Aston Villa famously won their sole European Cup trophy in the 1981/82 season. The claret and blue side reached the pinnacle of club football when they tasted success in the competition in the 1980s. In modern times, Unai Emery is guiding the club back on a gradual upward trajectory. They could perhaps extend their European legacy in the near future, but for now, their past success remains the peak of the club’s history. But what did their journey to the final that year look like?
🚨🇪🇺 𝐎𝐅𝐅𝐈𝐂𝐈𝐀𝐋 | Unai Emery’s Aston Villa will play European Football next season in the UEFA Conference League.
From relegation worries to a 7th placed finish: great improvement! pic.twitter.com/Ipgsaw9BWW
— EuroFoot (@eurofootcom) May 28, 2023
Villa entered the European Cup for the very first time in the 1981/82 season. They were minnows on the European stage and were seeking their maiden success in the competition, which is not unfamiliar territory for an English side throughout the history of the game. In the current season of the modern game, Manchester City are seeking their first triumph. They are the 2/5 favourite in football betting to defeat Inter Milan within 90 minutes in this year’s final. Pep Guardiola’s side are huge 2/9 favourites in the Champions League winner odds to lift the cup in general if more than regular time is required.
City is expected to lift the famous trophy under the guidance of Guardiola. But the narrative surrounding Villa’s journey was the polar opposite. They continually defied the odds to go all of the way in 1982. But how did they do it, and who did they face?
Road to the final
Villa’s road to winning the European Cup began with their league campaign of 1980/81. They won the first division title which granted them a place in the European Cup proper. This meant they would face off against fellow league champions from all around Europe.
In the first round, Valur Reykavik awaited and Villa were expected to comfortably progress. They recorded a comprehensive seven-goal victory to nil on aggregate. However, in the second round, the difficulty of Villa’s opponent quickly saw an upturn. East German champions BFC Dynamo awaited, and were viewed as narrow favourites compared to the Midlands-based side.
One of Villa’s greatest-ever players in Tony Morley netted a brace in Germany, which helped his side to take a 2-1 lead back to Villa Park. Dynamo’s quality was evident in the home leg, as they defeated the Villains by a goal to nil. However, the English side, fortunately, progressed due to the away goals ruling.
Villa comfortably eased past Dynamo Kyiv in the quarter-finals. They navigated a goalless away leg before dispatching the Ukrainian champions 2-0 at home. Morley was again the hero in the semi-final – he scored the only goal of the two-legged affair against Anderlecht.
𝟙𝟡𝟠𝟚 𝔼𝕦𝕣𝕠𝕡𝕖𝕒𝕟 ℂ𝕦𝕡 𝔽𝕚𝕟𝕒𝕝
On this day Aston Villa won the European Cup beating Bayern Munich 1-0 in Rotterdam.
— Aston Villa Statto (@AVFCStatto) May 26, 2021
Nevertheless, Villa fought an intense battle with the West German league winners. Peter Withe got the only goal in Rotterdam which ensured that the European Cup remained in England but came to Villa Park for the first time. Manchester City could similarly become maiden UCL champions this year, but it would not topple the remarkable achievement of the 1982 Villa side.
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