10 0-0 Draws that WERE worth watching!

Filed under England, Europe, International, Misc

On Tuesday night, Chelsea and Liverpool played out a scintillating 90 minutes of football in which they both failed to find the net. It got me thinking – what made this game so interesting in comparison to the plethora of stalemates that we put ourselves through week after week on television and in the stands? Was it that both teams were going blood and thunder for a goal in a competition which is becoming increasingly exciting through its irrelevancy? Was it that there were a number of violent/ controversial incidents involving Diego Costa? Or was it that both goalkeepers were on top form and that at the end of the day, a great goalkeeping performance is just as enjoyable as a high scoring classic? I believe all of these factors contributed to a simply gripping 90 minutes and this match would have made the list for sure had it not been for Branislav Ivanovic’s extra time headed winner. What follows is a list of 10 0-0 draws that were worth the viewers’ time and effort despite their lack of goals. This is a story of tension, heartbreak and tediousness, proof that football can still entice at its most conservative.

Even when the ball doesn't hit the back of the net, a game can still be exciting!

Even when the ball doesn’t hit the back of the net, a game can still be exciting!

Holland v Italy (3-1 penalties), European Championship semi-final, Amsterdam ArenA, 29/06/2000

The oranje dream came crumbling down in Amsterdam on this mind-numbingly frustrating evening during Euro 2000. Just after the 30 minute mark, Gianluca Zambrotta was sent off for an obvious second bookable offence after taking out Boudewijn Zenden. What followed was the stereotypical Italian defensive performance with all the organisation, conservatism and time-wasting you’d expect from the Azzuri. Just a few minutes after the sending off, the Dutch won a penalty, only for Frank De Boer’s spot kick to be saved by Toldo in the Italian goal. The Dutch earned themselves a second penalty in the second half with Patrick Kluivert’s seemingly super accurate kick to rebound off the post. This was certainly a precursor for the heart-breaking penalties which were to follow. Not that the Italian defence shouldn’t be praised despite the giveaway of the two penalties, with Cannavaro and Nesta putting in the kind of performances which would turn them into defensive legends of the modern game. The outcome during the shoot-out was both predictable and ridiculous, with De Boer, Bosvelt and Jaap Stam (with a shocking Row Z kick) missing for the Dutch. Italy would go on to an equally excellent final, with every Dutchman in the country celebrating their golden goal loss to France.

Italy v England, World Cup qualifier, Olympic Stadium, 11/10/1997

It seems for any England fan that any moment of tension comes with an inevitable moment of tragedy. The next two examples on this list may prove this notion to be ever so slightly false, although I’m not going to deny that I could think of 10 tragic England moments at the drop of a hat. But, we must not dwindle on these past mistakes when we can always recall an incredible night in Rome in which England kept out those pesky conservative Italians on their own patch to qualify for the 1998 World Cup (Which would end in tragedy, but I’m deviating again). In the last match of Paul Gascoigne’s international career, England played the Italians at their own game with a stunning and very un-English display of defensive solidity. The Italians best chance came in the dying stages when Christian Vieri missed the kind of opportunity he would gobble up for years to come in the European leagues. The other notable incident of this match was Paul Ince’s bloody head injury, which saw him play with a bandage and a bloodied shirt for the large majority of the game. It might not have been great for the neutral, but for the England fan, it was a rare show of defiance in a footballing story so often dominated by collapse.

England vs Spain (4-2 Pens), European Championships 1996, Wembley, 22/06/1996

Just to revel in this rare moment of England related optimism, I thought I’d include this classic day during an equally classic tournament during the summer of 1996. England were coming off their euphoric 4-1 victory over the Dutch and were now looking to defeat a Spain side that included the legendary Fernando Hierro. But, for a large part of the game, Spain effectively frustrated England and their hot shot, Alan Shearer. It was in fact the Spanish who had the best opportunities during the game, they were twice denied by an offside flag and by England’s inspirational moustache-wearing goalkeeper, David Seaman. Shearer’s few forays away from the Spanish defence saw him uncharacteristically off his game, failing to score from close range after a great Gascoigne through ball. It was the aforementioned Hierro who missed Spain’s first attempt, but this penalty shootout only really belonged to one man, Stuart Pearce. Hoping to lay the ghost of his penalty miss against West Germany 6 years earlier, Pearce stepped up with the blood visibly coursing through his veins and dispatched a brilliant penalty before celebrating with the kind of relief that only a man who had experienced 6 years of pain could display. One more Seaman save and England went through. Obviously, penalty heartache would follow, but for one day in 1996, England fans could actually celebrate a penalty shoot-out victory. How times have changed, right?

Arsenal vs Manchester United, Premier League, Old Trafford, 21/09/2003

Of all the crazy Arsenal vs Manchester United fixtures of the late90s and early 2000s, it is perhaps the one which provided the viewer without any goal scoring action that lingers longest in the memory. Named the “Battle of Old Trafford” retrospectively, this was a tie with all the controversy and ridiculousness of a typical Fergie vs Wenger fixture. This game became the closest Arsenal would come to having their undefeated record blemished during their “invincibles” season. Yet, they appeared anything but composed and cosmopolitan in this fixture with Patrick Vieira sent off for flicking a foot out at Ruud Van Nistelrooy after the equally petulant Dutch striker had been booked for a rough challenge. The Arsenal players were clearly infuriated by Van Nistelrooy’s goading of Vieira and after he slammed Manchester United’s last minute penalty against the bar they surrounded the Dutchman. It with particularly Martin Keown’s reaction which lingers in the memory, as he jumped into Van Nistelrooy with all the grace of a dying bird to indicate his delight at the failure of the striker to convert the crucial spot kick. Unsurprisingly, both clubs received harsh punishments from the FA, with Arsenal in particular bearing the brunt of the FA’s wrath after their over-the-top post- penalty abuse. It was great drama, it was very Premier League.

