Following Steven MacLean’s goal in Luzern last week Saints have now scored 19 goals in the 17 matches played in both the UEFA Cup and Europa League competitions.
European nights have always been special occasions and with a few exceptions ( eg John Lambie / Jimmy Donaldson in Budapest and Alan Main in Monaco ) goalscorers always grab the headlines in the morning papers. In this article I shall retrace each of the 14 different players who have helped to make St Johnstone’s European nights such memorable occasions.
Top of the list is Jim Pearson who scored Saints first ever European goal. All 3 of his goals were scored during the 1971 campaign under the management of the great Willie Ormond.
In the first round Saints had been drawn against SV Hamburg with the first leg in Germany. At that time Hamburg were a top European club, reaching the 1968 European Cup Winners Cup Final before losing 2 – 0 to Italian giants AC Milan. They had two genuine World class players in their ranks in Willie Schulz and Uwe Seeler. Both men had played for West Germany in the 1962, 1966 and 1970 World Cup Finals.
Prior to the first leg the German coach had watched Saints and identified “Pearie” as the danger man. His concern would prove to be well founded as Jim scored in both matches. In the first game a highly contentious offside decision had given Hamburg an early lead before Jim equalised with 53 minutes on the clock. Hamburg finally won 2 – 1 but Saints had a precious away goal to provide optimism for the return match two weeks later.
The young Jim had come in for a lot of rough treatment in the away leg and had not fully recovered from a bad knee injury for the second leg at Muirton Park, so could only made the substitutes bench. However, early in the second half he came on to replace the injured Henry Hall and scored Saints second goal to effectively kill off the tie. A pulsating match finally ended 3 – 0 providing the 12,000 crowd with an unforgettable night.
Saints 2nd round opponents were Vasas Budapest with the first leg at Muirton. Jim Pearson’s aerial ability had caused the visitors problems all night and 5 minutes from time he rose to head a Kenny Aird corner into the net and give Saints a hard earned 2 – 0 victory.
John Connolly is next up with 2 goals. John was a special talent who combined his unquestionable ability with pace – a combination that scared opposing defenders. His first European goal was a 12th minute penalty in the 2 – 0 home win over Vasas Budapest. His second, also at Muirton, was a late winner in a 1 – 0 win over an extremely physical Zeljeznicar Sarajevo side which defended resolutely throughout.
Also with 2 goals is Miguel Simao who came off the bench with just 10 minutes remaining in the first European match to be staged at McDiarmid Park in 1999. “Super sub” Miguel replaced Nathan Lowndes to score two late late goals as Sandy Clark’s team finally overcame the stubborn resistance of Finnish side VPS Vaasa.
As mentioned earlier Steven MacLean’s strike in Luzern last week was his second in the Europa League. “Macca” is re-writing the history books as he has now scored in two successive away Europa League ties. His first goal was the only goal of the game when Saints overcame FC Minsk last year in the 3rd Qualifying Round first leg tie played at Grodno, Belarus. He followed this up with his great strike from a tight angle in Luzern in the 1 – 1 draw a week ago.
The following have each scored once.
Henry Hall who in 2013 was fittingly inducted into the St Johnstone Hall of Fame also scored in the 3 – 0 win over SV Hamburg in 1971. After 15 minutes and from around 10 yards out the little maestro slid home the opening goal converting a defence splitting pass from Ian McPhee.
Later in the Hamburg match that great clubman Gordon Whitelaw scored with a stunning shot from just inside the penalty area to put the proverbial icing on the cake that evening.
Benny Rooney was Saints inspirational captain in that legendry 1971 side. Previous Manager Bobby Brown had signed him from Dundee United as a centre forward but then converted him to a centre half. Benny went from strength to strength and was an integral part of Willie Ormond’s team. Despite featuring in midfield he hadn’t lost the art of scoring goals and his sole European goal came in Sarajevo after just 6 minutes. Unfortunately, Saints were already 2 – 0 down by that time and went on to lose 5 – 1 to exit the competition.
Saints first tie in the 1999 UEFA Cup was a trip to Finland to meet VPS Vaasa. Manager Sandy Clark’s team had made a poor start to the domestic season and were struggling against their less fashionable opponents. 1 – 0 down with only 20 minutes remaining after squandering half a dozen or so chances Nathan Lowndes replaced Miguel Simao. Six minutes later he had levelled the tie when he side footed a John McQuillan cross into the net from six yards for 1 – 1.
Although Nick Dasovic scored only 6 goals during his Saints career he seemed to have the knack of scoring in big matches. His goal in the 3 – 3 draw with the millionaires of AS Monaco was one these and earned him a “Man of the Match” award. Nick scored the second goal that night when, with the aid of a slight deflection, he fired his shot past French World Cup winning goalkeeper Fabian Barthez to make it 2 – 2 at half time.
John O’Neil registered Saints 3rd goal that night at McDiarmid when he was in the right place to thrash the ball home from close range after Danny Griffin’s shot from Kieran McAnespie’s corner kick had ricocheted to him off a defender.
As well as Barthez, the Monaco team also included Marquez, Legwinski, Riise, Prso, and Simone with Trezeguet and Giuly coming on as subs. A Philippe Leonard own goal opened the scoring for Saints in 5 minutes.
It would be a further 13 years before Saints would qualify for Europe again. Although finishing in 6th place in the SPL, by virtue of a catalogue of bizarre circumstances, Manager Steve Lomas’ team had qualified for the 2012/13 Europa League. The 2nd Qualifying Round had paired Saints with Eskisehirspor and the first leg, away, had seen a deflected goal and an own goal give the Turkish side a 2 – 0 advantage. However, hopes remained that the team could overcome this set back in the home leg. This belief was re-inforced when Gregory Tade put “the blues” ahead with a spectacular shot in 35 minutes. Unfortunately, it was not to be as the visitors equalised in the second half and the away goal effectively made the task too great for the courageous Perth team.
The following season saw Saints finish in 3rd position in the SPL and the Europa League 2nd Qualifying round draw produced a trip to Norway to meet Rosenborg BK. This was regarded as a tough draw as our opponents had a long European history including in 1998 beating the mighty Real Madrid 2 – 0 in the Champions League. So when Frazer Wright scored from a David Wotherspoon corner in the Lerkendal stadium to give Saints a 1 – 0 win, he was writing his name in the history books as a member of the first St Johnstone team to win an away match in Europe.
The final goalscorer on our list is Stevie May. The youngster had been an unused substitute in Trondheim but started the 2nd leg match at McDiarmid. After Rosenborg had taken a 4th minute lead the youngster vindicated Manager Tommy Wright’s confidence in him as he equalised midway through the first half with a superb lob over the goalkeeper. Saints probably should have won that evening but the 1 – 1 draw was enough to progress 2 – 1 on aggregate to the next round where they met FC Minsk.
So lets hope that Steven MacLean or Stevie May can join ( or go ahead of ) Jim Pearson to top the scorers list with a goal or more tonight.