Our classic match for this game is described by many who were there as their most memorable Arsenal game ever. It was certainly a rollercoaster of emotions with Arsenal having been three goals down at one point in the tie (in contrast to yesterday when the team were three goals up!) and facing defeat at the final hurdle for the third season in a row. But…
Date: Tuesday 28 April 1970
Competition: European Fairs Cup final, second leg
Referee: G Kunze (East Germany)
Arsenal 3 (Kelly 25, Radford 75, Sammels 76)
The first leg had been emphatically dominated and won 3-1 by Anderlecht in Brussels in front of a capacity 37,000 crowd, and only a late goal by substitute Ray Kennedy had given Arsenal a glimmer of hope. Prior to the final it had been announced that away goals would not be used for this final. However, on the day of the second leg the Fairs Cup Committee announced they had decided that away goals scored in 90 minutes of either game would count double, thus adding to the value of Kennedy’s late strike.
The second leg at Highbury had a different flow to the first leg as Arsenal’s tenacity turned the tables on their artistic Belgian opponents to gain their first major trophy for 17 years. The first twenty minutes of the game were fairly nondescript as both teams vied for superiority. The Anderlecht attacking trio of Jan Mulder, Paul Van Himst and Johan Devrindt, while showing their class, could not take hold of this game as they had in the first leg. Instead the aerial power of John Radford, and the skills of George Armstrong, George Graham and Eddie Kelly won the day over the porous Anderlecht defence.
Early on Bob McNab and Graham both forced good saves from Jean Trappeniers. Then, in the 25th minute, an Armstrong corner was floated into the box for Frank McLintock to flick on which allowed Kelly to unleash a half volley from 20 yards which flew over the defence and nestled in the net.
After an hour Mulder and Wilfried Puis fashioned a chance for Thomas Nordahl to hit Bob Wilson’s post, which was their last real chance and afterwards Arsenal took control in the middle of the park.
With only a quarter of an hour remaining Graham and McNab combined on the left for a cross to be placed on the head of an unmarked John Radford. He made no mistake in levelling up the aggregate scores, though the Gunners were now ahead on the away goals rule. A minute later Jon Sammels chested down a long Charlie George cross, dribbled with the ball and shot into the far corner from 12 yards to seal the win.
Frank McLintock was handed the trophy by Sir Stanley Rous, chairman of FIFA. A multitude of jubilant fans converged on to the field of play joining in with the players on the lap of honour and carried many of the team shoulder-high around the pitch. Three players, including Charlie George, lost their shirts to souvenir hunters.
Arsenal: B Wilson, P Storey, B McNab, E Kelly, F McLintock, P Simpson, G Armstrong, J Sammels, J Radford, C George, G Graham. (Unused substitutes: S Nelson, J Roberts, P Marinello, R Kennedy, G Barnett).
Anderlecht: J Trappeniers, G Heylens, M Martens, T Nordahl, J Velkeneers, J Kialunda, G Desanghere, J Devrindt, J Mulder, P Van Himst, W Puis. (Unused substitutes: J Cornelis, A Peters, P Hanon, G Bergholtz, W Deraeve).
Bertie Mee said straight after the game “The experience we gained tonight will be invaluable for winning our next objective – the Football League.” In this goal he overachieved as he managed the team to the 1971 Double.
Don Howe, Arsenal coach and assistant manager, was somewhat more taciturn: “I had the greatest confidence that the lads could win.”
A relieved Arsenal captain, Frank McLintock, said: “At last I’m able to get rid of the feeling that I’m a jinx player. This Is my fifth major cup final and the first time I’ve finished on the winning side. I’m overwhelmed.”
Eddie Kelly scorer of Arsenal’s first goal: “I didn’t have time to take aim I just let go and hoped for the best. I could have jumped out of the stadium when I saw it go into the top of the net.”
A policeman commented on the antics outside the ground: “I’ve never seen scenes like it – not even when we won the war.”
Facts about linked to the match or players:
One man collapsed with a stroke and died in the ground. Another fractured his ribs and several others were injured in the crush as fans invaded the pitch.
Thousands of fans danced through the North London streets, as residents hung up flags and streamers in the team colours.
Arsenal became the third English team in succession, after Leeds and Newcastle, to win the Fairs Cup.
The players were given a civic reception later in the week as they made a lunchtime trip from Highbury to Islington Town Hall in an open top bus.
Only Jon Sammels of this team did not appear in the 1971 FA Cup final, his place being taken, albeit after positional changes, by Pat Rice.
Jan Mulder who scored twice in the first leg was accredited by the Arsenal players as the best forward in Europe.
Arsenal had reached the final by beating Ajax in the semi-final. The Dutch team went on to win the Eredivisie and followed it up by winning the European Cup for three consecutive years from 1970-71 onwards.
Background to the article
This season we’ve been asked to write a regular page in the official Arsenal programme based on a classic match featuring the opponents for each game we play in. Programme editor Andy Exley has kindly given us permission to reproduce the match reports on our blog. We will also be including additional material that didn’t make the final edit of the programme. If you can’t get to The Emirates, the programme is available on iPad and iPod for a bargain 69 pence per issue.
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