Champions League: When Manchester City beat Barcelona – and sailed off with a silver sailing ship

‘There was no atmosphere’ says striker Gordon Davies about City’s previous game with Barça

The eyes of the football world will be on Manchester City on Tuesday night when they host Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16, looking to take a significant step forward in their £1bn push for the summit of European football. Whatever happens in the clubs’ first competitive encounter, it will be a far cry from the first time City first got the better of Barcelona back in August 1986 – when their only reward was a silver sailing ship.

That meeting 28 years ago came in the semi-final of a pre-season tournament in Spain and although Barcelona were a big scalp – Terry Venables’ side had been the European Cup runners-up three months earlier – City’s victory can hardly be described as memorable. Not when Perry Suckling, their goalkeeper that day, had to be reminded by The Independent that he had saved one of the spot-kicks in their 4-3 shoot-out success after a 1-1 draw. “I wasn’t too bad at saving penalties,” laughs Suckling, now academy goalkeeping coach at Tottenham. “Football has grown so much in the last 30 years and become a massive business,” he explains. “It was still a showpiece match for ourselves to play against Barcelona, but once it finished, you moved on and no one remembered it.”

In fairness, the match took place far from the hallowed turf of the Nou Camp in the distinctly unglamorous Andalusian port of Huelva. “It was in a stadium with a stand on only one side and the rest was standing,” recalls the then City striker Gordon Davies. “There was no atmosphere.”

City had lost three previous friendlies against Barcelona in the 1950s and 1970s, yet the match programme for their First Division opener against Wimbledon a week later had no photographic evidence of their success, just words of praise from manager Billy McNeill. “Not only did we compete against Barcelona in their country, but we were the better side – a view endorsed by the Spanish newspapers,” he wrote. A contemporary report in the Seville newspaper ABC supports that claim, noting that Barcelona struggled without Bernd Schuster and the newly signed Gary Lineker. Future City manager Mark Hughes, another Venables recruit that summer, “did not do enough to trouble the British defence” according to ABC and City “had complete control of the game in the second half.”

It was early in the second period that left-back Clive Wilson cancelled out a first-half chip by Roberto. “I remember Mick McCarthy played really well, he was a colossus at the back,” adds Suckling.

The following day City played home side Recreativo in the final, losing in another shoot-out after a 2-2 draw. For Davies, who scored both City goals, the clearest memory is of the difficulty they faced transporting their runners-up prize home. “We were presented with a silver Spanish galleon,” he recalls. “It must have been 3ft long by about 2ft high. They never gave us a box so when we got on the plane to fly back, Mick McCarthy just put it on a seat and put a seat belt around it.”

Unfortunately, City were to end up sunk that season. McNeill quit two months later and under Jimmy Frizzell a winless run of 14 games from January sent them down.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Diego Costa, Ross Barkley, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers, Alan Pardew and Christian Eriksen
footballRodgers is right to be looking over his shoulder, while something must be done about diving
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
gaming
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible