EUROPEAN CUP HISTORY.COM
The two English teams attempting to bring the European Cup back to English shores for the sixth year in a row were the holders Liverpool and League Champions Aston Villa. Villa, from Birmingham, had won the league title in 1981 just ahead of Ipswich Town who had looked to be favourites for much of the season. Managed by the dour and unsmiling Ron Saunders, they had been largely unheralded despite having a number of exciting young players like Tony Morley on the wing, Gordon Cowans in midfield and Gary Shaw up front with the veteran Peter Withe who had previously won the championship with Nottingham Forest. Although they had finished well clear of Liverpool in the league, most people in English football expected the European Cup holders to go much further in the competition than Aston Villa.
Both English sides had comfortable starts to the European season with Villa putting seven goals past Valur Reykjavik and Liverpool scoring eight against TPS Oulu of Finland. The biggest game of the first round involved another British side as the Scottish champions Celtic were drawn against Italian giants Juventus. In Glasgow, a deflected Macleod shot gave the Scots a narrow first leg lead, but in Turin they were undone by a Virdis goal just before the half hour and an outstanding effort by Bettega ten minutes later. Also through to the second round were former winners Benfica who had little trouble disposing of Omonia Nicosia, and Bayern Munich who struck six past the Swedes of Osters Vaxjo. CSKA Sofia, conquerors of Nottingham Forest a year earlier, were also through after another impressive win over Spanish champions Real Sociedad.
The second round draw threw up a number of intriguing ties. Liverpool had to play AZ67 Alkmaar who had won the Dutch Championship by 12 points and reached the UEFA Cup final. Alkmaar decided to play their home game in the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium, but inside such a large ground, the crowd of 15,000 was dwarfed and with the lack of an intimidating atmosphere, Liverpool took full advantage early on as Johnson and Lee gave them a two goal lead. But Liverpool lost their concentration in the final half an hour and goals from Tol and Alkmaar’s top scorer Kees Kist brought the scores level with only a late Grobbelaar save denying the Dutch side a famous win. The second leg was just as entertaining. McDermott gave Liverpool the lead form the penalty spot after Dalglish had been brought down, but AZ levelled with Kist scoring his 18th goal of the season despite it only being early November. On 68 minutes the home side were ahead once more as Rush turned in a Dalglish cross, but five minutes later a Grobbelaar punch only reached the feet of Metgod. His lob hit the Liverpool crossbar but was then turned into his own net by Thompson. But with extra-time looming, Liverpool finally won the game when Hansen scrambled home an 85th minute corner to put the holders into the quarter-finals.
Aston Villa were faced with the tricky task of beating the East Germans of Dynamo Berlin. The first game played just over the Berlin Wall saw Villa survive a late penalty when Ullrich struck the post, before Morley took the ball from well inside his own half and scored brilliantly to give his side a priceless 2-1 away win. However, Villa still came close to suffering an embarrassing exit as they conceded an early goal in the second leg and needed goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer to push a late Riediger shot onto the post before winning the tie on away goals.
CSKA Sofia’s 2-0 first leg win over Glentoran was overshadowed by the death of the Irish sides trainer Bobby McGregor. McGregor suffered a heart attack as he ran on to the pitch to treat one of his players and died before he reached hospital. In the return match, Glentoran nearly pulled off a famous victory as they scored twice in the second half to level the scores and were only beaten by a defelected free-kick five minutes from the end of extra-time.
In Brussels, despite being without two of their leading players in Renquin and Coeck, Anderlecht shocked Juventus beating them 3-1 with two goals from Willy Guerts and a late strike from Franky Vercauteren. Another Guerts goal, just before half-time in Turin, effectively put the Italian champions out as Anderlecht won through 4-2 on aggregate. With Juve out of the competition, Bayern Munich were now one of the favourites, especially after they had easily despatched Benfica. After a goalless draw in Lisbon, Bayern won 4-1 in Munich with Dieter Hoeness scoring a hat-trick, leaving few in doubt that the Germans were a team to avoid in the future rounds.
By the time that the eight remaining clubs played the Quarter-Finals in March, Aston Villa had been rocked by the resignation of their manager Ron Saunders following disagreements with his board of directors. Tony Barton, Saunders assistant, took temporary charge and was soon overseeing Villa’s next European tie. The Quarter-Final draw had resulted in four ties that pitted East and West Europe against each other. Aston Villa had arguably the toughest of the tasks that faced the western teams as they were up against Dynamo Kiev. The Ukrainians had already retained the Soviet Championship and provided the majority of the highly rated Soviet Union side that would shortly take part in the World Cup in Spain, including former European Footballer of the Year Oleg Blokhin. The English side, however, put on a pair of performances that belied their internal turmoil and poor domestic form as they followed a comfortable and assured performance in the Crimean city of Simferopol where they earned a 0-0 draw, with an impressive 2-0 win at Villa Park courtesy of an early Gary Shaw goal and a McNaught header from a corner on the stroke of half-time. Indeed, if With had not struck a post and missed two easy chances late on, the victory could have been even more emphatic.
