Everton: Five famous matches part 4

On we go with my look back at five famous and important Everton games from the recent past. This one is a match that every Evertonian will surely agree is a truly momentous day in modern Blues history.

It’s April 1985 and Everton are riding the crest of a wave. The Toffees are leading the First Division table and look well on course for the league championship. They are also in two cup semi-finals with the opportunity to win an unprecedented treble.

The first of those semi-finals is in Europe, as the Blues have the chance to reach the club’s first ever European final in the Cup-Winners-Cup.

This competition, which has been defunct since 1999, used to be the competition that all domestic Cup winners entered.

Everton, the FA Cup holders, had enjoyed a smooth enough journey through the competition overall, despite finding their opening fixture opponents, the part-time Irish team of University College Dublin, an unexpectedly tough nut to crack in the first round.

Since then the Blues had cruised through the tournament beating Czech side Inter Bratislava and Holland’s Fortuna Sittard, but now faced a true test as they were drawn against the fabled German giants Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.

Bayern had a team full of internationals, including Belgian goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff and West German internationals such as defender Klaus Angenthaler, midfield dynamo Lothar Matthaus and forward Dietmar Hoeness.

In addition, the German side were very experienced European campaigners having won the European Cup three times in a row during the 1970’s. And many of the current team had been in the side beaten in the final three years earlier by Aston Villa, a game which coincidentally was in Rotterdam, where this Cup-Winners-Cup final would take place.

So the Toffees were facing a real test of their quality and nous. The first leg of the semi was in Germany. Everton played a consummate away leg, defending solidly and always offering enough of a threat going forward to keep their much more experienced hosts honest.

Having secured a very commendable 0-0 draw in Bavaria, the Blues now knew they had a great chance to get to a first European final when the return leg was played at Goodison Park.

Over 50,000 fans packed into the grand old lady that night exactly 35 years ago today, to see whether Everton could make the most of that goalless draw in Germany.

Many of the players and fans who were there have said that the atmosphere that night at Goodison was the best they’ve ever seen or heard!

Inevitably perhaps given that, and what was at stake, the early exchanges were frenetic and uncertain and both teams were guilty of some excessively robust tackling. Both Andy Gray and a German player were booked after one incident as tempers flared during a hard-fought first half.

Then as half-time approached, Matthaus, always such a threat with his technical ability and vision, picked out Kogl who beat the Blues offside trap and shot at goal.

Everton keeper Neville Southall saved the initial shot but the ball rebounded and Hoeness following up, cooly picked his spot to score past several Toffees players who had rushed back to try to block the ball on the line.

Now Everton had a problem, as Bayern’s goal would count double because it was away from home. The Blues had to score at least twice to go through, something they’d not really looked like doing so far.

The second half began with Everton searching for an equaliser while the Germans looked to absorb the Blues pressure and counter attack in typical continental style.

However their defence was breached early on in the half, as an error by Pfaff let the Toffees in. After one of Gary Stevens customary long throw-ins, the Belgian keeper couldn’t hold the ball, dropped it, and Graeme Sharp was in the right place to force the ball over the line.

With the crowd roaring them on, Everton now had the bit between their teeth and were playing with tremendous energy, determination and no little skill.

Gray was instrumental, having perhaps his best ever game for Everton on this night, leading the line with fierce determination and plenty of aggression, which certainly unsettled the Bayern Munich defence.

He it was who scored the Blues second goal after another Everton set-piece that the Germans couldn’t deal with.

And now it was Bayern who had to come out and try to score another themselves. As they searched for an equaliser, Trevor Steven broke through their defence and from 20 yards or so out, superbly slotted home to make it 3-1.

Three were no more goals and so ended the club’s greatest ever European night. The Toffees had reached the European Cup-Winners-Cup final and the first leg of that treble was definitely still on.

After the match, many of the German team and management criticised what they regarded as the overly robust and physical way Everton had gone about their work. While that was true to some extent, the Blues had also played good attacking football and in truth fully deserved their win.

It was in some ways a game which was typical of this era, when English sides so often overcame technically better continental teams due to their superior fitness, physical strength and with an intimidating crowd behind them.

At any rate Evertonians didn’t care, they had a European final to look forward to and before then the chance of a first league championship in fifteen years.