Trinidad and Tobago vs Sweden, World Cup 2006, Signal Iduna Park, 10/06/2006

Courage marked Trinidad and Tobago’s first appearance at a World Cup Finals as they somehow managed to keep out a Sweden team containing the likes of Ljungberg, Ibrahimović and Henrik Larsson despite being down to 10 men.  The inexperience of the first timers showed as Avery John picked up two yellows for two fairly unnecessary challenges (to say the least) on the famous Swedish front line. All of the previously mentioned Swedish players had good chances to make the breakthrough against substitute goalkeeper and West Ham shot stopper legend, Shaka Hislop. A visibly emotional Trinidad and Tobago team celebrated wildly at the end of an exhausting defensive display. A sending off, a brilliant substitute goalkeeping performance and rookie grit meant that this match (despite its goalless score line) would go down in the annals of World Cup folklore.

Arsenal vs Real Madrid, Champions League, Highbury, 08/03/2006

Club football was in the grip of Mourinho’s conservative revolution at Porto and Chelsea, where 0-0 and 1-0 (sometimes 2-0 or 1-1 scores if we were very lucky) were popping up all over the European Leagues, especially in the Champions League. Arsenal had secured a brilliant 1-0 victory at the Bernabeu and knew they would face a Real Madrid attacking barrage at Highbury.  However, the Gunners rather surprisingly had a number of chances in this game, a testament to Arsene Wenger’s often erratic decision to attack at the most unsuspecting of times. However, on this night at Highbury, Wenger’s decision worked a treat and fans were enthralled by a match of attacking football marked by stunning goalkeeping performances and utterly wasteful finishing.  It was particularly Jen Lehmann’s innovative save from Raul’s close range sitter that stuck in the minds of those who witnessed a rare moment of mid-2000s excitement in what was the last season Arsenal played at Highbury. What a memory to take away.

Republic of Ireland vs Romania, World Cup 1990, Stadio Luigi Ferraris, 25/06/1990

Ireland were turning into the draw specialists of an uninspiring tournament characterised by cynical play and defensive excellence. The Irish had not only qualified for the next round without winning any of their group games, they also avoided the West Germans to set up a tie against the easier, but very dangerous, Romanians. This was a Romanian side including the likes of Gheorghe Hagi, the “Maradona of the Carpathians” who came closest to breaking the deadlock in a typical Italia 90 affair. To be honest, this match is really all about the penalties, the epitome of the agony and ecstasy of human decision-making, regret and heroism. The Irish had not even decided who would take which penalty in the likely eventuality of the shootout (this was Italy 90 after all), and so quickly scurried to decide.  What followed was a great display of expert penalty taking, even though Paddy Bonner had guessed the right way for each penalty before Daniel Timofte stepped up. Bonner finally managed to save a penalty and the unlikely, gangly figure of David O’Leary coolly put away the winning kick. A nation went mad and pubs in Dublin revelled in an increase to their already substantial business.

Barcelona vs Celtic, UEFA Cup, Nou Camp, 25/03/2004

For a man now playing with Cardiff City in the Championship, David Marshall was once seen as a hot prospect destined for one of Europe’s top clubs. Although Marshall’s journey didn’t quite work out the way he would have wanted, he can always look back at a certain night in the Nou Camp in which he produced a series of fine saves to keep out Ronaldinho, Xavi and co. Celtic came into the game having secured a brilliant 1-0 victory over the Catalan giants at Celtic park. However, no one expected them to be able to hold onto a clean sheet at the Nou Camp. They were only able to do so through Marshall’s antics, which included a save of the season contender from a point blank Luis Garcia volley.  Celtic would go out the Villarreal in the next round, but Marshall had cemented his name in Celtic legend.

Tottenham vs AC Milan, Champions League Round of 16, 09/03/2011

In the cosmopolitan surroundings of Milan, it was the lanky and lumbering figure of Peter Crouch who had given Tottenham a shock 1-0 win in the away leg of this enthralling Champions League two- leg tie. In the return leg, it was only a relentless rear guard action from Spurs which preserved a lead which saw them get through where bitter North London rivals Arsenal had failed (Making the victory all the more sweeter I’m sure).  Even erratic goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes impressed on the night, making saves from that man Zlatan and the long forgotten “wonder kid”, Alexandre Pato.  Another fairly crazy footballer, William Gallas produced a last gasp goal line clearance to stave off everyone’s favourite failed January transfer window signing (bar Torres), Robinho.  Cue party time in North London. That was until Spurs were utterly blown away by Real Madrid in the Quarters.

Cambridge United vs Manchester United, FA Cup, Abbey Stadium, 23/01/2015

This tie happened only 6 days ago and was somewhat dwarfed and forgotten due to the crazy results in the weekend fixtures that followed. However, it’s worth reiterating the facts before the replay (I’m fully behind Cambridge, I just cannot fathom them winning), Cambridge were an astonishing 76 league places below Manchester United at the start of play and their squad cost absolutely nothing compared with United’s £180 Million megastars. Cambridge keeper, Chris Dunn was the hero of this game, saving from Falcao and Di Maria before Robin Van Persie uncharacteristically skied one of his trademark hooked volleys on the uneven Abbey Stadium pitch. Cambridge could have even stolen the game in the first half had Josh Coulson not first accidently blocked a shot and then headed over for the home side. Bring on the replay, come on the U’s!

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About Naive Broadcaster

Naive Broadcaster Chelsea fan, Premier League and World Cup maverick. Currently studying American and English Literature at UEA.

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