What are the biggest defeats suffered by teams in a title-winning season? | The Knowledge | Football

“What’s the biggest defeat suffered by a team in a title-winning season?” asks Stefan Glosby.

We’re guessing this may well have been prompted by Liverpool’s acid trip 7-2 defeat at Aston Villa. Can a potential title winner absorb such a ridiculous defeat and still go on and claim the big prize? Or does an off day to that extent hint that something is fundamentally wrong?

Let’s set sail on the blip ship with this offering from Alan Gomes, who takes us to Portugal: “I’m not sure this is the biggest, but I can point you to a defeat that became legendary. In December 1986, Sporting beat Lisbon rivals Benfica 7-1.

Rugido Verde
(@RugidoVerde1906)

Sporting – Benfica 7-1! Remember, remember the 14th of December 1986 pic.twitter.com/xSPSxiy1u5


December 14, 2019

“At the time, that was Benfica’s worst ever loss (12 years later they would be pummelled 7-0 by Celta Vigo in the Uefa Cup). However, managed by former Chelsea and QPR centre-half John Mortimore, Benfica picked themselves up and took full advantage of their main rivals, Porto, being distracted by the small matter of winning the European Cup. They won the league, three points ahead of Porto, 11 ahead of Sporting. Indeed, Benfica even won the double that season.”

Rob Davies recalls a game from the English lower leagues that gave him unrealistic expectations: “When Reading won the Third Division in 1986, they lost 6-0 at Walsall. This was my first ever Walsall match and I have never seen them score as many goals since.” James Walker takes us even further down the pyramid: “Surely AFC Fylde 6-0 Macclesfield Town will be up there, this being from the Silkmen’s 2017-18 National League title-winning season.”

But, wait, forget all those (defences being at) sixes and sevens, over in Bulgaria we have an eight. “Beroe won their only Bulgarian title in the 1985-86 season,” writes Edmond Nersezov. “Their biggest defeat was 8-1 against Trakia Plovdiv on 21 December 1985. Despite this, Beroe won the title with 43 points from 30 games, and Trakia finished second with 41 points.”

Are we inevitably hurtling towards double figures? Nathan Atkinson, among others, goes back more than 100 years to ramp the shame up to nine. “My mind was immediately drawn to an extraordinary Tyne-Wear derby that took place in the 1908-09 season,” he begins. “My team, Newcastle, looked well on their way to winning a third title from five (those were the days!). But they hit an almighty roadblock on 5 December at St James’ Park. Drawing 1-1, their world fell apart in an extraordinary 28-minute second-half spell, which saw the Mackems score eight, ensuring the game finished 9-1. But Newcastle went on to win seven consecutive games, starting on New Year’s Day, and ended up winning the league with 53 points, at the time a new record. Even more extraordinarily, they finished with the league’s best defensive record.”

But we’ll see your nine, and raise you this from Chris Page. His first example needs a VAR check but his second is legit: “We could go further afield if we allowed for defeats in Europe. Valletta FC were able to compensate themselves with a Maltese league title in 1983-84 following a first-round exit from the Cup Winners’ Cup against Rangers. After losing the first leg at home 8-0, they followed that up with a 10-0 thrashing at Ibrox.

“If we’re just looking at league defeats, however, then I give you the 1968 Norwegian First Division. Eventual champions Lyn only lost four matches, but one of those was a 10-1 collapse at Stromsgodset. They also lost the return 6-1.” Poor from Lyn. Hope they were dropped at a cab rank.

Keepers banned for regular villainy

“Have any goalkeepers had to serve a ban because of an accumulation of yellow cards during a season?” asks Adam Burgoyne.

Daniel Bickermann takes us to Germany. “The answer is yes. But then again, it’s more complicated. Here are all the Bundesliga goalkeepers who received a one-game suspension due to an accumulation of yellow cards:

Georg Koch (Kaiserslautern, 2000-01): seven yellows
Timo Hildebrand (Stuttgart, 2000-01)
Michael Hofmann (1860 München 2003-04)
Jens Lehman (Borussia Dortmund, 2000-01)
Franz Wohlfahrt (Stuttgart, 1998-99): all five yellows

“Ignoring the obvious question of what was in those goalkeeper drinking bottles during that hyper-aggressive 2000-01 season, the reason why those are all Bundesliga keepers is best explained through perennial alpha male Jens Lehman: he did not get banned in the 2006-07 season playing for Arsenal, although he collected eight bookings. See, in Germany five yellows automatically means a one-game ban. In the Premier League, as long as you pace yourself and don’t rush your yellow cards, you can theoretically go up to 14 yellow cards in 38 games without receiving a suspension.” Just to be clear, Premier League players with four bookings or less have their tally wiped on (usually) the 31 December and the 10 yellow card count is reset (usually) on the second Sunday in April. Obviously coronavirus will affect those dates this season.

Jens Lehmann



Jens Lenhman: never banned for collecting yellow cards in the Premier League. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Another poet and we didn’t know it

Justin Horton writes: “Richard Smith mentions Lewis Kenny, poet-in-residence to Bohemians. It shouldn’t be overlooked that Ian McMillan, who among many other things is presenter of Radio Three’s The Verb, was appointed to the same post at Barnsley many years ago.”

Knowledge archive

“With Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat by Monaco in the 2004 Champions League semi-final in mind, what is the worst result achieved by a team with a numerical advantage?” enquired Muir MacKean in March 2006.

Tottenham conceding four in a half against 10-man Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round in February 2004 has got to be right up there. The match really did unfold as follows: “At 3-0 down at the end of first half, Joey Barton got sent directly to the showers for being the impetuous oik he is,” recalled Tom Storr, “but City went on to win 4-3, Jon Macken simultaneously scoring the winner and doing the best thing he’s ever done.” Since then, in 2008 Everton contrived to lose 3-1 at Anfield despite Liverpool having Steven Gerrard sent off in the 18th minute with the score 1-1.

The Knowledge

Can you help?

“At the time of writing, Liverpool are top of the Premier League despite having conceded more goals than any other team in the division (West Brom have since conceded one more),” writes David Harald Cauthery. “Are there other examples of teams with the worst defensive record in a league being top?”

Richard Wilson
(@timomouse)

What’s the shortest football game of all time? Inspired by this find from the weekend in the Serbian Fifth tier… https://t.co/kEyt1hrkpm


November 3, 2020

“Matt Sadler scored for Walsall on Tuesday, which is a bit like a player called John Red Devil scoring for Manchester United. Any other examples of players with the same name as their team’s nickname?” wonders Tom England.

Jack Tanner
(@mrjacktanner)

What have been the most famous or most notable instances of a goalkeeper scoring the winning penalty in a shootout? (not including ones that bumped themselves up the order ala Ricardo)


November 3, 2020

“QPR somehow contrived to score a last-minute winner against Cardiff after conceding two second-half penalties to surrender a two-goal lead. This makes it five penalties conceded in our last four matches. What is the record number of penalties conceded in a single season?” asks Sean Bell.

Dara O’Reilly
(@Dara_bhur_gCara)

This is one for @TheKnowledge_GU , isn’t it? Is there any other full-back pairing in world football with such a height differential?


November 1, 2020

“Dundalk did not make a single foul in 90 minutes against Arsenal,” begins Dean Whearty. “They only made 18 tackles which is less than the 20 fouls Arsenal committed in the whole match. Any more instances of a team committing zero fouls in a game?”

Send your questions and answers to knowledge@theguardian.com or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU.


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