Qualified Teams

1st Aston Villa: Qualified for European Cup

2nd Ipswich Town: Qualified for UEFA Cup (they were UEFA Cup holders)

3rd Arsenal: Qualified for UEFA Cup

4th West Bromwich Albion: Qualified for UEFA Cup

5th Liverpool: Qualified for European Cup (as European Cup holders; they were also League Cup holders)

6th Southampton: Qualified for UEFA Cup

10th Tottenham Hotspur: Qualified for ECWC (as FA Cup holders)


European Cup

First Round:                        Aston Villa beat Valur Reykjavik (Iceland)                                5-0 h 2-0 a

1 Morley 6 Withe 37 Donovan 40 Withe 68 Donovan 69

2 Shaw 25 Shaw 70

                                                Liverpool beat OPS Oulu (Finland)                                              1-0 a 7-0 h

1 Dalglish 84

2 Dalglish 27 McDermott 39 Kennedy R 46 Johnson 60 Rush 68 Lawrenson 73 McDermott 74


In 1981, Aston Villa won the league title for the first time in 71 years, and thus it was they who joined holders Liverpool in carrying forward the latest English assault on the trophy. Both teams enjoyed a breeze through the first round. Villa began convincingly against the admittedly flimsy challenge of Valur Reykjavik. Tony Morley drilled the ball in from a free kick to set them on their way in the sixth minute. Peter Withe and Terry Donovan then scored twice each, but both missed further chances, as Villa coasted along. Gary Shaw then scored a brace of his own in Reykjavik as Villa completed a 7-0 aggregate win.


Liverpool went one better than that with an 8-0 aggregate win over OPS Oulu. Remarkably, OPS Oulu have only ever qualified for Europe (in any competition) twice, and on both occasions they suffered first-round defeats to Liverpool. On this occasion, their goalkeeper Jukka Rantanen performed heroics in the first leg before being eventually beaten by Kenny Dalglish’s 84th-minute shot, which went in off the post. At Anfield, six different Liverpool players got onto the scoresheet, but the game was played in somewhat sombre circumstances, coming just a day after the death of Liverpool’s most celebrated manager, Bill Shankly.


Second Round:                    Aston Villa beat Dynamo Berlin (East Germany)                     2-1 a 0-1 h

1 Morley 5 Riediger 50 Morley 85

2 Terletzki 15

                                                Liverpool beat AZ67 Alkmaar (Holland)                                   2-2 a 3-2 h

1 Johnson 22 Lee 48 Kist 59 Tol 86

2 McDermott 42p Kist 55 Rush 68 Thompson (og) 73 Hansen 84


The second round was much, much tougher for both teams. Liverpool faced AZ67 Alkmaar, the team that Ipswich had beaten in the previous season’s UEFA Cup final. Just as against Ipswich, the Dutch side decided to move the match to the national stadium in Amsterdam, only to be greeted by a mere smattering of their own fans, thus effectively conceding home advantage. All seemed to be going to plan for Liverpool as David Johnson’s header and Sammy Lee’s deft chip gave them a two-goal lead. However, a loss of concentration allowed Alkmaar back to 2-2; they nearly scored a last-minute winner too, but Kees Kist’s shot came back off Bruce Grobbelaar’s legs.


At Anfield, Liverpool were made to expend every ounce of energy before finally seeing off the impressive Dutch champions. Terry McDermott (from the penalty spot) and Ian Rush (from Kenny Dalglish’s assist) both scored, only for the visitors to equalise both times. The second equaliser was slightly fortunate, as Johnny Metgod’s lob came off the bar, hit Phil Thompson and bounced over the line. Eventually, with just minutes left, Alan Hansen scored from a corner, and Liverpool were through.


Aston Villa faced Dynamo Berlin and, in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, began well with Tony Morley’s volley putting them in front after five minutes. They continued to do well, despite Dynamo’s equaliser, but it looked like their good work would be undone by a harsh penalty decision with nine minutes left. Fortunately, Artur Ullrich’s spotkick hit the post, and his follow-up effort hit goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer’s legs and went over the bar. A reprieved Villa then took full advantage, as Tony Morley ran from fifteen yards inside his own half and scored a sensational goal.


After their impressive away win, the home leg was a nervous affair once Frank Terletzki had scored an early goal for Dynamo. A magnificent goalkeeping performance by Bodo Rudwaleit frustrated Villa, who also saw at least three shots cleared off the line. However, the hosts needed Rimmer to turn a late shot from Hans-Jurgen Riedeger against the post to close out a victory on away goals. Villa had certainly deserved to win the tie, but how close they had came to elimination.


