A date engraved in football history, as far as Aberdeen supporters are concerned at least. For exactly 25 years ago to the day, super-sub John Hewitt’s 112th minute extra time goal gave Aberdeen a 2-1 win over Real Madrid and won the European Cup Winners’ Cup. However, that is only a fraction of the greatest season in the history of our football club.
Aberdeen qualified for the Cup Winners’ Cup after thumping Rangers 4-1 in the 1981-1982 Scottish Cup final. When the draw for the preliminary round was made, Aberdeen were drawn against FC Sion of Switzerland. It was seventh heaven for the Dons, who knocked 7 past the helpless Swiss at Pittodrie. In the return leg the home side restored some pride but still couldn’t help losing 4-1.
In the first round, the Dons were drawn with Albanian opponents for the first time in the form of Dinamo Tirane. Sir Alex Ferguson was disappointed that Aberdeen only took a one goal lead to Albania after John Hewitt gave Aberdeen a first leg win at Pittodrie. But the Dons held firm in the heat for a 0-0 draw and 1-0 aggregate victory to send them through to the second round.
It was there that the Dons met, at the time, Polish table toppers Lech Poznan. Goals from Mark McGhee and Peter Weir gave Aberdeen a 2-0 lead to take to Poland. And in Poland, Dougie Bell got on the score sheet to give the Dons a 3-0 aggregate win put them into the quarter-finals. Lech Poznan coach Kazarek then tipped Aberdeen to go on and win the tournament.
In the quarters, Aberdeen were drawn against German giants Bayern Munich. For the fans and the money men it was the ultimate draw. For the manager you’d think it was a nightmare. But as any Aberdeen supporter will tell you, Alex Ferguson feared no-one. And his side sent a message to the rest of the sides in the competition when ‘the greatest defensive performance ever by an Aberdeen side’ was rewarded with 0-0 draw in Munich. Aberdeen knew though they had to score in the return leg at Pittodrie. But in the 10th minute Augenthaler’s superb strike gave Bayern a lead in the 10th minute. However, just before half time, Neil Simpson bundled the ball over the line to make it 1-1. The Dons only needed to score once more to go through, but Pfugler silenced the home crowd once more with his effort. With just 15 minutes to go, Aberdeen had a mountain, and a very large one, to climb. But it all seemed so different when the famous Strachan/Bell mix-up training ground free-kick found Alex McLeish who rose above all to head Aberdeen level. The TV cameras were all set on McLeish’s stunned face, and the greatest Aberdeen moment at Pittodrie was nearly never caught on tape. Because only 30 seconds later, John Hewitt who had just come off the bench, acrobatically fired the ball through the keeper’s legs to put Aberdeen 3-2 up. The final whistle blew and the Dons were into the semi-finals.
Aberdeen then drew Belgian side Waterschei in the semis. Two goals in the first 5 minutes set Aberdeen on their way to a 5-1 first leg victory. In the 2nd leg it wasn’t so easy though, and Aberdeen there lost their only game of the tournament, 1-0 to Waterschei.
Then came Aberdeen’s finest hour. The European Cup Winners’ Cup final vs. Real Madrid. 15’000 members of the red army made the trip via all means possible to Gothenburg. Pouring with rain, the stage was set at the Ullevi stadium. In the opening minutes, Madrid’s defence was motionless as Aberdeen cracked an effort off the bar. But in the 7th minute, Eric Black gave Aberdeen an incredible lead. Only another 7 past though before Madrid were level. After a short backpass, goalkeeper Jim Leighton came out to try and dive on the ball but got nothing but the player and Madrid had a penalty. Juanito fired the ball past Leighton to make it 1-1. It stayed that way all the way through regular time. After a goalless 1st half of extra time, in the 2nd came the most important goal in the history of Aberdeen Football Club. Peter Weir danced through two challenges to set Mark McGhee away down the left wing. McGhee lost his man before whipping the cross in for Hewitt, who’d come on as a substitute yet again, to head the ball into the corner of the net. A last minute free-kick was the only scare thereafter for the Dons, who held on to be crowned champions of the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
The result sent shockwaves through Europe. And the following season the Dons overcame Hamburg 2-0 in the Super Cup final to become the only Scottish side to win two European trophies.
For those of us who weren’t around during the Fergie era, we can only dream. For those who were, cherish it.
25 Years To The Day