Top Five British Europa League Heartbreaks
The Europa League, formally the Uefa Cup used to be a happy hunting ground for British clubs but not in recent years, we look at the heartbreaks for the likes of Fulham and Celtic.
Tottenham are now favourites to win this year’s Europa League with Chelsea just behind them in the odds but it has not always been a happy tournament for British teams. Tottenham and Liverpool may have shared the first ever two titles but only one British team has lifted the trophy in nigh-on 30 years now. There have been some close calls along the way since then though, here are the top five British heartbreaks in the competition according to us at FREEbets.org.uk.
5. Middlesbrough 2005-06
The run that saw Steve McLaren’s side reach the Uefa Cup Final in 2006 was a real fairy tale story; not only for a club like Middlesbrough to reach a European final, but the way they did it was like a Hollywood script.
They came in the round before the group stage where they saw off Greek minnows Skoda Xanthi before impressively topping their group which included AZ Alkmaar. Things would begin to get really tough in the knockout rounds though.
First up came Stuttgart who would go on to win the Bundesliga the following year, Boro scraped through on away goals before then doing the same to Roma in the round of 16. Miracles began to happen in the last eight though when they recovered from 2-0 down in the first leg and 1-0 down in the second to somehow come through against Basel and make the semis.
They again gave their opponents a head start in the final four as they lost the first leg 1-0 then were 1-0 down in the reverse fixture only to win 4-1 and make the final in Eindhoven. It was a sensational run that was unfortunately brought to an abrupt halt by an excellent Sevilla side who comfortably won the final 4-0, but it should not take the shin off what was a great achievement for the English side.
4. Rangers 2007-08
Teams that drop down from the Champions League group stages are often expected to do well in the Europa League but it is safe to say that few expected Rangers to make as big an impact in the competition as they did in 2008.
It may not have been the most spectacular of cup runs with just five goals scored in their five games in the competition but their fans didn’t care as a Scottish team made it to the final of the tournament for only the third time in history.
Wins of any kind over the likes of Panathanaikos, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and Fiorentina are impressive and that’s exactly what the Gers managed that year before losing out to the impressive Russian side Zenit St Petersburg in the final. Even then it looked like their rear-guard action might see them through as after 70 minutes it was goalless in Manchester. However, Zenit scored twice late on to put an end to Rangers’ great run.
3. Dundee United 1986-87
In the not too distant past the Uefa Cup final was played over two legs (the last being in 1997) and Dundee United suffered defeat in one such of these finals, only after a quite superb run in the competition though.
Jim Mclean’s side were a respected European side at the time having reached the semi-finals of the European Cup just a few years earlier but were certainly not considered as favourites going into their Uefa Cup campaign. They kicked off with wins over RC Lens and Romanian side Universitatea Craiova before beating Hajduk Split to reach the quarter-finals.
The last eight was the scene of a memorable achievement which would seem inconceivable nowadays as the Scots beat the mighty Barcelona both home and away to make it into the semis. Borussia Monchengladbach were then seen off and the Terrors were into the final.
There they met IFK Goteborg who had seen off Inter Milan earlier in the competition. The first leg in Sweden ended just 1-0 to the home side so United had hope of turning it around but the 1-1 draw at Tannadice was not enough and they were left with runners-up medals.
2. Celtic 2002-03
Martin O’Neill came incredibly close to masterminding one of Celtic’s greatest moments when his side, led by the inspirational Henrik Larsson narrowly lost out in the final of the Uefa Cup in 2003.
Back when there was no group stage in the competition Celtic kicked off their campaign with a massive 10-1 aggregate win over Lithuanian side Suduva before the real test started in the second round with a big match against Blackburn Rovers. The Bhoys scored a memorable win both home and away to comfortably progress to see off Celta Vigo and Stuttgart, both of which were tight encounters that the Scots just scraped through in the end but were impressive victories nonetheless.
Then came a massive game against another English club but this time in the more intimidating shape of Liverpool who had won the competition two years prior. Things looked to be in the Reds’ favour as well when they drew the first leg 1-1 in Glasgow but a famous 2-0 win at Anfield saw Celtic progress and go on to beat Boavista in the semis to reach the finals.
There they met the mighty Porto where two goals from Henrik Larsson (his 10th and 11th of the tournament) were enough to take it into extra-time before the Brazilian Derlei scored the winner in the 115th minute. It was a cruel end to a tremendous journey for the Scots.
1. Fulham 2009-10
In one of the longest cup runs of all time Fulham miraculously made it all the way from the third preliminary round to the final of the 2009-10 Europa League.
The Cottagers began their campaign at the end of July 2009 with a two-legged encounter against Lithuanian side Vetra before having to see off Russian team Amkar Prem in a play-off round before they could even enter the group stage.
They made it through a tough league campaign finishing second behind Roma and displacing former Champions League sides Basel and CSKA Sofia in the process. Things got no easier for Roy Hodgson’s side though as during the knockout stage they had to overcome Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, Wolfsburg and Hamburg on their way to the final with a 4-1 win over the Italian side in the quarter-finals the highlight.
They were faced with their toughest task yet in the final against Athletico Madrid, a game they took into extra time before cruelly being beaten with a 116th minute Diego Forlan goal. It was a heart-breaking end but an incredible achievement just to be in the showpiece event.