When Aston Villa and Sunderland have played in the past couple years, it's been either a mid-table clash or it's been while both teams are in a relegation fight. But in early days of English football, they were two of the giants.
After narrowly being beaten to the league title in 1912-13, Aston Villa had a chance to redeem their season when they reached the 1913 FA Cup final. Waiting for them in the final were the team that had pipped them to the title: Sunderland.
On April 19, 1913 Aston Villa and Sunderland took the pitch in front of 121,919 fans at Crystal Palace. By all accounts, the two teams did not seem to like each other. And a lot of that seemed to stem from two particular players. Villa's forward Harry Hampton and Sunderland's defender Charlie Thompson especially seemed to not like each other. From the beginning of the match, those two sought out to make sure that the match was a bruising one.
Arthur Adams was the referee for the match, the first person from Nottingham to referee a FA Cup final. Mr. Adams did not have such a great day.
After having to caution Thompson earlier in the first half, Adams gave a penalty to Villa after Clem Stephenson was brought down by Sunderland's Charlie Gladwin. Charlie Wallace stepped up to take the penalty, but sent it wide. The teams headed to halftime with the score 0-0.
The physical play continued through the second half, which eventually led to Sunderland defender Hardy Ness having to go off with a leg injury. Ten minutes later, Ness returned to the pitch to cheers with his leg bandaged up. Naturally, Villa decided to immediately go after him. In the 78th minute, Wallace won a corner kick off Ness. Wallace made up for his earlier penalty miss by striking a perfect corner to Tommy Barber who headed home to give Villa a 1-0 lead.
Sunderland could not find an equalizer in the remaining minutes. Henry Martin came close to scoring late on, but his shot hit the bar ensuring a Villa victory.
There was a bit of backlash to the physical play that had occurred on the pitch. Hampton and Thompson were each suspended for a month to start the next season. The referee, Adams, was also suspended after deciding to give 17 minutes of stoppage time. Sunderland even got themselves uninvited from the Charity Shield.
Villa and Sunderland still tend to produce weird matches when they get on the pitch together (6-1, heh heh heh). But thankfully none of them are like the 1913 FA Cup Final.
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