Seven months on from lifting the European Cup, Villa faced FC Barcelona in the UEFA Super Cup – a two-legged final, pairing the winners of the European Cup against the winners of UEFA’s (now defunct) Cup-winners cup.
On a mid-January night in Catalonia, Villa stepped foot into the Camp Nou.
It was their first visit back to the stadium since losing in the quarterfinals of the 1978 UEFA Cup.
Just three players remained from that night – Ken McNaught, Gordan Cowans and Dennis Mortimer, who all lined up to face the Spanish giants for the third time in their careers.
However, the changed personnel taking the field made little impact on the result that had wounded Villa those years ago.
UEFA European Super Cup, 1st Leg
19th January 1983 – Camp Nou
Barcelona 1-0 Aston Villa
Once again, Villa were beaten by a goal, as Nigel Spink was unable to prevent a deflected 25-yard shot hitting the back of the net.
All was not lost though. Tony Barton echoing what the native press were labelling Barca’s best performance of the 1982/83 season.
The hosts had still however failed to capitalize on several chances that would have put the game beyond reach.
For all the glaring misses on the night, Villa were grateful to take the game back to Birmingham with something to play for.
UEFA European Super Cup, 2nd Leg
26th January 1983 – Villa Park
Aston Villa 3-0 Barcelona
‘Blood-chilling’ was how Ian Johnson of the Evening Mail chose to describe this match. Ten bookings and three red cards were dished out by the referee!
Emotions were evidently running high throughout the game. Aided by the ‘blatant cheating and timewasting’ tactics the visitors were deploying, Villa had to push for a go-ahead goal on the night, that would restore the aggregate scoreline.
It looked like Barcelona would have it their way, up until the 80′ minute…
Gary Shaw swivelled and shot into the bottom right of the keeper’s goal, after Des Bremner had hit a bouncing cross into the striker’s path.
However, a deliberate elbow in the face of a Barcelona defender, by Peter Withe, had gone unseen by the referee – an incident that if spotted in today’s game, would no doubt have led to an immediate dismissal!
For several minutes after the goal, the teams stood poised for kick-off as the visiting player remained on the floor, with medics attending to a split lip – later requiring stitches.
As neither team found a winner in the remaining ten minutes, the game went to extra-time. Nine minutes in, Villa were presented with a golden opportunity.
Substitute, Mark Walters, was tripped in the penalty box leading to a spot-kick being awarded by the referee.
Swarms of yellow shirts surrounded the referee as the visiting goalkeeper attempted to discourage his players from arguing with the official. More bookings were distributed to Barcelona players as they continued in their pleas.
An anxious Gordan Cowans looked on from the centre of the box.
“The Barcelona players spent so much time arguing with the referee about his decision that when I stepped up, I hit the worst penalty of my career.
“(The goalkeeper) managed to parry it. Fortunately, the ball came straight back to me and I hit it against the net”
In almost hilarious fashion, Gonzalez – in goal for the Spaniards – lashed out at the penalty scorer, swiping Cowans’ legs from under him as he ran to pick the ball out of the net. This incident again went unnoticed by the referee however the Villa players reacted in due course.
With Cowans hobbling away, Colin Gibson saw the funny side and dodged some imaginary punches thrown by the aggrieved goalkeeper.
Barcelona were left rattled by the Villa players on the night and lost any kind of hope of still winning the trophy when McNaught produced a fine diving header late on. Standing in for the injured Dennis Mortimer, the captain put the game beyond doubt and Villa claimed the Super Cup.
A ‘Cup’ by definition, the trophy presented to Villa was rather a plaque – as can be seen in the photo.
Villa had come from a goal down on aggregate to beat Barcelona (with relative ease) and lift a successive European trophy!
At the time of the final, Villa were still competing in that seasons European Cup. A daunting quarter-final against Juventus awaited, and Villa would be without Allan Evans after he obtained a red-card that night (the only Villa player to do so).
In the next article of this series, the 1982/83 European Cup matches are remembered.