On this day in 1971 St Johnstone famously defeated SV Hamburg 3 – 0 at Muirton Park in a UEFA Cup 1st Round second leg tie to win 4 – 2 on aggregate.
In painting the picture of the huge significance of this result it was really something of a David and Goliath contest.
Here were Saints appearing in a European competition for the very first time and meeting a German team that, only 3 years earlier had reached the final of the European Cup Winners Cup, losing the final in Rotterdam 2 – 0 to Italian giants AC Milan.
Included in the Hamburg squad were Willy Schulz and Uwe Seeler who were full Internationalists having appeared for West Germany in the 1962, 1966 and 1970 World Cup Finals. Indeed both appeared in the 1966 Final at Wembley where they lost 4 – 2 to England after extra time. In 1970 Seeler got some measure of consolation as he scored the second goal when the Germans came back from 2 goals down to win 3 – 2 against England in the Quarter Finals in Mexico.
The first leg in Hamburg had seen Saints lose in somewhat controversial circumstances. The home team scored in 10 minutes and although it appeared that three of their players were offside much to the amazement of the Saints players and manager Willie Ormond, the Portugese referee allowed the goal to stand.
Jim Pearson equalised in the second half but a late goal saw Saints lose 2 – 1 on the night.
When the second leg came around 2 weeks later, unfortunately, Benny Rooney and Seeler were injured and neither could appear, so the teams that Wednesday night were: –
Saints: Jimmy Donaldson, John Lambie, Willie Coburn, Alex Rennie, Alex Gordon, Ian McPhee, Kenny Aird, Gordon Whitelaw, John Connolly, Henry Hall, Fred Aitken.
Hamburg: Ozcan, Sandmann, Kurbkuhn, Scultz, Ripp, Nozly, Homig, Zaczyk, Winkler, Bjornmose, Volbert.
There was great excitement in Perth and surrounding areas in the days leading up to the match and over 12,000 fans were at Muirton Park to cheer on their favourites.
They would not be disappointed as Saints players showed no fear and straight from the kick off they took the game to their more illustrious opponents. Ozcan twice made saves from Hall and then a Connolly shot had him scrambling across his goal to keep the ball out. Muirton Park erupted in the 15th minute when Henry Hall latched on to an Ian McPhee pass to shoot past the keeper from 8 yards. Saints deservedly 1 – 0 ahead.
Two minutes later Saints had the ball in the net again when Hall passed to Connolly who managed to squeeze ball home. However, the referee decided that the striker had fouled the ‘keeper in the challenge for the ball and disallowed the “goal” much to the derision of the home fans.
Other than a fine Jim Donaldson save from a fierce Bjornmose shot, when he dived to turn the ball around the post for a corner, the remainder of the first half saw Saints very much in control but unable to add goals to their superiority.
Hamburg started the second half very physically with Hall and Aird coming in for some particularly rough treatment. Saints however were not being thrown out their stride and John Connolly was unlucky when a mazy run in which he went past three defenders was ended by a fine Schulz tackle. Hall was injured when fouled again and had to be replaced by Jim Pearson who was regarded as a danger man by the German coach. No surprise then that his “welcome to the match” was being fouled by Bjornmose which only earned a warning from the ref. A few minutes later the official produced a yellow card to Volbert for yet another foul on Kenny Aird.
In 63 minutes it was 2 – 0 when Pearson turned in a Connolly cross from close range.
Bjornmose had a goal disallowed for offside and Kurbkuhn was yellow carded for a foul on Saints ‘keeper Donaldson in rare attacks. Really, Connolly was running the Hamburg defence ragged and chances were coming thick and fast.
It was no great surprise when Gordon Whitelaw added goal number three in 78 minutes. Connolly headed a Fred Aitken corner back to Whitelaw and from 16 yards he fired a rocket shot past the diving visiting goalie.
In the final minutes Saints continued to dominate and both Aitken and Pearson had chances to add to the scoreline without being able to do so.
When the final whistle was sounded hundreds of young fans invaded the pitch to congratulate their heroes on what was a fantastic performance.
I was privileged to be there that wonderful night.