Quarter-Finals:                  Aston Villa beat Dinamo Kiev (USSR)                                          0-0 a 2-0 h

2 Shaw 4 McNaught 44

                                                Liverpool lost to CSKA Sofia (Bulgaria)                                    1-0 h 0-2 a

1 Whelan 65

2 Mladenov 77 Mladenov 101


Trips to Eastern Europe awaited both English teams in the quarter-finals. Villa faced another Dinamo, this time from Kiev. The Soviet team were clear favourites for several reasons. Villa were having a very poor season in defence of their league title. Manager Ron Saunders had recently left the club in dramatic fashion. Kiev, meanwhile, had retained the Soviet championship, and made up the majority of the strong USSR team preparing for the World Cup finals, including Oleg Blokhin. However, Villa ripped up the form book with a 0-0 draw away in Simferopol, albeit against a side that hadn’t played a competitive match for three months.


Torrential rain in the lead-up to the second leg left the Villa Park pitch needing to be covered in sand, and ending up looking more like a beach. Inside five minutes, Peter Withe and Gordon Cowans combined to get the ball to Gary Shaw; the blond striker held off the defence and scored from a very acute angle. Just before half-time, Ken McNaught headed home from a corner. Villa’s lead would have been even more comfortable had Viktor Khlus been given the second yellow card he deserved inside the first half-hour. Villa could have scored several more in the second half too – Withe hit a post and missed two easy chances. Despite all their problems, they were into the semi-finals.


For the second season in a row, Liverpool faced CSKA Sofia in the quarter-finals. The previous year, Liverpool had won 5-1 at Anfield, and a repeat scoreline would have surprised few. This time, however, CSKA had learnt their lesson, and played extremely defensively at Anfield. Liverpool dominated from start to finish, but had just a single goal to show for it, scored through a crowd of players by Ronnie Whelan.


This defensive resilience gave CSKA real hope for the second leg. Once again, Liverpool dominated the whole match; indeed, it was blatantly obvious throughout the tie that Liverpool were the superior team, yet it was CSKA who emerged triumphant, helped in part by the referee, who denied Liverpool two strong penalty shouts, and not awarding them a goal when it appeared the ball had crossed the line. Liverpool squandered various chances to score a decisive away goal, and with just 13 minutes to go, a high centre by Nikola Velkov caught Bruce Grobbelaar out of position, and Stoycho Mladenov headed the ball back over him and in. Liverpool had a particularly strong penalty shout turned down in injury time as David Johnson was surely brought down in the area, and the game went into extra-time.


Liverpool continued to be clearly the better team, but for the second time in the game, Mladenov scored from a Velkov cross, and CSKA were amazingly ahead. Whelan subsequently hit the bar, Mark Lawrenson hit the post, and goalkeeper Georgi Velinov made several good saves, but they could not find that goal. To make matters worse, Lawrenson was sent off late on. Surprisingly, therefore, it was Villa who had outlasted Liverpool in the competition, when most had expected the reverse to be true, especially after the quarter-final draw was made.


Semi-Finals:                        Aston Villa beat Anderlecht (Belgium)                                         1-0 h 0-0 a

1 Morley 27


In the semi-finals, Villa faced Anderlecht. Tony Barton was by now installed as permanent manager; this was officially his first game in charge. Like CSKA Sofia in the previous round, Anderlecht went to England determined only to defend. Tony Morley, with a shot that went in off the post, managed to score the only goal of a game that, despite its importance in Villa’s history, would not live long in the memory.


In an ominous foreshadowing of events three years hence in the same city, the second leg was marred by crowd trouble, caused mainly by Englishmen, but those who had got tickets independently and were not associated with Villa. At one point, the game was held up for seven minutes whilst a spectator lay prone on the field of play, and police rushed in to quell further disturbances. It was such a shame for Villa that their finest hour was overshadowed in this way, as they played extremely well. Their defence, marshalled by the Scottish duo of Ken McNaught and Allan Evans, was superb, as they had to be against an Anderlecht side that inevitably played much more positively than in the first leg. Villa, for their part, often looked dangerous on the break. In the light of the crowd trouble, Anderlecht appealed to have the game replayed, although the appeal was rejected. Villa had reached the European Cup final.


Final:                                     Aston Villa beat Bayern Munich (West Germany)                    1-0 in Rotterdam

Withe 67


The final, in Rotterdam, promised much as Villa were up against a Bayern Munich team packed with West German internationals. Villa were clear underdogs, and even more so after eight minutes when goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer was forced off with a neck injury. He was replaced by Nigel Spink, whose only previous senior appearance had been three years earlier. It was an incredible story.


Bayern failed to test the rookie keeper for a while but, when they did, he responded with a string of acrobatic saves. Bayern came into the game more and more, and it seemed only a matter of time before they scored. However, a breakaway midway through the second half ended with Tony Morley’s cross being stabbed home from close range by an unmarked Peter Withe. Villa were in front.


