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16 October 2014

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Dundee Utd reach the UEFA Cup Final 1987

John Clark

© SNSpix

Again, home advantage came to pass, and United, who by now had perfected the counter-attacking style to devastating effect, found themselves taking a 1-0 advantage to Camp Nou - thanks to Kevin Gallacher's second-minute strike. Most observers expected the kitchen sink treatment in Spain, and Caldere's first-half strike did nothing to dissuade the neutral - but big John Clark scored his third of the campaign with 5 minutes left - a vital away goal which left Barca staring at the proverbial mountain, before Iain Ferguson put the tie beyond doubt in the dying seconds.

Few teams held any fear for the Tangerines and the draw paired them with German hard-men Borussia Moenchengladbach. Yet another initial home tie served only to frustrate the Arabs, a no-score draw giving the cocky Borussia side a perceived advantage for the return leg. However the amazing counter-attacking style perfected by few Scottish teams worked wonders, with Iain Ferguson again taking the lead and Ian Redford settling matters with yet another final-minute strike. The win echoed a similarly comfortable 5-0 success over the same German side in 1981.

In the 1980s, UEFA Cup finals were two-legged affairs starved of the showpiece neutral venue, but that in itself only served to reinforce the achievement - Dundee would host its first, and probably only, European final on April 22nd 1987.

Over 50,000 fans witnessed the Swedish leg of the tie, and despite giving a fair account of themselves, United were pegged back by Stefan Pettersson's 38th minute goal.

21,000 supporters jammed into Tannadice for a hopefully successful return leg, with an audience of over 70 million tuning in across Europe - firmly putting Dundee and Scotland on the footballing map. However hopes were dashed by a sickening away goal barely 22 minutes into the match, from Lennart Nilsson. John Clark gave the hosts hope on the hour mark, but despite a flurry of chances the Tangerines just couldn't score the two goals needed for victory.

UEFA Cup Final match programme


However nothing could diminish the achievement that night, and in what would become Scotland's badge of honour in future cross-border competitions, the United fans stayed behind en masse to share Gothenburg's celebrations, as much as they applauded their own team's efforts.

FIFA recognised the fans with the first-ever Fair Play award, a fact recorded by a new family stand at Tanndice bearing the title. That, as much as any sporting achievement, is a legacy worth preserving.

Written by: Dave Low

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