During the build-up to Barça’s brilliant win over Milan last night, many epic games from the past were recalled in an attempt to reinforce belief in our chances. With the need for a big comeback we looked for inspiration from past historic remontadas against Ipswich, Anderlecht, Gothenburg, Dynamo Kiev and Chelsea. However, following last night’s game I couldn’t help remember another great European night at Camp Nou. Wednesday 2 November 1994 when Manchester United came to town.
I had been living in Barcelona for over five years and this was the first game at Camp Nou against an English team since I’d arrived. I had to have a ticket so I went through the ordeal of an early morning queue, followed by a security guard telling me I couldn’t buy tickets because I was English. They were obviously worried about possible hooligans getting in among the local fans but with my residency card I managed to convince him that I was a Barça fan, and to my relief he let me through.
The game was an incredible experience, played in front of 114,273 fans. It wasn’t a comeback like last night’s match but there were many similarities between the two games. First, Barça scored an early goal when Hristo Stoichkov fired Barça ahead after two minutes. The second goal also came shortly before half time thanks to Romario. The timing of the third goal was also similar with Stoichkov and Romario combining brilliantly before Stoichkov drove the ball past Gary Walsh in the 59th minute. Then just like last night, a full back, Chapi Ferrer, got forward for a fourth goal just before the end.
The final score and the goal times are remarkably similar but there is another similarity that should serve as a warning. At the start of November 1994 many critics were calling time on Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team. The team had been stung by the 4-0 defeat to Milan in the 1994 Champions League final and results at the start of the 94/95 season were not great with defeats already at Sporting and Zaragoza in La Liga and at Gothenburg in the Champions League. The pride of the players had been damaged with Romario particularly facing criticism for his lack of form since returning from the 1994 World Cup. When the big game came the players reacted with a brilliant performance, Romario grabbed a goal and there were two from Camp Nou’s hero, Hristo Stoichkov. The world once more hailed a great team. Unfortunately, and this is where we need to take heed, the victory proved to be the last great night for the Dream Team.
I have no intention of suggesting that our current team cannot go on to greater success but some of our recent not-so-hot performances should remind us how important it is for our players to be completely motivated. Our players deserve to be happy with themselves today but it might not be a bad idea for them to be reminded that they need to maintain the level week-in week-out if we want to continue to be the team to beat.
For the record the teams in 1994 were as follows.
Barça: Carles Busquets; Ferrer, Koeman, Abelardo, Sergi; Guardiola, Bakero (Sanchez Jara m76), Amor; Stoichkov, Romario, Jordi Cruyff (Ivan Iglesias m62).
Man Utd: Walsh: Parker, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin; Butt, Keane, Ince; Kanchelskis, Hughes, Giggs (Scholes m79).
Goals: 1-0 Hristo Stoichkov (2′), 2-0 Romário (45′), 3-0 Hristo Stoichkov (59′), 4-0 Albert Ferrer (88′)
Referee: Joël Quiniou
Click here to read what the young United keeper Gary Walsh had this to say about the experience of playing that night.