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 won the league by 4 points, retaining their title from the season before and which was also their 2 second title out of 5 in the eighties. Seeing as they seemed to be running the show on a domestic front, they were eager to make an impression on the European stage.
The season before they impressed as well, only to be knocked out at the quarter final stage by runners up Borussia Mönchengladbach, so their pedigree in the immediate at that point wasn’t too bad. Up to that point and still to this day, no Belgian team has ever lifted the European cup, so history in that way hasn’t been on their side.
The European Cup, as most people know back then, was straight knock tournament, so no mini leagues like now and obviously you had away goals too, no second chances to claw yourself back through a point system. And…Not luckily, maybe fortunately (basically the same) Brugge were drawn against KuPS from Finland, and they were comprehensively dismantled 9-2 on aggregate by the boys from Belgium. The first leg was in Finland and going by the aggregate and result in both matches, it was goalless after 45 minutes. I’m guessing after a dressing down, although I maybe wrong, Brugge came out meaning business as Vandereycken, Cools, Lambert and Davies made the first leg look comfortable.
After that result, any score was possible in the return, and 5-2 showed that. With the score 3-1 at half time, a comeback never looked likely as Davies (x2) and Vandereycken put the tie to bed. Simoen and Maes merely tucked KuPS in.
With progression looking more than comfortable, sterner tests were still to come, and in today’s money, the teams faced proved Club Brugge’s credentials on their way to the final. Up next were Greek champions Panathanaikos who most people will know that on their day, they are a handful and back then, they showed that too. After a straightforward 2-0 home victory, with goals coming from Davies again and Cools either side of the break, a good defensive display in Athens would suffice, and although it seemed to go to plan, a late Gonios goal in the last 10 minutes nearly upset the apple cart somewhat.
With things going well domestically, Brugge couldn’t be complacent on the European stage, as things would now begin to heat up in the latter stages of the competition as they drew Atletico Madrid in the quarters. With another 2-0 home win, with goals coming either side of the half again through Courant and De Cubber this time, they’d hope that they could use that confidence in an extremely tough and hostile environment in the Spanish capital. However, things nearly backfired big time, as Madrid drew the aggregate score by half time. Going into the second half, Brugge couldn’t lose focus and knew a goal meant that Atletico need two to qualify, and on the hour, Julien Cools netted to ease a whole lot of pressure, but that didn’t last long, as Pina scored his second of the night just 2 minutes later. With half hour still to play, could Brugge hang on? Not only could they hang on, they could grab another through Raoul Lambert to not only secure their progression, but win the tie overall.
With the semi finals looming, it was always going to be tough, and that was proven by drawing Juventus! The toughest match to date in the tournament and that was again proven with Juve taking the 1st leg 1-0 in Turin. Club Brugge knew as long as they won and didn’t concede they were definitely in with a chance, and they couldn’t have had a better start as defender Alfons Bastijns scored only after 3 minutes, settling a lot of nerves. But with that being the only goal, extra time was on the horizon and maybe…Penalties. And with no goals in the first half of extra time, penalties looked a real possibility until René Vandereycken became the hero scoring the winner in minute 116!
Jubilant celebrations occured knowing that they were 1 win away from being champions of Europe, but if Juventus was a task, they had to face defending champions Liverpool at Wembley.
Going into the match, legendary manager Ernst Happel was without 2 big names who helped out on the way to the final, with Davies and Lambert both out. And unfortunately for Brugge, after a scoreless first half, Kenny Dalglish hit the killer blow in the 64th minute which broke the hearts of all those Belgian fans. After that match, Happel was on his way to Argentina to manage the Dutch, where they went on to lose the final to the hosts.
That season at home, Club Brugge successfully retained their league title, which gave them another crack at the European Cup the next season, only to go out in the first round to Polish champions Wisla Krakow in late fashion under new stewardship.