Escapades on the Continent – Villa in Europe: Journeying to the heart of communism – 1983/84

As we continue our Escapades on the Continent – Villa in Europe feature, the next step of our journey takes us to an away trip to Portugal as Aston Villa began their 1983-84 UEFA Cup campaign.


First Round, First Leg

Vitoria Guimaraes 1-0 Aston Villa

14th September 1983, Estadio Afonso Henriques, 12,000


Strong favourites to win the tie and knowing that the home leg was still to come, Aston Villa were content to see out a 0-0 stalemate as the game entered its final 10 minutes.

However, a disastrous defensive error cost Villa their clean sheet – and marginal advantage – as Steve McMahon tackled Vitoria’s star-man Paquito inside the box.

Incensing the Villa players and staff, the referee pointed to the spot giving Vitoria the chance to steal a victory.

Up stepped Gregorio Penteado who fired past Spink – winning the game for his side.

Dennis Mortimer recognized his teams mistake after the game.

“European football is all about patience. When we stayed on the ball and played simple short passes, we looked as if we could do something.”

“We let ourselves down by losing the discipline to do that.”


First Round, Second Leg

Aston Villa 5-0 Vitoria Guimaraes

28th September 1983, Villa Park, 23,732


With the penalty decision still at the forefront of their minds, Villa set out to dismantle Vitoria, 14 days on from their first meeting.

Peter Withe led the charge. Within two minutes of the tie resuming, he headed home a Tony Morley cross – restoring aggregate clarity.

Nevertheless, Portuguese resistance held firm. At half time, Villa still only led by a single goal.


Whatever Tony Barton said during the break clearly worked. His Villa side ran rampant in the second half with goals scored by Brendan Ormsby and Colin Gibson, sandwiched between Peter Withe scoring his second and third of the game.

First leg scares were put to rest and Villa progressed to the second round.


Second Round, First Leg

Spartak Moscow 2-2 Aston Villa

19th October 1983, Dynamo Stadium, 50,400


The second-round draw saw Villa paired with Spartak, of Moscow. Realistically, this was the draw that no team in the competition envied. Cold War tensions remained prevalent as Villa headed to the communist core of the world.

Compromising home advantage in an effort to incorporate more of their own fans into the stadium, Spartak decided the game should be played at the higher capacity ground of their rivals – Dynamo Moscow. The stadium move proved insignificant in altering the luck of Aston Villa, who were once again on the receiving end of a dubious penalty decision.

In the final minute of the game, Vlad Sochnov tumbled in the area after a fair challenge from Brendan Ormsby. However, the referee decided to award a penalty to the hosts despite a ‘no foul’ indication from the linesman – who had seen the incident from a perfect vantage. Having already scored once in the game Yuri Gavrilov sent Spink the wrong way and drew the match 2-2.

Colin Gibson of Aston Villa

The second half goals from Colin Gibson and Mark Walters – either side of Gavrilov’s first, saw Villa depart Moscow with a draw, but two precious away goals.


Second Round, Second Leg

Aston Villa 1-2 Spartak Moscow

2nd November 1983, Villa Park, 29,511


With two away goals scored in Moscow, few believed that Villa would throw away such an advantage in the return fixture.

But they did – and it was to come through yet another late twist in Villa’s fortunes.

Peter Withe scored again (as he had done against Vitoria) in the second minute of the game; and just as had happened against the Portuguese opponents a few months prior, no more goals flowed until the second half.

Barely minutes into the second 45 and Spartak had an equalizer – at this stage though, not enough to see them through as Villa still led on away goals.

What was to come next was described by the Birmingham Evening Mail as “an inhumanely cruel twist of fortune”.

The late Fyodor Cherenkov scored a deflected shot in the final minute of the game – crushing Villa hopes of a third-round passage.


Just 18 months on from winning the world’s most prestigious club competition, Villa had been knocked out of the European Cup’s ugly sister.

Eight of the players that had lined the tunnel in Rotterdam – against Munich – were in the squad against Spartak. However, sentiment proved insignificant and many would never play another European game for Villa.

In fact, due to the English club’s European football ban imposed after the Heysel disaster, Villa didn’t play another European fixture until 1990.


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