Sunday, 29 October 2017

1984/85 UEFA Cup: Tottenham v Real Madrid

With Tottenham and Real Madrid going head-to-head in the 2017/18 Champions League, this week I am taking a look back to their 1985 UEFA Cup quarter final, and two particularly harrowing games for Steve Perryman.

It said a lot regarding the recent fortunes of Real Madrid that, in the eyes of many, they went into their 1985 UEFA Cup quarter final with Tottenham as underdogs. A recent run of just one win in ten matches had seen the club slip out of the race for La Liga, something not made easier by the fact that Terry Venables' Barcelona were on their way to the title. Manager Amancio Amaro was under heaps of pressure, especially with President Luis de Carlos standing down, and Ramon Mendoza expected to take his place in the summer of '85.

Speculation circulated that Amaro could only save his job by winning the UEFA Cup. But Real Madrid seemed determined to do things the hard way throughout the tournament. A 5-2 aggregate win over SSW Innsbruck in the first round was comfortable enough, but from this point on Amaro was driven to the precipice after two shoddy first leg displays. A 3-1 defeat in Yugoslavia against Rijeka looked to have ended Real's hopes of their first European trophy in 19 years. Cue comeback number one.

Three goals in the last 23 minutes of the second leg sealed a dramatic 4-3 win, and there was more to come. When Real conceded three away from home in the next round at Anderlecht, the end of the line appeared to have been reached. After all, Anderlecht had won the competition in 1983, and were runners-up to Tottenham a year later. Yet an Emilio Butragueno hat-trick inspired Real to an astonishing 6-1 win in the Spanish capital, setting up the quarter final with Peter Shreeves' high-flying Tottenham.

After taking over from Keith Burkinshaw, Shreeves could not have asked for a better start to his Tottenham reign. Sitting second in the table behind Everton, there was real hope at White Hart Lane that the club could win their first championship since 1961. In contrast to Real, Tottenham's run to the last eight of the UEFA Cup had been relatively stress free. A 9-0 aggregate win over Braga, was followed by a 4-2 win over Club Brugge, although the 3-1 victory over Bohemians Prague did come at a cost.

A bruising second leg in Prague saw both Glenn Hoddle and Graham Roberts leave the pitch with stitches, although a booking picked up by the latter would have more of an impact on the European campaign. Roberts' suspension for the first leg at White Hart Lane was a big blow. Even more so given the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Madrid's European run. Taking an advantage to the Bernabeu seemed imperative for Tottenham if they wanted to hold on to the UEFA Cup.

Rumoured to be £5 million in debt, and struggling to pay their players' wages, Real were far from the force that they once were. Without a La Liga title since 1980, and with two relatively recent European final defeats to Liverpool and Aberdeen, the glory days of Di Stefano and Puskas seemed a distant memory. But with players such as Jose Antonio Camacho, Uli Stielike, Ricardo Gallego, Butragueno, Santillana, and Jorge Valdano, there was still enough talent to threaten Tottenham's proud record of no home European defeats.

"I bear Tottenham no ill-will," wrote David Miller in The Times. "But it is sad to see a club such as Real struggling after all the years of setting standards and arriving in London as palpable underdogs." With Paul Miller and Tony Galvin declared fit, Gary Stevens moving to centre back to fill in for Roberts, and Mickey Hazard returning to the team, confidence was high in the Spurs camp. But a determined Real would get the job done, and leave journalists to reassess their opinions on the state of the club.

"The sacrificial lambs turned out to be more like slippery eels," Steve Curry stated in the Daily Express. "So much for the relative merits of the English and Spanish leagues," Stuart Jones opened with in The Times. "The Spaniards were technically superb," Harry Miller of the Daily Mirror declared, with all reports stressing how a lack of invention from the home team, and defensive organisation from Real thwarted Tottenham's chances. Full backs Camacho and Chendo kept John Chiedozie and Galvin quiet; in midfield, Michel and Angel blunted Glenn Hoddle and Hazard.

