ABERDEEN’S place in the European football firmament was confirmed here tonight when the heavenly dancers from Pittodrie outshone Real Madrid and lifted the European Cup-Winners’ Cup for the first time.
Aberdeen 2 Real Madrid 1 (aet) The Scotsman, 12 May 1983
On an unbelievably wet night, it took an extra-time goal from John Hewitt to give Aberdeen the victory that assures them of a place in the history books.
The opening strike had been made by fellow under-21 internationalist Eric Black. And it was only after coming on as a replacement for Black that Hewitt delivered his goal. In between, Real Madrid had equalised with a penalty.
It was an astonishing victory given how little the Italian referee had been prepared to give Aberdeen. The Scots should have at least one penalty and perhaps even two.
That mattered little, however, when Hewitt did the business, just as he had done against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final.
In a quite amazing finish to the extra period, Mark McGhee could have scored twice more and Neil Simpson had a good effort saved as Aberdeen strove towards victory.
Apart from Peter Weir, who had a magnificent hour, Aberdeen had stars in John McMaster, Willie Miller and just about every other name you care to mention.
The game began in weather so appalling it was said Aberdeen supporters dived into the fountain outside the ground to keep dry. Thunder and lightning added variety to the torrential rain and, as a consequence of the conditions, virtually the only spectators in the ground were the 10,000 from Aberdeen.
While some felt the heavy going might suit Aberdeen, Real Madrid had played splendidly in a similar downpour against Austria Vienna in the semi-final. As it was, Aberdeen began like a runaway train. They dominated play in the opening spell with slick, effective attacking. Gordon Strachan was in his World Cup form and his prompting worried the Spaniards.
It was from Strachan’s cross ball after just five minutes that Black made connection with a ferocious volley. However, with cruel luck, the ball struck the bar and Real were saved.
Aberdeen’s lead was only delayed, mind you; they went ahead in the seventh minute from a setpiece. Strachan struck a corner which Alex McLeish met with a powerful header. The ball was blocked but Black was ideally placed to drive low and hard into the back of the net.
Aberdeen couldn’t have wished for a better start and there was evidence of frustration in the Real ranks as Paco Bonet kicked Black on the ground and Isidro heavily fouled Strachan. It was exactly the wrong moment psychologically, then, that a bad pass-back from McLeish in the 15th minute produced the equaliser.
Isidro ran on to the ball, which was slowed in the mud, forcing Jim Leighton to come out to make a challenge which was correctly rated a penalty by the referee. The spot-kick was taken by Juanito and his well-struck shot went to the side of Leighton.
That goal was just the tonic Real required. After misjudging their early passes, Real’s midfield settled to a probing, disciplined game. Ricardo Gallego, Uli Stielike and Juan Jose ensured Real had the lion’s share of the play up to half-time.
Having said that, there was only one genuine moment of danger when, 12 minutes before the interval, Stielike slipped away from Miller. An avenue opened up towards goal for the German, but he dallied too long, allowing Aberdeen to break up the move on an offside decision.
All told, honours were even at the end of the first half with Aberdeen requiring to increase the pace of their game and to improve the accuracy of their passing under admittedly treacherous conditions.
If Aberdeen had been behind on points at the end of the first half, they soon recaptured the initiative after the interval. In spite of the desire of the Italian referee to give Real the benefit of the doubt at every turn, Aberdeen played the more direct and positive football.
Miller showed the way with a fine tackle and an expert pass to McGhee in the 51st minute. Two minutes later Strachan pinpointed Weir on the left with a pass, and the winger’s useful high ball into the box was met by Strachan on the volley. The Scotland player’s effort was on target and with a goal very much on, Agustin had to rely on a save made instinctively with his legs.
In the 64th minute Weir delivered the outstanding solo contribution of the match with an amazing run deep from in his own half. The tall winger danced his way past four Madrid defenders in a lung-bursting run which ended with a cross to Black at the back post.
Nine times out of ten Black would have put this simple chance away but sadly for him, and Aberdeen, he got underneath the ball when an angled header down the way would surely have found the target.
The increasingly violent play of the Spanish side met with no action from the Italian referee.
Strachan’s bravery and electric pace saw him win a 50-50 ball in the 75th minute that left two Real defenders stranded. The Scotland player homed in on the box but was a shade guilty of over-elaboration and the chance was lost.
Strachan did his best to win the game in normal time with a marvellous run and chip three minutes from the end. It was just a shade over-clubbed.
Aberdeen then made a substitution with Hewitt replacing the injured Black as the game went into extra time.
Juan Jose continued to enjoy licence to foul Weir and the bias of the Italian referee was never more blatant than in the 96th minute when he waved away claims for a clear-cut Aberdeen penalty.
Simpson’s cross ball was aimed towards the incoming Cooper who, as the ball got stuck in the mud, was brought down by Metgod. Amazingly the referee was having nothing to do with it.
There was another astonishing decision when Hewitt was pulled down but only a corner was awarded.
The first thrust of the second period was made by Weir who again slipped past two defenders before delivering his cross ball to the back post - but there were no takers.
Both sides were playing from instinct now and then remarkably came what proved to be the winning counter. As with so many of Aberdeen’s incisive attacks, the move began with Weir. He coasted past the usual posse of Real defenders then shot the ball to McGhee whose fine cross was met by super-sub Hewitt. The youngster’s incredible scoring record continued with an angled header away from Augustin in the 112th minute.
Aberdeen needed to be cool and determined now to hang on to a famous victory against all the odds.
Aberdeen: Leighton, Rougvie, McMaster, Cooper, McLeish, Miller, Strachan, Simpson, McGhee, Black (Hewitt 87), Weir.
Real Madrid: Augustin, Juan Jose, Camacho (San Jose 91), Metgod, Bonet, Gallago, Juanito, Angel, Santilana, Stieleke, Isidro (Salguero 103).
Referee: G Menegali (Italy).