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6 of the dirtiest games in European Cup history

Eric Cantona
(Image credit: Getty)

So you thought Manchester City's trip to Atletico Madrid was feisty, huh?

Jack Grealish managed to make headlines without being on the pitch last night. The most expensive English player ever had his hair pulled, insulted Stefan Savic and got involved in a tunnel bust-up – it's a shame that Manchester City are Liverpool again this weekend and not Atleti. We'd pay good money to watch these players have a rematch of each other. 

Still, last nights Champions League histrionics have nothing on these encounters of yesteryear: expect a little more than a hair pull and a naughty word here and there…

1. The shame game

“I should have been locked up,” admitted Atletico Madrid’s Ruben Diaz – not to be confused with the Manchester City defender – after a knee-high, studs-up tackle on Celtic’s Jimmy Johnstone in 1974’s semi-final first leg, later dubbed ‘the Shame Game’. Two other Atletico players took early baths as they resorted to any means necessary to escape Glasgow with a 0-0 draw.

It all kicked off at full-time, as pushing and shoving between managers Juan Carlos Lorenzo and Jock Stein turned into an all-out brawl that continued down the tunnel, where the substituted John ‘Dixie’ Deans emerged from the dressing room and “slapped Ruben Ayala about a bit, just to keep him awake”.

2. Burdisso takes one on the hooter

Valencia and Inter’s 2007 last 16 second-leg clash produced one of European football’s most fearsome scraps. After the Spaniards had snuck through on away goals, Valencia defender Carlos Marchena and Inter’s Nicolas Burdisso traded blows, prompting unused substitute David Navarro to leap from the dugout and break Burdisso’s nose.

All hell broke loose, with Navarro being pursued by several Inter players – one even launching a flying kick – as stewards and police tried to intervene. Navarro was ultimately handed a six-month ban for his antics.

3. Poor Reg can't get it right

Trailing Benfica 4-1 on aggregate with just five minutes of their 1961 semi-final second leg remaining, Rapid Vienna were denied a penalty by English referee Reg Leafe, who instead decided that forward Robert Dienst had dived.

Cue bedlam, with angry home players and rioting fans forcing the match to be abandoned. But the result stood and Rapid were given a three-year ban. “You should have let them have their penalty,” Benfica coach Bela Guttmann told Leafe, helpfully.

4. Don't mess with Souey (or Movila)

Dinamo Bucharest captain Lica Movila got more than he bargained for after he was assigned to man-mark opposite number Graeme Souness of Liverpool in the first leg of an ill-tempered semi-final in 1984 – namely a broken jaw, after Souey took exception to one tasty tackle too many.

Fortunately for the Reds, nobody saw the off-the-ball incident, but Souness was forced to “run the gauntlet” in a brutal second leg. “We got to Bucharest and our coach was surrounded by fans and soldiers all gesturing at Graeme like he was dead,” recalled Ian Rush. Scary.

5. Juanito stamps his disapproval

After taking exception to Bayern Munich midfielder Lothar Matthaus’s late tackle on team-mate Chendo in the 1987 semi-final, Real Madrid winger Juanito steamed over, trod on Matthaus’s back and then, as the referee prepared to brandish a yellow card, pushed the man in black out of the way so he could stamp on the prostrate German’s head. 

Yellow turned to red and Juanito was banned from European football for five years.

6. King Eric loses his head

Having been intimidated from all angles in crashing out to Galatasaray in 1993, Eric Cantona finally lost his rag, kicking the ball out of a home substitute’s hands and then flooring him with an elbow to the chest.

Sent off at the final whistle for abusing the referee, Cantona was punched by a policeman as he was escorted down the tunnel by Bryan Robson. “While the rest of us wanted to get out of there… he insisted he was going to kill ‘that f**ker’,” recalled Roy Keane.

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