The only goal of the evening came after 14 minutes. During a move started in their own area, Camacho, Stielike, and Michel all combined to send Butragueno away down the right. Turning Miller inside out, Butragueno fired across goal, only for Ray Clemence to get a slight touch on the ball, which in turn gave Steve Perryman no chance to react. The Spurs skipper could only look on in horror as the ball struck his knee and gave Real a crucial away goal.

Tottenham had started well, with Hazard going close ten minutes before Perryman's unfortunate incident. Yet the away goal took the wind out of Tottenham's sails. Valdano squandered a glorious chance to double the lead, and Butragueno also put a header wide. As the second half commenced, Tottenham knew that another slip would probably spell the end. But it would be the home team that came closest to scoring, on a night of pure frustration for Shreeves and his players.

On first inspection, Galvin's goal after Hazard's through ball looked like it had been wrongly ruled out for offside, and replays confirmed Tottenham's ill-fortune. And this would be the first of many close things; a poor touch from Garth Crooks saw keeper Angel deny the striker; a cross from Mark Falco just eluded Hazard; Hoddle drilled an effort agonisingly wide. The home team huffed and puffed, but could not find a way through. For the first time in 44 ties in European competition, they had failed to score at home.

"It doesn't please me to say that Real played some superb stuff at times," Shreeves admitted. "I think this is a night when we must salute the victors." But with Real's impressive home record, the Tottenham manager was fully aware of the task ahead. "It will need a special performance in the return game if we are to get through." As the crowd of 39,914 filed away, the Tottenham PA announcer boldly said that "This tie is far from over." But where optimism had surrounded Tottenham before the first leg, pessimism had now taken its place.

At least Tottenham could travel to Spain with a spring in their step. The weekend before had seen the club win their first match at Anfield since 1912 - leading to many a reference to the Titanic in the newspaper reports. Meanwhile, Real continued their wobbly domestic form, losing 1-0 at Osasuna. With Stielike ruled out due to hepatitis, there was a glimmer of hope for the visitors. But another disallowed goal, and more disappointment for Perryman, would loosen Tottenham's grip on the UEFA Cup.

Containing Real during the early stages, Tottenham created a few half chances, and although Danny Thomas had to clear a Manuel Sanchis effort off the line just before the break, at 0-0 they were still in the tie. But the cruellest blow was still to come. In the 75th minute, Falco rose above Jose Salguero to head past Angel. Yet referee Bruno Galler spotted an infringement, and with it Tottenham's chances evaporated. Even more so when skipper Perryman saw red just three minutes later.

Given his marching orders for a crude foul on Valdano, Perryman did have the support of Shreeves, Curry, and Miller, all suggesting that the decision had been harsh. But his dismissal was the moment that Tottenham's chances finally disappeared into the Spanish sky, with Real progressing 1-0 on aggregate. Perryman's last European match for the club was just as soul-destroying as his previous appearance. When you consider that he was also suspended for the second leg of the final in 1984, Perryman's last few experiences of the UEFA Cup were far from ideal.

Real would go on to lift the trophy in May, fittingly losing 2-0 against Inter away from home in the semi-final, before, you've guessed it, winning the home leg 3-0. But Amaro would not be around to enjoy the fruits of his labour. Resigning less than a week after the defeat in Milan, Luis Molowny stepped into the breach, leading the club to a 3-1 aggregate win over Videoton of Hungary in the final. A year later, Real successfully defended the trophy, pulling off another couple of memorable comebacks against Borussia Monchengladbach and Inter along the way. Real's route back to European glory was certainly not dull.

Shreeves would never touch these dizzy heights again. Five defeats in their remaining League fixtures, all suffered at White Hart Lane, saw Tottenham finish in a respectable third place. But Shreeves suffered with second season syndrome, and come May 1986, David Pleat stepped into the managerial hot seat. However, as the years progressed, Shreeves' debut season grew more and more impressive, and who knows, with a little bit of help from the officials at the time, he could have had the scalp of Real Madrid on his CV.

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