Football: The night Smith did score

The Anniversary: Rangers upstaged mighty Juventus in the European Cup 20 years ago today
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The Independent Online
FEW TEAMS get the better of Juventus, or at least few British ones do. Anyone who doubts the magnitude of that achievement should ask Alex Ferguson. The Manchester United manager was forced to endure the pain before finally sampling the pleasure of defeating Italy's best-loved team in the Champions' League last season.

Yet, 20 years ago today, the place that is probably closest to Fergie's heart, Ibrox Park, provided one of the biggest upsets in European football. A Juventus side containing most of Italy's side which played in the 1978 World Cup were brought to heel in the shadow of the Govan shipyards, where Manchester United's manager served as an apprentice, by Rangers, the club he had supported and played for.

Juventus have managed to break the hearts of most of Britain's top clubs when it comes to Europe's premier prize. Liverpool, Aston Villa, Derby County and Celtic are among those who have tried and failed to beat Juventus in the European Cup.

But it was the team on the other side of Glasgow that sparked the deafening noise which split the city's skies on Wednesday 27 September 1978. It would be unthinkable today. A side composed of 11 Scots, and under the guidance of a managerial novice, John Greig, bloodied the nose of the legendary Giovanni Trappatoni.

The crucial blow came from the head of Gordon Smith. Yes, the same man, whose career seems frozen by one moment at Wembley in the 1983 FA Cup final, proved that "Smith did score!"

Smith may have been lampooned by the Brighton fanzine named in his honour, ...and Smith Must Score, taken from John Motson's television commentary which described the last-minute chance against Manchester United which would have won his side the FA Cup. But Juventus were not laughing at Smith that night.

Then, just 23, he gave Marco Tardelli a nightmare as Rangers overturned a 1-0 deficit from their first leg of the European cup first round tie to win 2-0. "A few people in England might be surprised to know I could finish off chances," smiled Smith, now 43 and combining a career in financial services with a role as a respected television and radio analyst for the BBC in Scotland.

"Juventus were really fancied to do well in the trophy because they had won the Uefa Cup in 1977 and their side contained about nine of the Italian squad from the World Cup. There was Dino Zoff in goal, Antonio Cabrini, Claudio Gentile, Gaetano Scirea, Franco Causio, Paolo Rossi and Roberto Bettega, and Trappatoni was their boss." The one man Smith did not mention was Romeo Benetti, the notorious assassin of Italian football, whose dreadul treatment of Smith in the first leg in Turin sparked an outcry.

"He nearly broke my leg with one tackle," Smith recalled. "He only got a yellow card but the Uefa observer complained about the referee and Uefa had a word in Juve's ear and told them to leave Benetti out of the Ibrox match. He ended up on the bench, and maybe that suited me."

In Turin, Smith was the solitary attacker sacrificed by Greig against the best defence in Europe. At Ibrox, though, it was a different scenario. "The only man marking me was Tardelli but I kept beating him all night."

Alex MacDonald, now manager of Airdrie, cancelled out Juve's aggregate lead after Zoff had only parried Smith's free-kick. Then, with the match destined for extra-time, Smith struck with 10 minutes left. "I actually saw the goal when I was at Ibrox last week to commentate on the Celtic game," Smith smiled. "They were showing it on Rangers' in-house TV. Bobby Russell took a wonderful free-kick and I connected well with a header from the edge of the box which flew into the top corner. Ibrox went wild."

Then came the retribution. " I saw Benetti coming on as a substitute and I knew what was coming. A minute later, I was whacked in the face and when I looked up, he was standing there with an evil stare. I'll never forget that."

The Italians didn't forget Smith either. He was contacted after the game and asked if he would be interested in playing in Italy. "I said no, but looking back,now my answer would be yes." As for Rangers, they marched on to the quarter- finals, knocking out PSV Eindhoven only to lose to Cologne. "Still, no one can take away the memory of beating Juventus."

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