Friday, 27 September 2019

Six Clubs You Probably Never Realised Have Won a European Trophy


Dinamo Tbilisi

Nowadays sometimes champions in a low quality Georgian league whilst unnoticed on the European stage, Dinamo Tbilisi were once upon a time one of the top sides in the Soviet Union where they were twice league champions and for a while a big name in Europe. In 1981 they won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup defeating amongst others West Ham United and Feyenoord en route to the final.  

The 81 final was held at the Rheinstadion in Düsseldorf where Tbilisi faced Carl Zeiss Jena in what was only the second time two sides from behind the Iron Curtain had met in a UEFA final. With travel at the time severely restricted for citizens of most Eastern European countries, it's unsurprising that only 4,750 turned up to watch Tbilisid come from behind to win 2-1.

Eintracht Frankfurt

Often a regular in the Bundesliga, Eintracht Frankfurt have, however, only once been crowned German champions. They are not exactly the biggest name in German football, and certainly not regulars in European competition. Frankfurt were, however, runners up in the European Cup in 1959 and twenty years later ended up winning the UEFA Cup. 

Unbelievably that year all four semi finalists were from West Germany. Frankfurt lost 2-0 to Bayern München in the first leg of their semi final but won the second leg by the same scoreline and progressed with a 5-1 win after extra-time.

In the final their opponents were Borussia Mönchengladbach who had beaten VfB Stuttgart in the other semi. In an era when the UEFA Cup was still called the UEFA Cup the final was in those days played over two legs and although Frankfurt lost the first leg away from home 3-2, a 1-0 win in the second leg saw them crowned UEFA Cup champions thanks to the away goals rule.

KV Mechelen

KV who? I'm sure you've heard of some Belgian football teams, Club Brugge and Anderlecht spring to mind, but KV Mechelen? Possibly not. After Mechelen won the Belgian Cup for the very first time in their history in 1987 the club qualified for the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and competed in European competition for also the very first time.

Based in a small town between Antwerp and Brussels no one expected Mechelen's European adventure to last long. Wins over Dinamo București, St MIrren, Dinamo MInsk, and Atalanta, however, saw Mechelen reach the final where they defeated favourites Ajax by one goal to nil in what is arguably the biggest upset in UEFA finals history.

1. FC Magdeburg

Nowadays a third tier German side few people outside of that country are probably aware of, 1. FC Magdeburg were once upon a time a top name in the former communist state of East Germany. But with East Germany not exactly a footballing power like their Western counterparts were, no East German side had won a European Trophy until Magdeburg won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1974. 

A 3-2 aggregate semi final victory over Sporting Clube de Portugal saw Magdeburg face AC Milan in the final at Rotterdam's De Kuip stadium. Travel restrictions imposed by the East German state, and Milan supporters seeing the result as a foregone conclusion, meant there were as little as just under 6,500 spectators in attendance to see goals in the 42nd and 74th minutes give the East Germans a shock victory that very few would have predicted.

Real Zaragoza

Real Zaragoza are not exactly the biggest of names in Spanish football and a sole runners up finish in 1974-75 is their best La Liga finish to date. With only 18 European campaigns to their same since they first entered the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1962, they are not exactly big names on the European stage either. They are however six times Copa del Rey winners and in 1995 also won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. 

Wins over Feyenoord and Chelsea amongst others saw Zaragoza reach their first European final where they beat Arsenal 2-1 after extra-time.

ŠK Slovan Bratislava

Although regulars in European competition, Slovan Bratislava rarely get beyond the early rounds, but in 1968-69 they beat FK Bor, FC Porto, Torino, and Dunfermline Athletic to reach the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final.

Slovan, based in the second city of what was then Czechoslovakia recorded a surprise 3-2 victory over FC Barcelona in the final to become the first and only ever team from Czechoslovakia or modern day Czech Republic and Slovakia to win a European trophy. 

Two second round European Cup appearances and in more recent times three Europa League Group Stage eliminations is the best they've managed on the European stage since.

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