Don't despair, Manchester United: 27 forgotten British underdog shocks in Europe
Words: Nick Miller, Paul Simpson
1. Aston Villa 1-0 Bayern Munich
European Cup | May 26, 1982
Yet Bayern were the better side on the night: inspired by Augenthaler, Paul Breitner and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
The familiar narrative of this European Cup final upset dwells on three heroic Villans: goalkeeper Nigel Spink, who replaced the injured Jimmy Rimmer after just 10 minutes and made three fine saves in only his second first-team appearance; Tony Barton, the unassuming assistant who stepped up when Ron Saunders quit as manager only three months before the final; and Tony Morley, who deceived Klaus Augenthaler with, in the words of the Birmingham Mail, “a disco-dancer’s hip wiggle” to cross for Peter Withe’s shinned winner.
Yet Bayern were the better side on the night: inspired by Augenthaler, Paul Breitner and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, they shredded Villa’s defence for a solid 30 minutes, only for Spink – and defender Allan Evans, who cleared a shot off the line – to stand firm.
2. Barcelona 1-2 Dundee United
UEFA Cup | March 18, 1987
Club legend Sturrock won the free-kick from which defender John Clark powered the ball into Los Cules’ net
Tangerines manager Jim McLean had a simple explanation for his team’s quarter-final win over Terry Venables’ Barcelona at the Camp Nou: “Paul Sturrock tore them apart.”
Club legend Sturrock won the free-kick from which defender John Clark powered the ball into Los Cules’ net, then crossed for Iain Ferguson to head in the winner. McLean’s men had looked just as commanding in the first leg, winning 1-0 at Tannadice Park with an early goal from 20-year-old Kevin Gallacher. Barcelona’s record against Dundee United? Played four, lost four.
3. Aberdeen 2-1 Real Madrid (aet)
Cup Winners’ Cup | May 11, 1983
“We’re going to do it for you,” predicted seven of Aberdeen’s squad, including Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan, in the European Song released for the final
Real Madrid had won six European Cups and 20 Liga titles. Aberdeen had won the Scottish First Division twice and never gone beyond the third round of any European competition. Yet, under the inspiring leadership of a 41-year-old Alex Ferguson (“If a cup had to go flying, it went flying,” recalled captain Willie Miller), the Dons beat European royalty to a trophy that Los Blancos would never win. Eric Black and Juanito traded early goals in the final, before a glancing extra-time header from substitute John Hewitt settled matters.
They remain the last Scottish side to lift a European trophy. “We’re going to do it for you,” predicted seven of Aberdeen’s squad, including Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan, in the European Song released for the final. Ferguson’s car must have been in the garage the day that was recorded.
4. Portsmouth 2-2 Milan
UEFA Cup | November 27, 2008
Pompey won one of their four group games and went out, then bust, then down
Tony Adams would be very few people’s idea of a wildly successful manager, and his spell at Portsmouth had little to recommend it. But he did preside over one memorable occasion, when FA Cup winners Pompey faced Milan in the UEFA Cup group stage.
Portsmouth, at the beginning of their spiral to near-extinction, thought they’d sealed an implausible win with goals from Younes Kaboul and Nwankwo Kanu – alas, Ronaldinho pulled one back and, two minutes into stoppage time at Fratton Park, Pippo Inzaghi found an equaliser.
“The boys are feeling flat,” said Adams. “They thought they’d done it.” Pompey won one of their four group games and went out, then bust, then down.
5. Hibernian 3-2 Barcelona
Inter-Cities Fairs Cup | February 22, 1961
The first leg at the Camp Nou was an absurd affair, Barça salvaging a 4-4 draw, but they had no such luck in Edinburgh
Three months earlier, Barcelona had achieved what nobody else could, knocking Real Madrid out of the European Cup. But in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup – an invitational tournament then – they were bested by Hibs from the Scottish First Division’s nether regions.
The first leg at the Camp Nou was an absurd affair, Barça salvaging a 4-4 draw, but they had no such luck in Edinburgh. Joe Baker gave Hibs the lead, then the Catalans went ahead through Eulogio Martinez and Sandor Kocsis, before Tommy Preston levelled. With five minutes to go, Bobby Kinloch converted a penalty to seal a remarkable win. Barça reacted by chasing the referee down the tunnel. Hark at them!