Keeping up disappearances: when both starting goalies are sent off

<span>Photograph: Luca Zennaro/EPA</span>
Photograph: Luca Zennaro/EPA

“This weekend’s Genoa v Milan match in Serie A saw both starting goalkeepers sent off,” writes Derek Robertson. “Has this ever happened in a top European league or international match?”

Olivier Giroud: World Cup winner, bicycle kick connoisseur, male model and now … goalkeeper. The Frenchman had a go between the sticks for Milan, following Mike Maignan’s late red card against Genoa at the weekend, and he did pretty well: keeping a clean sheet by bravely diving at the feet of George Puscas to keep Milan top of Serie A, during a wild injury-time period in which the hosts’ goalkeeper Josep Martínez also saw red for a second yellow.

But two red cards for the two starting goalkeepers is not an isolated incident. It’s not even a unique situation in games featuring sides from Milan.

Back now to 28 March 1992 at San Siro, where Torino’s sweeper-keeper Luca Marchegiani was dismissed for handling outside the box before Inter’s Beniamino Abate was also given his marching orders for a reckless last-man challenge on 70 minutes. The game finished 0-0.

Outside of a top European league or international matches, there are plenty of examples of multiple keepers being sent off, although not always for the opposing sides. We return to an Ecuadorian top-flight match on 1 November 2014, when Barcelona’s keeper Máximo Banguera was given a second yellow for time-wasting. As the substitute goalkeeper Damián Lanza was waiting to replace him, he made baseless accusations against the referee which led to him being sent off before he had even come on. Cue a mass brawl which needed riot police. The match restarted and Barcelona’s nine men did well to lose only 2-1 as two outfield players took turns in goal for the remaining 48 minutes.

It’s been quite tricky to find the exact details of a 2011 youth game in Paraguay between Teniente Farina and Libertad, but seeing as referee Nestor Guillen dismissed all 36 members of both squads, it is impossible that at least two goalkeepers did not get their marching orders. The same case also applies to a 2011 fifth-tier match in Argentina between rival teams Claypole and Victoriano Arenas, where referee Damian Rubino showed a red card to every player and coach for a mass brawl, with Claypole’s manager Sergio Micielli later claiming that the referee overreacted: “Most players were trying to separate people. The ref was confused.”

East Stirlingshire ended up fielding four different goalkeepers during a 2002-03 game against Albion Rovers. Substitute keeper Scott Findlay was called into action after starter Chris Todd had to the leave the field through injury but was sent off shortly afterwards. Striker Graham McLaren took over in goal but he too saw red so defender Kevin McCann was forced to see out the game instead, but did save a penalty in the 3-1 defeat by Rovers. A few years later, in 2011, it was Rovers’ turn to find themselves in a pickle after goalkeeper Derek Gaston and his replacement, Grant Fahey, were dismissed in a 6-2 defeat by Arbroath.

In a role reversal, there was an impressive feat in a Copa Libertadores match between Boca Juniors and Sporting Cristal in 1971 when 19 players were sent off, with only the two goalkeepers and Boca’s Julio Meléndez avoiding dismissal. The match – which would go down in history as the Battle of Bombonera – was abandoned. The day after, all dismissed players were given 30-day jail sentences, though these were quickly rescinded after desperate diplomatic manoeuvring, the Peruvian government insisting Cristal had defended themselves “with honour and nobility”.

Same city misery

As Dirk Maas points out, this question has been asked before, though not answered. Though the start of that question from May 2016 does, conveniently, provide an answer. “Last Saturday was a bad day for football in Stuttgart: all three of the city’s professional football teams were relegated – VfB Stuttgart from the Bundesliga, Stuttgarter Kickers and VfB Stuttgart II from 3 Liga,” wrote Julian Unkel (and several others).

The behind-closed-doors Covid-affected season of 2021 was also a bleak one in Sheffield – the Blades were relegated from the Premier League with 23 points, while Wednesday finished rock bottom of the Championship after a points deduction. Rotherham – not in Sheffield, obviously, though New York Stadium, like the rest of the town, does have a Sheffield postcode – also dropped out of the Championship.

Enda Stevens (right) contemplates another goal conceded for Sheffield United at Wolves during the 2020-21 season.

Given the plethora of London-based teams you’d expect to find a season or two with a deluge of drops but the most our deep dive into the Football League archives could bring up came in 1978-79, when Chelsea and QPR dropped from the top flight and Millwall from the second tier.

One other year of note: in 1921-22, just two teams were relegated from the top flight and two from the second division. Bradford managed to take up 50% of those spots, with City dropping from the first division and Park Avenue from the second.

Fun with maths

Here’s Mitchell Sandler: “If we revive the 1920s experiment of teams playing each other back to back (eg Everton would host Aston Villa on the Saturday and then travel to Villa Park on the following Wednesday) we can manipulate the fixtures so that the three weakest teams (who lose to everyone else) do not meet until the final weeks of the season.

“Meanwhile every other match is won by the home side. This means that after 24 rounds the table would look like this: Teams 1 and 2: W15 L9 45 points; Teams 3 – 17: W14 L10 42 points; Teams 18-20: W0 L24 0 points.

“So, at this point there are 14 rounds left to play giving the bottom three teams a potential maximum of 42 points meaning a loss or draw in round 25 will be enough to confirm the drop.”

Knowledge archive

“These days countries draw their squads from all over the world,” wrote Rick Porter back in 2010. “Nigeria, for example, don’t have a domestically based player in their squad for this year’s tournament. It never used to be the case, I’m sure, but who was the first player at a World Cup finals to play outside his home nation?”

You have to go all the way back to the very first World Cup in 1930, when the Yugoslavia squad boasted a trio of players from France. Ivan Bek and Ljubisa Stefanovic played for FC Sète, while Branislav Sekulic was with Montpellier. Bek would later play for France under the name Yvan Beck and was involved with the French resistance during the second world war.

The first British-based player not playing for one of the home nations at a World Cup was George Robledo in 1950. Robledo had been born in Iquique on the Pacific coast of Chile in 1926, but emigrated to Brampton, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire, at the age of seven. After joining Barnsley in 1943 and then Newcastle in 1949, Robledo joined Chile for the 1950 tournament in Brazil. It would be interesting to know what his teammates made of his Yorkshire accent. More on Robledo, and his brother Ted, can be found here.


Can you help?

“An English manager has yet to win the Premier League and the last manager to win the top flight was Howard Wilkinson in 1992 with Leeds (old First Division),” writes Ben Lyons. “That is 31 years ago and not likely to change anytime soon. Are there any other examples of where the national league has not been won by a manager from that nation’s country over such a long period, at least among the main leagues in Europe?”

Jude Bellingham is arguably the first name on Gareth Southgate’s team sheet despite having never played a minute of top-flight football in England. How many England players can that be said of?” asks Harry Skinner. “I can only think of players such as Owen Hargreaves, David Nugent, and Steve Bull who later played in the Premier League after the national team came calling.”

“Norman Wisdom sported a half-and-half Albania and England shirt at the Quemal Stafe Stadium in Tirana at half-time in a World Cup qualifier in March 2001. Have other famous match attendees worn half-and-half shirts?” wonders Kári Tulinius.

Norman Wisdom entertains the crowd in Tirana.
Norman Wisdom entertains the crowd in Tirana. Photograph: PA Images/Alamy

Mail us your questions or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.