Dirty tricks, dodgy refs, flying bottles and pioneers: the 14 times Scottish clubs have lost European semi-finals

Dundee were denied a place in the Fairs Cup final by Leeds United 52 years ago today. Here are all the Scots teams who have been knocked out in the last four

Trouble in Newcastle as Rangers fans spill onto the glass-strewn pitch during the Fairs Cup semi in 1969.
Trouble in Newcastle as Rangers fans spill onto the glass-strewn pitch during the Fairs Cup semi in 1969.

European Cup

1955-56: Hibernian v Reims (lost 3-0 on aggregate)

The first British club to compete in the new tournament (accepting an invitation despite having finished fifth in Division One the previous season after champions Aberdeen declined), Hibs acquitted themselves with distinction. They overcame West Germans Rot-Weiss Essen and Swedish side Djurgardens, before French champions Reims - with fabled performers Michel Hidalgo and Raymond Kopa - proved too strong, winning their home first leg 2-0 and securing a 1-0 victory in the Leith return.

Dundee United's Paul Sturrock goes close against Roma in the 1984 European Cup semi-final first leg.
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1959-60: Rangers v Eintracht Frankfurt (lost 12-4 on aggregate)

The humbling the Ibrox side suffered at the hands of the Germans remains their biggest losing margin in a two-legged European tie. A play-off win at Highbury over Sparta Rotterdam set them up for a first semi-final that turned sour when they conceded five second-half goals to lose 6-1 in the away first leg, before conceding six again in a 6-3 loss at Ibrox. A modicum of revenge - of sorts - came with their 11-0 aggregate trouncing of Borussia Moenchengladbach in the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup the following season.

1962-63: Dundee v AC Milan (lost 5-2 on aggregate)

The first of the many dodgy defeats that have befallen Scottish sides. The Spanish referee Vicente Caballero, who took charge of their 5-1 defeat in the Italian first leg, was given a “gift” by the hosts and later investigated for alleged bribery. The Dens Park side, also hampered by a fixture pile-up during the awful winter of 1962-63, did at least restore pride with a winner from a later red-carded Alan Gilzean at Tayside in front of a near 40,000-crowd. The Dundee faithful had earlier revelled in their team knocking out Cologne, Sporting Lisbon and Anderlecht.

Celtic striker Dixie Deans missed a crucial penalty in the European Cup semi-final but bounced back with a Scottish Cup final hat-trick against Hibs.
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Dundee’s forgotten Fairs Cup battle with Leeds

1971-72: Celtic v Internazionale (0-0 on aggregate, lost 5-4 on penalties)

The Scottish champions’ bid for a third European Cup final appearance in five years was ended in agonising fashion. After the teams could not be separated across 210 minutes of football, Celtic striker Dixie Deans, replying to the Italians converting a first spot-kick in Glasgow, ballooned his effort over the bar. All other penalties were netted, leaving Deans the fall guy. Three weeks later, he earned some redemption with a hat-trick in a 6-1 Scottish Cup final win over Hibernian.

1973-74: Celtic v Atletico Madrid (lost 2-0 on aggregate)

Aberdeen's John Hewitt in action against Porto in the 1984 Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final.

An evening of infamy in the Parkhead first leg that has earned the tag ‘night of a thousand kicks’. The Spanish side dished out brutality that brought three red cards but also the desired scoreless draw. The game ended with a free-for-all punch-up between the teams and police had to wade in. Uefa later banned six Atletico players from the second leg. Jock Stein, whose team had beaten TPS Turku, Veijle BK and Basel to reach the last four, talked about “wave of wave of hatred whipped up [in] a vicious” campaign against his side ahead of the Spanish second leg. It included death threats against Jimmy Johnstone, before a clearly spooked Celtic lost 2-0.

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1983-84: Dundee United v Roma (lost 3-2 on aggregate)

In the history of dirty tricks played against a Scottish semi-finalist in Europe, Jim McLean’s men suffered one of the muckiest against the Italians, who they beat 2-0 in the Tannadice first leg. Crazed Italian hosts, allegedly abetted by a £50,000 bribe for French referee Michel Vautrot, succeeded in claiming the 3-0 win they required in Rome before their players shamefully abused the United manager and his assistant Walter Smith. The United team bus was also attacked.

1992-93: Rangers v Marseille (1-1)*

Not strictly a semi-final but it amounted to the equivalent of one. It was the first edition of the rebranded Champions League and the last eight teams were split into two groups of four, with the winner of each progressing to the final. Rangers had reached the elite group stage by ousting Lyngby of Norway and English champions Leeds United. Walter Smith’s side went to France in their penultimate sectional game knowing a win would guarantee them the top spot to propel them to the final. Despite the fact that Ian Durrant cancelled out an early Franck Sauzee opener early in the second half, the home side comfortably secured the point they wanted. Yet, Marseille’s activities in eventually winning the tournament have since been besmirched. The club were banned from defending the trophy following a bribery scandal that ended in a two-year prison sentence for club owner Bernard Tapie. Marseille were also stripped of the French league title.

