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Don't despair, Manchester United: 27 forgotten British underdog shocks in Europe

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17. Cardiff City 1-0 Real Madrid

Cup Winners’ Cup | March 10, 1971

City created enough chances to see off a side featuring European Cup winners Pirri, Ignacio Zoco and Amancio

European competitions create some unlikely heroes. Step forward, the Bluebirds’ Real Madrid conquerors: Brian Clark, picked only as Alan Warboys was ineligible, and 17-year-old wideman Nigel Rees, who bamboozled two defenders and crossed for Clark to head home and send 47,500 fans at Ninian Park into ecstasy. But three years earlier Cardiff had been 10 minutes away from the Cup Winners’ Cup final and this time, in the last eight, they again paid for profligacy.

City created enough chances to see off a side featuring European Cup winners Pirri, Ignacio Zoco and Amancio, but took only a slender lead to Madrid, where they lost 2-0. Still, they left Spain with a gold watch and a Real Madrid shirt each. Bonus.

18. Southampton 4-0 Marseille

Cup Winners’ Cup | September 15, 1976

Ian Turner saved a retaken Marseille penalty, then Channon made it 4-0 from the spot

Saints’ shock FA Cup final victory over Manchester United earned the Second Division outfit a Cup Winners’ Cup clash with Marseille. The first leg was done and dusted after 35 minutes as Malcolm Waldron, Mick Channon and Peter Osgood scored in a frantic four-minute spell.

Ian Turner saved a retaken Marseille penalty, then Channon made it 4-0 from the spot. Marseille won 2-1 in a second leg marred by a players’ brawl, and Lawrie McMenemy’s Saints progressed to the last eight, where they lost to holders Anderlecht.

19. Sheffield Wednesday 4-0 Roma

Inter-Cities Fairs Cup | November 29, 1961

Astutely managed by Vic Buckingham – once of Ajax, later coaching Barcelona and Sevilla – the English league runners-up ran amok in the second round

Astutely managed by Vic Buckingham – once of Ajax, later coaching Barcelona and Sevilla – the English league runners-up ran amok in the second round, beating holders Roma 4-0 at Hillsborough through Gerald Young’s hat-trick (Young, who later moved into central defence, scored 13 league goals in 14 years at the club).

The Owls then beat Barcelona 3-2 in the first leg of the quarters. “Koscis, Evaristo, Villaverda, Verges, Garay: half a million pounds of talent,” wrote the Sheffield Star, “brushed aside by a hurricane called Sheffield Wednesday.” The euphoria didn’t last: they lost 4-3 on aggregate.

20. Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Atletico Madrid

UEFA Cup | February 14, 2008

Despite Megson’s best efforts, however, the Trotters won 1-0 thanks to an El-Hadji Diouf goal

Bolton had already clocked up a few plucky underdog points by drawing 2-2 with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, but a Last 32 showdown with Atletico Madrid appeared daunting to say the least. Progression seemed especially unlikely as manager Gary Megson regarded the UEFA Cup as mere distraction from the more important business of joylessly grinding out league results.

Despite Megson’s best efforts, however, the Trotters won 1-0 thanks to an El-Hadji Diouf goal in a Valentine’s Day game that saw a teenage Sergio Aguero sent off for spitting at Matt Taylor. In the second leg, Bolton held on for a 0-0 draw at the Vicente Calderon despite fielding a weakened team. Not that anyone in England saw it – neither match was shown on TV.

21. Inter 1-2 Birmingham City

Inter-Cities Fairs Cup | April 19, 1961

Ignoring chants of “English bastards” from Inter fans at the San Siro semi-final, Birmingham won 2-1 thanks to the inspired scheming of Jimmy Bloomfield

Few outside St Andrew’s remember this, but Birmingham City were the first British club ever to contest a European final, losing the 1960 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final to Barcelona 4-1 after drawing the home leg 0-0. To reach another, 12 months later, the Blues had to promise the FA that they would improve their disciplinary record – five of their players had been sent off in Fairs Cup games the previous year.

Ignoring chants of “English bastards” from Inter fans at the San Siro semi-final, Birmingham won 2-1 thanks to the inspired scheming of Jimmy Bloomfield. The next English side to beat Inter on their own patch would be Arsenal more than 40 years later.

22. Dundee 8-1 Cologne

European Cup | September 5, 1962

Slater was kicked in the head, but when German medics tried to usher him into an ambulance, he jumped off the stretcher and ran into the dressing room

Although Alan Gilzean scored a hat-trick in the Dark Blues’ 8-5 aggregate victory, the real hero was goalkeeper Bert Slater, who’d joined Bob Shankly’s Dundee from brother Bill’s Liverpool. Despite having 10 West German internationals Cologne lost 8-1, bewildered by Dundee’s slick passing and movement. Keeper Fritz Ewert was knocked out in an early collision and, in a time before substitutes, replaced in goal by right-back Toni Regh.

In Cologne, revenge was brutal. Slater was kicked in the head, but when German medics tried to usher him into an ambulance, he jumped off the stretcher and ran into the dressing room, his noggin bleeding all of the way. Inside-right Andy Penman then went in goal, and a heavily-bandaged Slater returned to play on the right wing – until Cologne pulled a few goals back, whereupon he went back in goal.

Amid the madness – Dundee had police dogs as protection from furious fans – the victory was no fluke: they beat Sporting and Anderlecht to reach the semis, only losing to eventual winners Milan.