penalty of his own, with the witching hour approaching.

2016     Dogfight in the Potteries

This year’s Halloween serves up a salivating six-pointer, as struggling Stoke and Swansea scrap it out in the Premier League. The Potters had suffered four straight defeats after their opening day draw with Middlesbrough, only for a surge of form from Welsh international Joe Allen to help them claim a valuable point at Old Trafford and a 2-0 win over cellar-dwellers Sunderland. Repeating the margin of victory at Hull last weekend, Stoke’s mini-revival will be a cause of concern for the visitors, with the Swans’ wings clipped by an eight-game winless streak (their single  victory to date coming at Burnley in August). With both teams facing a long and arduous season, the importance of this fixture is palpable, even at this formative stage. While Halloween may be the theme this Monday, the fireworks could come early. AC

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Photography

  1. Costumed Supporter by Ed Sykes, Action Images
  2. PSV Eindhoven vs Leeds United (1995) by Action Images
  3. Liverpool vs Sion (1996) by Darren Walsh, Action Images
  4. Tranmere Rovers vs Leeds United (2000) by David Davies, Action Images
  5. Chelsea vs Leicester City (2007) by Tony O’ Brien, Action Images
  6. Mark Hughes, Stoke City by Jason Cairnduff, Action Images

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