I’m proud to have arranged for a few extracts of the Euros & Villans book by Rob Bishop to be serialised on Vital Villa. The first was: Euro & Villans: Aston Villa’s First Competitive European Game In 1975 and the second: Euro & Villans: Cowans Totally Winded In Fenerbahce
It was a night which is etched on the memory of anyone who was there – not to mention one of the players involved. Stan Collymore reckons he has never known the claret-and-blue faithful generate so much noise as they did on the night Atletico Madrid came to Villa Park for the second leg of a UEFA Cup quarter-final in 1998.
“The place erupted when I scored the goal which gave us victory on the night,” he said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to see us through to the semi-finals, but it was a moment which I will always remember.
“The atmosphere was incredible, although I think most of us believed it was all over when Atletico took the lead in the first half. That put them 2-0 ahead on aggregate so we had to score three.”
Collymore had been watching from the bench up to that juncture, having just recovered from the toe injury which had resulted in him being taken off in the first leg in Madrid. But seven minutes after half-time at Villa Park, he went on as a substitute for Savo Milosevic and John Gregory’s side started to claw their way back into contention.
In the 71st minute Ian Taylor fired home a low drive for the equaliser after good work by Lee Hendrie and Julian Joachim. And two minutes later Hendrie was involved again as Villa stormed into the lead.
“Lee knocked the ball inside to me just outside the penalty area,” recalls Collymore. “It flashed across my mind that we needed something special, so I let fly with a right-foot shot which was as good as any I ever hit.”
Indeed, the ball was still rising and would possibly have reached the top of the Holte End if it hadn’t been on target. But Collymore’s aim was as true as his shot was powerful, and the ball thudded into the roof of the net before keeper Jose Molina could move.
Villa led 2-1 on the night and were level on aggregate. Despite pressing forward relentlessly, though, they were unable to find that elusive third goal as Atletico survived to reach the semi-finals on the away goals rule. As I wrote in the following morning’s Birmingham Post: “The great Euro adventure is over, but Aston Villa were magnificent ambassadors for English football as they reached the end of the UEFA Cup road.”
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