For all their success in Europe, English sides have also suffered some nasty kickings in the competition. Following on from Spurs’ bashing at the Bernabeu, here are six of the worst.
Second round, 5 November 1975
Real Madrid 5-1 Derby County (aet, Real Madrid win 6-5 on aggregate)
Russian linesman Tofik Bakhramov, fondly remembered for his role in the 1966 World Cup final, gave English football another helping hand in the first leg of this tie, scandalously ruling out Pirri’s goal for offside with the Rams leading 3-1. There were no such favours for the English champions in the return leg, though, played in front of a capacity 120,000 crowd. Missing the influential Franny Lee, Dave Mackay’s ultra-cautious side were pulled this way and that by Gunter Netzer as Madrid eased into a 3-0 lead and ahead on the away-goals rule. Charlie George then conjured up his second wonder strike of the tie to put Derby back in front on aggregate, only for Amancio to take the most suspect of tumbles in the box with eight minutes remaining. Pirri converted from the spot, with Santillana’s superb extra-time winner sealing a memorable win for the Spaniards, the first of a series of unlikely European comebacks at the Bernabeu. Derby’s appearance in the following season’s UEFA Cup would be their last in Europe.
First round, 3 October 1979
Dinamo Tbilisi 3-0 Liverpool (Dinamo Tbilisi win 4-2 on aggregate)
As successful as they were in the late 70s and early 80s, Liverpool had a habit of coming unstuck on the other side of the Iron Curtain. In 1982 CSKA Sofia ejected them in the quarter-finals, as did Poland’s Widzew Lodz the following season, though this was their most comprehensive defeat of the era. Holding a precarious 2-1 lead from the first leg, Bob Paisley’s side did their usual away-day containment job in the first half before falling apart in the second. The rot started when David Kipiani diddled Alan Hansen and crossed for Vladimir Gutsaev to slide in the opener on 55 minutes. Further goals followed from Ramaz Shengelia and Alexander Chivadze, just two of several USSR internationals in a talented line-up, as the Reds fell at the first hurdle for the second year running, Nottingham Forest having done for them the season before. Kevin Keegan exacted a measure of revenge in the next round, scoring twice as eventual runners-up Hamburg dumped the tricky Georgians out of the competition.
Second round, 4 November 1991
Arsenal 1-3 Benfica (aet, Benfica win 4-2 on aggregate)
Spurs fans will have enjoyed this one. Newly readmitted to Europe after the five-year Heysel ban, English football has rarely been less sure of itself on the continental stage than after this seminal dismembering inflicted by Sven Goran Eriksson’s cultured side. Arsenal struck the woodwork three times but don’t let that or the fact that the tie went to extra-time mislead you: the Gunners were “stuffed, overrun, outplayed”, as Nick Hornby rightly put it in Fever Pitch. Much of Benfica’s silky interplay was instigated by the 19-year-old Rui Costa, while George Graham was so impressed by Swedish midfielder Stefan Schwarz’s organisational skills he signed him in 1994. The two-goal Isaias was also England-bound, becoming the first Brazilian-born player to appear in the Premier League when he joined Coventry, and strike partner Sergei Yuran, almost chinned by Tony Adams for his tumbling tricks, would later pitch up at The Den. Described on this occasion as “laboured and unsophisticated” by Stuart Jones of The Times, Arsenal responded by sacrificing what sophistication they had for yet more labour: Paul Davis and Anders Limpar both fell out of favour with Graham, and the late David Rocastle was sold to Leeds the following summer.
Group phase, 2 November 1994
Barcelona 4-0 Manchester United
A 4-0 thrashing for United to match Real Madrid' first leg score against Tottenham. Another seismic shafting, as Ferguson’s makeshift, pre-Bosman line-up was flayed alive to the delight of a raucous 114,000 crowd. Hemmed in by UEFA’s “three-plus-two” rule, the Scot famously left Peter Schmeichel on the bench, though stand-in goalie Gary Walsh was blameless as Johan Cruyff’s possession-recycling Dream Team ran riot. Romario and Hristo Stoichkov tormented Pallister and Bruce, the Bulgarian scoring his 100th and 101st goals for Barcelona, while Kanchelskis and Giggs were kept firmly in check and a backtracking midfield was overrun. “The only scary thing about this Manchester team is their black kit. They’re useless,” quipped the watching Bernd Schuster. The brutal awakening would go a long way to convincing Ferguson of the need to rethink his approach against cultivated European opposition. And though another chastening defeat followed in Gothenburg, and with it elimination, United would return to the scene of this humiliation a cannier outfit by the decade’s end.
Group stage, 22 November 1995
Spartak Moscow 3-0 Blackburn
Having collected a solitary point in their first four games, a demoralised Blackburn side were as good as out of the competition before this horror show on ice got under way. Any doubts about their stomach for a fight were dispelled just four minutes in when David Batty and Graham Le Saux fell out down by the touchline, the full-back breaking his left hand after taking a swing at his spiky team-mate. “His face was contorted with anger,” Le Saux would write in his autobiography. “If I had not hit him, I felt he was going to hit me.” At fault for two of Spartak’s goals, the mortified Channel Islander was subbed in the second half and later revealed that the dust-up had left him “wanting to die”. Rovers, reduced to ten men after Colin Hendry’s dismissal, would finish bottom of a group also containing Rosenborg and Legia Warsaw.
Semi-final first leg, 20 April 2004
Monaco 3-1 Chelsea (Monaco won 5-3 aggregate after 2-2 draw in 2nd leg)
Claudio Ranieri took the flak for his infamous second-half substitutions with Chelsea nicely placed at 1-1 against the ten-man French, though John Terry’s slack defending played its part in this late collapse. Failing to cover for Wayne Bridge after a Chelsea attack down the left, Terry was shown up by the classy Fernando Morientes as Monaco took an unexpected lead, and was slow to react again when Shabani Nonda slid in to double their advantage. Though Chelsea clawed back the deficit in the first half of the return leg, they were undressed once more by the excellent Jerome Rothen and Morientes, who, just for good measure, caught Terry napping again to score the final goal of the tie. Defeat sealed Ranieri’s fate, with Jose Mourinho coming in to replace him, though not before his streetwise Porto side had put the Monegasques in their place in the final.
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