European Cup-Winners' Cup

1963-64: Celtic v MTK Budapest (lost 4-3 on aggregate)

The Glasgow side, after beating Basel, Dinamo Zagreb and Slovan Bratislava en route, thought a first European final beckoned on thumping their Hungarian visitors 3-0 in the first leg. They collapsed in the return, with rumours the referee had been bought off.

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1965-66: Celtic v Liverpool (lost 3-2 on aggregate)

The bitter return leg for the Scottish champions turned on Bobby Lennox having a goal wrongly chopped off for offside, and brought a bottle shower from the visiting end, and injuries to 100 supporters. Following a 1-0 home leg win for Jock Stein’s men, the 2-1 defeat in the Anfield return prevented them contesting the final at Hampden. And it led to Stein’s friend and opposing manager Bill Shankly quipping: “Jock do you want your share of the gate money - or shall we just return the empties.”

1968-69: Dunfermline v Slovan Bratislava (lost 2-1 on aggregate)

What is known as the Battle of Bratislava put paid to the Fife club’s final hopes. A 1-1 draw at East End Park for hosts who had disposed of Apoel Nicosia, Olympiakos and West Brom, gave way to a return in which Pat Gardner was dismissed following a brawl involving practically every player. It left the Pars unable to respond to the loss of an early decisive strike for a team who would go on to beat Barcelona in the final.

1983-84: Aberdeen v Porto (lost 2-0 on aggregate)

Alex Ferguson’s men looked good to reach the final of a tournament they had won the season before when facing only a 1-0 deficit in the Pittodrie return leg. But the form that had allowed them to prevail against Akranes, Beveren and Uijpest Doza deserted them in front of an expectant home crowd, as their Portuguese opponents hit them with a sucker punch. Consolation came in the form of a league and Scottish Cup double for the Dons who had already snared the European Super Cup that season.

Fairs Cup

1960-61: Hibernian v Roma (lost 6-0 in play-off, after 5-5 aggregate over two legs)

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The Easter Road club followed up being the first Scottish side to compete in the European Cup with being the first team from these borders to compete in the Fairs Cup. Under today’s rules, they would have made the final, A 2-2 draw in the first leg at Easter Road was followed by a 3-3 draw in the Italian capital, Joe Baker netting a double. In those days, that meant a play-off, which Roma won the right to host… a month after the Scottish league season had finished. The lack of match sharpness was evident in the 6-0 drubbing that followed for a Hibs side that had earlier ousted Barcelona 7-6 on aggregate, courtesy of a 4-4 draw in the Nou Camp.

1966-67: Kilmarnock v Leeds United (lost 4-2 on aggregate)

The ‘forgotten’ European semi-final for a Scottish team since it came in the same month as Celtic made it through to the final of the European Cup they would go on to win in Lisbon, Rangers progressed to the Cup-Winners’ Cup final that was lost to Bayern Munich and Scotland beat world champions England 3-2 at Wembley. A 4-2 first-leg defeat for Killie at Elland Road allowed Don Revie’s men to stifle the Rugby Park men on their own soil, to end a glorious campaign in which the Ayrshire side had ousted Royal Antwerp, Gent and Lokomotiv Leipzig.

1967-68: Dundee v Leeds United (lost 2-1 on aggregate)

A last four clash which confirmed Don Revie’s men as a hammer of Scots, in denying a team from this nation a European final for the second successive season. The 1-1 Dens Park draw that was followed by a 1-0 home win for the Yorkshire team also meant they added the scalp of the Tayside club to Hibs and Rangers from their previous two rounds. Clyde had originally secured a place in the Fairs Cup with a third-place league finish, but rules allowed only one team from each city in the tournament and Glasgow’s representatives were Rangers. The Dens Park club made the most of the break by defeating DWS, RFC Liege and FC Zurich before narrowly coming up short against Leeds.

1968-69: Rangers v Newcastle United (lost 2-0 on aggregate)

A semi-final remembered mainly for the aggro in the St James’ Park return. Rangers supporters spilled on to the pitch en masse as rioting followed Scot Jackie Sinclair giving the home side an unassailable 2-0 lead with 13 minutes remaining. It took 20 minutes to restore order and conclude the encounter, which came following a scoreless draw in Glasgow. It was a shameful end for the Ibrox club to a campaign in which they had seen off Vojvodina, Dundalk, DWS and Athletic Bilbao. The Newcastle police were damning of the Rangers support, some of whom fought and pelted the officers with bottles on their exit from St James’, leading to 30 arrests and 89 injuries. “If we’d had enough men, we’d have arrested the 2,000 fans who were on the park,” said a spokesman for the local force.

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