Liverpool had appeared to receive a much kinder draw when they were paired with a CSKA Sofia side that they had beaten 5-1 at Anfield a year earlier. This time, however, the Bulgarians were determined to avoid any such embarrassment. CSKA defended resolutely in their away leg and, despite incessant Liverpool pressure, emerged having conceded a solitary Whelan goal. The holders were still heavily fancied to progress and, as they proceeded to dominate the second leg in Bulgaria, seemed to have only their own profligacy to worry about as they failed to take advantage of their overwhelming possession. But despite their dominance, Liverpool were made to pay with just 12 minutes left when Grobbelaar failed to deal with a Velkov cross and Mladenov headed the ball home. Liverpool then pressed forward even more and were convinced that they should have had a penalty in the final seconds of the game as Johnson appeared to be fouled in the area, but the referee was unmoved and extra-time was required. After eleven additional minutes Liverpool were undone by the same two players as Mladenov headed home Velkov’s corner. Liverpool then threw everything at the CSKA defence but despite hitting the post and the bar as well as forcing Velinov in goal to make a series of fine saves, they could not find the goal that they needed and, as they grew increasingly frustrated, Lawrenson was sent of to add insult to injury.
CSKA Sofia v Liverpool
Bayern Munich continued to impress as they breezed their way past the Romanians of Universitatea Craiova. Early goals in Romania from Rummennigge and Breitner put the Germans in complete control of the tie, and when Dieter Hoeness extended their lead in Munich they were as good as through, eventually winning 3-1 on aggregate. In the other quarter-final, Anderlecht narrowly won their home game with Red Star Belgrade thanks to another goal from Guerts and a fortunate strike from Lozano either side of a brilliant individual goal for Red Star by Bosko Durovski. In front of 90,000 fans in Belgrade, Hofkens headed home for Anderlecht on 33 minutes and gave the purple and white shirted fans something to cheer about. Red Star would soon retaliate with a goal from the penalty spot for a short lived rally cry from the Red Star supporters. The rally was quelled shortly afterwards when Franky Vercauteren gave the thousands of purple and white shirts reason to wave their flags and their custom t-shirt in a victory celebration as he sealed the Belgians place in the semi-finals after only an hour.
Red Star Belgrade v Anderlecht
Although they had already disposed of the Spanish champions and the European Cup holders, CSKA Sofia were still regarded as the weakest of the four teams remaining in the European Cup and, when they were drawn to play the increasingly impressive Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, were given little chance of becoming the first Bulgarian side to reach a European final especially as, on the eve of their home tie they found themselves without several injury hit players. But after twenty minutes of the first leg in Sofia, CSKA looked to be on the way to causing yet another huge upset. Before Bayern knew what had hit them they were three goals behind. Dimitrov on seven minutes, Yonchev five minutes later, and a Zadravkov penalty after 17 minutes gave the Bulgarians the sort of start that they could hardly have dreamed of. But Bayern were made of strong stuff and they soon hit back and by half-time they were right back in the game thanks to goals from Duernberger and Hoeness. But the drama was far from over. Yonchev struck again to make it 4-2 early in the second half and the Germans needed a late Breitner goal to keep their chances of reaching the final alive. The second leg was decided either side of half-time. Bayern totally dominated the game, but their pressure did not pay off until the 42nd minute when Breitner converted Rummennigge’s cross. Two minutes after the break Breitner scored from the penalty spot to give Bayern the lead in the tie and Rummennigge’s two second half goals confirmed their victory with an aggregate score of 7-4.