The goal knocked the stuffing out of Bayern, whose dominance of the game was ended there and then. They did have one last chance, with two minutes left, but Dieter Hoeness’s goal was ruled out for offside. Aston Villa were champions of Europe, and Dennis Mortimer was able to lift the cup. England had won the competition for an incredible, and record-breaking, sixth season in succession. The fact that it had been done by a team who had struggled so much during the season, who had no European pedigree whatsoever, and who had a virtual novice playing in goal, made it even more extraordinary. Aston Villa finished the league season in 11th place, the lowest ever league position for a European Cup winner.


European Cup Winners’ Cup

First Round:                        Tottenham Hotspur beat Ajax (Holland)                                     3-1 a 3-0 h

1 Falco 19 Falco 34 Villa 67 Lerby 68

2 Galvin 69 Falco 76 Ardiles 81


Tottenham Hotspur’s last appearance in Europe had been the 1974 UEFA Cup final, when they lost in Rotterdam. Since then, they had suffered a lean time, and been relegated. Once they were back in the first division, though, they began to build a team which, by 1981, was one of the most exciting in the land. They included players such as the Argentine duo of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, as well as Glenn Hoddle. They won a memorable FA Cup final, thanks to Villa’s legendary winning goal, and were now back in Europe.


They began by returning to Holland, to take on one of the biggest names in world football, Ajax. It was barely a contest, as Spurs took control from the outset. Mark Falco broke through to give Spurs the lead after Steve Archibald’s thunderous effort had been only partially cleared. Falco added a second from a corner, before Ardiles released Villa to round the keeper and make it three. Soren Lerby’s solitary reply made barely a difference. At White Hart Lane, Spurs took longer to get going, but more than made up for that with a stunning late burst that yielded three goals, and completed a mightily impressive 6-1 aggregate win.


Second Round:                    Tottenham Hotspur beat Dundalk (Republic of Ireland)         1-1 a 1-0 h

1 Crooks 63 Fairclough 82

2 Crooks 63


The second round provided a stark contrast to the first for Spurs, as they took on Dundalk. In previous ties between England and the Republic of Ireland in Europe, English sides had averaged almost seven goals per game in the home matches. In Ireland, Dundalk were successful in breaking up Spurs’ rhythm, and earned a deserved 1-1 draw. Nonetheless, a stroll in the park was expected in the second leg, but it was not forthcoming. It took 63 minutes for the only goal of the game, and even then it a mightily scrappy effort from a corner – Garth Crooks the scorer. To be fair, Dundalk never really threatened, and the game might have been done and dusted had Steve Archibald’s driven shot not hit the underside of the bar.


Quarter-Finals:                  Tottenham H beat Eintracht Frankfurt (West Germany)       2-0 h 1-2 a

1 Miller 58 Hazard 80

2 Borchers 2 Cha 15 Hoddle 80


Next on the agenda for Spurs were Eintracht Frankfurt. The Germans were disappointingly negative at White Hart Lane, and barely tested Ray Clemence in the Spurs goal at all. Spurs were able to secure a regulation 2-0 win with two second-half goals. Paul Miller followed up a shot from Ossie Ardiles that came back off a defender, and Micky Hazard sidestepped a defender to fire home the second.


The second leg was a harrowing affair, as Eintracht wiped out the deficit inside 15 minutes. The first came after Ardiles was dispossessed, and the second after a slip by Paul Price. At this point, it seemed only a matter of time before Eintracht completed the comeback, but slowly the storm subsided, and Spurs worked their way back into it. With ten minutes to go, Glenn Hoddle took a pass from Chris Hughton and fired in the all-important goal that saw Spurs sneak through to the last four.


Semi-Finals:                        Tottenham Hotspur lost to Barcelona (Spain)                            1-1 h 0-1 a

1 Olmo 60 Roberts 84

2 Simonsen 46


The semi-final was against Barcelona, a mighty task for the Londoners. Barcelona’s tackling and general approach were so provocative it bordered on the disgraceful. After 59 minutes, Juan Jose Estella was dismissed for a second yellow card – it was surprising that his was the only sending-off of the match. A minute later, the ten men took the lead. Antonio Olmo’s long-range shot was speculative to say the least, but goalkeeper Ray Clemence, a man with three European Cup winners’ medals and one of the most reliable players in England, allowed the ball to slip through his fingers and into the net – a dreadful error.


Graham Roberts equalised from close range late on, to preserve Spurs’ unbeaten home record in Europe, but Barcelona were unlikely to fail in the Nou Camp. In the end, a single goal, scored in scrappy fashion by Allan Simonsen, was enough for Barcelona. The Spaniards played in a much less underhand fashion than in the first leg, but their man-marking abilities were still enough to prevent Spurs ever coming close to equalising.


Conveniently for Barcelona, the final was played at the Nou Camp, and the Catalans duly beat Standard Liege 2-1.



