I’ve decided to blog random bits of history, whether it be about the Belgian Pro League, the second tier, European competition or The Belgian Cup (Beker van Belgie). The reason I’ve thought up this segment is not only to educate myself about the past, but to anyone who reads this, if anyone actually does, and to see that Belgian football isn’t about 1 or 2 teams, or the odd great player produced quite regularly actually, and that teams in the past competed and that the impossible is sometimes possible.
This two part blog is about the Club Brugge side that heroically reached 2 European finals, only to be beaten by the same team on both occasions. The season before, they had a poor league season by their own standards, finishing 4th, twelve points behind overall champions Molenbeek. There were also 2 representatives from Belgium in the UEFA Cup this season, with Royal Antwerp qualifying through league position.
Fresh start though going into this season, Brugge definitely had a better all round season, but we’ll get to that later, and we’ll start with a tie versus Lyon, where Vandereycken stole the show with a hat trick in a 4-3 defeat. Although it was a loss, those 3 goals put the Belgians in a good position for the return leg. That showed with a 3-0 home win where strangely, Vandereycken was technically the only Brugge scorer in the entire tie, with Lyon supplying two own goals.
With Lyon put away, Brugge progressed steadily and drew Ipswich Town. After a dreadful first leg, you’d be surprised that Brugge progressed after a dismal 3-0 defeat at Portman Road. The only excuse Ipswich may have is over confidence or just an absolutely terrible performance because Club Brugge totally turned the tie on its head with an amazing 4-0 win in the reverse leg at the OlympiaStadion. After a rapidly fast start, being 3-0 up in the first half through Lambert, De Cubber and Le Fevre, the second half looked like it was heading into extra time, until first round hero René Vandereycken popped up again to net the winner and complete the superb turnaround in the 87th minute!
With Roma up next, this looked quite a dull affair in comparison to the first two rounds with two 1-0 wins home and away. But with one part of the Italian job executed, Milan would prove to be a bit more of a match. The first leg looked easy enough for Brugge with 2 goals coming either side of the break from Le Fevre and Krieger giving them a nice 2-0 lead going into the away leg in Milan. And that clean sheet in the first leg proved to be pivotal, as Milan went 2-0 up themselves just after the hour mark. And with around 15 minutes to go, Sanders became the hero this time scoring the most vital of away goals in what could be considered an upset.
Brugge progressed to the semi finals with a short trip to Hamburg, where a Lambert goal just after half time gave them the upper hand, even though it was to finish 1-1. The home tie would prove to be cagey with one goal settling the tie overall in favour of Club Brugge. And to prove how cagey it was, a mistake settled it as Hamburg scored an own goal 5 minutes before time, sending Club Brugge to their first European final, but possibly the toughest test were to follow.
This two legged final must have left the bitterest of tastes in Brugge’s mouth. The first leg at Anfield couldn’t have gone much better, going 2-0 up in just 15 minutes. In unbelievable fashion, Brugge had one hand on the trophy, and maybe they believed that too much, because miraculously, Liverpool turned the tie on its head by overcoming that early setback to win the first leg 3-2!
With around 3 weeks for Brugge to go away and lock their wounds, they knew what they had to do, and it had already been done in this season’s UEFA Cup and win the home tie. But in brief, that didn’t happen. With another great start for Brugge as Lambert scored a penalty on the 11th minute, Kevin Keegan silenced the crowd 4 minutes later, and with that, settled the tie and the final in Liverpool’s favour.
On a European scale, there was certainly progression for Club Brugge and domestically, they won the league by 4 points over Anderlecht, with bigger finals to come…