Nights you may not want to remember in European football
Date: 27th June 2015
WE must confess, we found this one a bit trickier to write. Not only was it difficult to think of games where Scottish teams have been upset in European competition — considering it’s usually at such an early stage — but also down to the fact that most people try and forget about these ones.
However, through a lot of time and research, we’ve managed to come up with a little list of times where ‘lesser teams’ have come up against our Scottish sides and knocked us out.
This list will certainly be a lot more recent than the previous feature, but all is well because we do not want to open wounds that have healed in decades gone by… just the ones that are still fresh-ish in the memory.
Last season’s Europa League qualifying campaign was a tale of such woe for three of our clubs. Aberdeen were unlucky to lose to Real Sociedad — a relatively large Spanish club — over the two legs, so there case was not tipped as an upset. However, both St Johnstone and Motherwell came up against opponents they were expected to beat. Tommy Wright’s Saints lost to Slovakian side Spartak Trnava 3-2 over the two legs, with a credible 1-1 draw away the highlight of their journey. The match was, in truth, lost in the home first leg, when Ivan Schranz’s double all but killed any hopes of progressing in the tournament. Dave Mackay slotted home late on to give the Perth men a glimmer of hope going into the second leg, but Martin Mikovic ended destroyed their ambitions of reaching the Europa League group stages after Stevie May had opened the scoring. With the Saints 3-2 down and desperately needing a goal, May missed a glorious chance late on that would have forced extra-time. Alas, it was not to be.
In the same summer, Motherwell came up against Celtic’s Champions League opponents of this year, Icelandic side Stjarnan. Stuart McCall’s side were 2-0 up thanks to a Josh Law double at home before Keith Lasley conceded two penalties in the same night – one of which was in injury time — to allow the Icelandic side to tie the match up at 2-2 at the end of the first leg. So, still going to Iceland high on confidence and believing they could get the win they felt they deserved from the first leg, Motherwell took the lead through Stevie Hammell. That was until another penalty kick — again conceded by Lasley — was scored to level the scores at 3-3 on aggregate. Lionel Ainsworth put the Steelmen ahead in the tie but Rolf Toft’s strike in the 85th minute forced extra-time, where Motherwell crashed out to an
113th-minute strike from Atli Johannsson.
It was not just in the Europa League that Scottish clubs were being humiliated by the ‘unknown’ sides. Celtic, under new boss Ronny Deila, were dumped out of the Champions League not once, but twice. First by Legia Warsaw and a second time by Maribor after Celtic were reinstated at Legia’s expense for the Poles fielding an ineligible player. After losing the first leg in Poland 4-1, the Parkhead side’s hopes were all but done for, then to lose the home leg of the tie 2-0, fans were already calling for Deila’s head. The club were given a reprieve, however, and sought to right their wrongs from the Legia tie. Again, the first leg was an away trip for the Glasgow side, and they earned a respectable 1-1 draw, something which made them overwhelming favourites to progress. But, in the 75th minute of the second leg, Morales Tavares stunned Celtic, their supporters and Scotland as a whole, when they dumped the Scottish side out of the competition for the second time in as many weeks.
Across the city, but almost eight years ago now, Rangers were humiliated by FC Kaunas in the second qualifying round of the Champions League. The previous season, Walter Smith had guided the Ibrox side to the Final of the UEFA Cup, where they lost to Zenit St Petersburg where they lost 2-0. The season following that run, it was widely expected that the club would make it to, at least, the Champions League group stages. However, Smith’s men came up against a Kaunas side which proved to be dogged and resilient in defence. After coming away with a 0-0 draw at Ibrox in the first leg, Rangers were still the favourites to progress to the next round. When Kevin Thomson opened the scoring in Lithuania, the Scots were expected to see the game out. Goals from Nerjus Radzius and Linas Pilibaitis dumped the club out of the competition at the first hurdle.
We are going to delve further into the past for our next Scottish shocker. Dundee United were drawn against the Finnish side MYPA in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup second qualifying round and still had players of the calibre such as Charlie Mulgrew, Barry Robson, Lee Miller and an ageing Craig Brewster, but were still expected to overcome this challenge. A 0-0 first-leg draw in Finalnd stood United in good stead for the return fixture at Tannadice, and when they took the lead through Mark Kerr, United looked set to grab control and see the game out. Collin Samuel made in 2-0 to the home side and it was not even
half-time. However, the Finns were resilient and two goals from Brazilian striker Adriano in the final 15 minutes knocked the Scottish side out of the competition.
Once again, we have reached the end of this feature, with plenty of other examples coming to mind such as Hibs v Malmo of 2013/14 and Dundee v Sartid in the 2001/02 Intertoto Cup, but we have given enough examples here to rip open enough wounds for fans of Scottish football. Hopefully, we will not see many nights like this going forward.
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Tags: Aberdeen, Celtic, Champions League, Dundee United, Europa League, Hibs, Intertoto Cup, Motherwell, Rangers, St Johnstone, UEFA Cup