First Round:                        West Bromwich Albion lost to Grasshoppers (Switzerland)   0-1 a 1-3 h

1 Fimian 38

2 Fimian 10 Koller 15 Robertson 59 Jara 73

                                                Arsenal beat Panathinaikos (Greece)                                           2-0 a 1-0 h

1 McDermott 3 Meade 72

2 Talbot 53

                                                Southampton beat Limerick (Republic of Ireland)                   3-0 a 1-1 h

1 Moran 58 Moran 60 Armstrong 77

2 Keegan 63 Morris 65

                                                Ipswich Town lost to Aberdeen (Scotland)                                   1-1 h 1-3 a

1 Thijssen 44 Hewitt 47

2 Strachan 19p Wark 34p Weir 54 Weir 84


England’s quota of UEFA Cup places was restored to four for the 1981-82 season. Ipswich Town’s defence of the UEFA Cup was ended at the first hurdle. It was Aberdeen who did the damage. In both legs, Ipswich performed far below the level one had come to expect of them, and the Scottish team deserved their win. In the second leg, yet another European penalty converted by John Wark had given Ipswich hope, after Wark himself had conceded the penalty with which Gordon Strachan opened the scoring. In the second half, though, two good finishes by Peter Weir decided the tie in favour of Aberdeen.


Another side who were able to stay in the British Isles for the first round were Southampton, who faced Limerick of Ireland. The Saints were frustrated for an hour in Ireland, before Steve Moran scored two headers in two minutes, and the match finished 3-0. The second leg, however, was a minor embarrassment, as, despite a goal from Kevin Keegan, in his second and final season at the club, they could only manage a 1-1 draw. For Limerick, it was their tenth European match, and the first time they had avoided defeat. They played well throughout, and were generously applauded by the home fans as they went on a lap of honour at the end. Remarkably, one of their players was Tony Ward, a rugby union star who played fly-half for both Ireland and the British Lions.


Arsenal made the always-daunting trip to Athens to face Panathinaikos in the first round. Their gameplan was perfect, though. They remained patient, absorbing Panathinaikos’s early attacks, and counter-attacked sensibly. Goals by Brian McDermott and Raphael Meade gave them a fully-deserved 2-0 win. Neither side saw the second leg at Highbury as anything more than a formality, and a fairly dismal game ended 1-0 to the hosts.


No such joy, however, for the remaining English representatives, West Bromwich Albion. They had travelled to Zurich confident of victory over Grasshoppers. The 16-year old Andre Fimian scored the only goal of an entertaining and open first leg. Within the first ten minutes at The Hawthorns, Fimian (now 17) scored again. Already, West Brom now needed at least three goals, and given that they hadn’t managed a single one in their last five matches, it was a forlorn hope. They eventually did manage one goal, but lost 4-1 on aggregate.


Second Round:                    Arsenal lost to SV Winterslag (Belgium)                                     0-1 a 2-1 h

1 Berger 62

2 Billen 4 Hollins 31 Rix 73

                                                Southampton lost to Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)                       2-4 h 0-0 a

1 Jordao 2 Holmes (og) 20 Manuel Fernandes 42 Keegan 70p Channon 73 Manuel Fernandes 89


Thus, only Arsenal and Southampton remained into the second round. Arsenal had what looked like a very easy draw against SV Winterslag, a Belgian team made up mostly of part-timers who were enjoying their first and last European campaign (they folded in 1988). Even a shock 1-0 defeat in Belgium was dismissed as a bad day at the office, and few doubted Arsenal would turn things round at Highbury. Shockingly, however, Winterslag scored an away goal after just four minutes, as left-back Mathy Billen was left free to head past a statuesque Pat Jennings. The same man hit the underside of the crossbar with another effort as Arsenal were being embarrassed. Arsenal did score once in each half but it was not enough; the Belgians, unbelievably, were through on away goals.


Southampton had a tough-looking but eminently winnable tie against Sporting Lisbon, who were managed by Malcolm Allison. The first leg was at the Dell, where the Saints had not lost for a year. However, a good header by Rui Jordao put the visitors ahead inside two minutes, and Southampton were never really in contention from that point on. Nick Holmes’s attempted backpass went straight past his goalkeeper for an embarrassing own goal, and another defensive howler allowed Manuel Fernandes to make it 3-0 – all before half-time. A mini-comeback by Southampton left the final score at 4-2. The subsequent goalless draw in Lisbon was creditable but futile.


So it was that, for the second time in three seasons, England’s interest in the UEFA Cup was ended inside two rounds. The following season, however, things would get even worse. The final was between IFK Gothenburg, managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson, and Hamburg. The Swedes won 1-0 at home before stunning the German crowd with a 3-0 win in the second leg. Hamburg would have to wait until 1983 for European glory.