With their domestic form having continued to disappoint - they would eventually finish 11th in the English Championship - Aston Villa and their now permanent manager Tony Barton were totally concentrated on the European Cup as they took on their semi-final opponents Anderlecht. The Belgians had announced their defensive intentions for the first leg in Birmingham by dropping their top scorer Willy Guerts. The result was a predictably tight game which was won by a single Tony Morley goal for Aston Villa. The return in Brussels saw Villa rarely troubled in a game that was marred by crowd trouble. Against a backdrop of fighting on the terraces and pitch invasions, Villa comfortably held on for a 0-0 draw to book their place in the final in Rotterdam. The behaviour of a section of Villa’s support, however, threatened to overshadow the teams achievement. Anderlecht appealed to UEFA for the game to be replayed, citing the ’psychological harm’ that their players had suffered when an English fan ran onto the pitch. This appeal was rejected, but Villa were ordered to play their next home game in Europe behind closed doors and, after a number of similar incidents involving English clubs abroad, influential people such as UEFA secretary Hans Bergerter began to question whether teams from England should be banned from European competitions. This situation would reach a tragic conclusion three years later, but for now most observers preferred to concentrate on the prospect of a thrilling final between the two sides that had been most impressive during the competition so far - Aston Villa and Bayern Munich.
On a warm and humid night in Rotterdam, a Bayern team featuring the World Cup winning midfield playmaker Paul Breitner, the European Footballer of the Year Karl Heinz Rummennigge and experienced German internationals such as Hoenness and Augenthaler took to the field as strong favourites against an Aston Villa side that boasted only a handful of international appearances and a disappointing league season. On the other hand, Villa were bidding to take the European Cup back to England for the sixth year in a row.
The English team started brightly with both Withe and cental defender Allan Evans going close. But with only eight minutes of the game gone, the odds on Aston Villa achieving an unlikely victory became even higher as their experienced goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer was forced to leave the field following the recurrence of a neck injury picked up in training a day earlier. He was replaced by 23 year old Nigel Spink who, prior to being unexpectedly called upon to play in a European Cup final, had only one senior game to his name - a 2-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest in 1979.
Bayern needed to put immediate pressure on this new young goalkeeper, but they were unable to trouble Spink for another twenty minutes and by then, as he demonstrated so ably, he had rid himself of any nerves that may have been affecting him. Thirty minutes were on the clock when, within the space of a minute both Durnberger and Rummenigge were thwarted by Spinks acrobatics. Moments later, Rummenigge had another goal attempt as he beat Spink with an overhead kick, but sent it just wide of the goal.
Towards the end of the first half and at the beginning of the second, Bayern threatened to overwhelm Villa as they exerted almost constant pressure on the English defence. Augenthaler shot narrowly wide, Durnberger forced Spink to make another save, and Swain had to head an Augenthaler effort off the line. Hoeness and Horsman also came close and it seemed only a matter of time before the Germans would make the breakthrough. But in the end it was Aston Villa who struck first. After 66 minutes, Gary Shaw found Tony Morley running down the left wing. Morley twisted and turned as he tried to shake off the attentions of Augenthaler, before sending a low cross into the area where he found an unmarked Withe who, just six yards out, prodded the ball onto the post and into the goal.
There was still plenty of time left, but Bayern were rarely able to threaten the goal again as they had done before Withe struck. With two minutes left, however, they seemed to have finally made the breakthrough as Hoeness’s shot beat Spink and hit the back of the net, only for Bayern to be denied by a the linesman raising his flag for offside.
That was Bayern’s last chance, and moments later, Aston Villa were crowned European champions. The English domination of the European Cup had been continued by a team that had lost its manager in controversial circumstances at a crucial stage of the season, and had lost 15 league games in a campaign that had seen them finish in a lowly 11th place. Not only that, but their man of the match was a young goalkeeper playing only the second senior game of his career. Bayern Munich had certainly possessed the bigger names and had much more experience of European and international football, but Aston Villa had proved, just as they had in winning the English league championship a year earlier, that as a team they were a match for any collection of big name players. Under the previously unheralded Tony Barton, and before that Ron Saunders, they had been forged into a team that was strong in defence as well as being fast and effective in attack, and now they had carried off Europe’s biggest prize.
Aston Villa have never come close to matching their 1982 European Cup triumph before or since, but on that night in Rotterdam they produced a performance worthy of the biggest stage and, allied with their displays on the way to the final, was enough to make them deserved of the title ‘Champions of Europe.’
1982 European Cup Final (Rotterdam)
Aston Villa 1 Bayern Munich 0
Aston Villa: Rimmer (Spink), Swain, McNaught, Evans, Williams, Mortimer (capt), Cowans, Bremner, Withe, Shaw, Morley
Bayern Munich: Muller, Dremmler, Augenthaler, Weiner, Horsmann, Durnberger, Kraus (Niedermayer), Breitner, Mathy (Guttler), Rummaging (capt), Hoeness
European Cup Highlights 1981/82 part 1 (in Italian)
European Cup Highlights 1981/82 part 2 (in Italian)
You can find details of all the results, dates and scorers on the RSSSF website here.